The man who launched a million skiers is retiring.

And a million is just a rough, probably low, guess because the truth is, it’s incalculable how many people owe their love and enthusiasm, and expertise, for downhill skiing thanks to Jerry Warren, the longtime mountain manager and director of skiing at Sundance Resort who has decided at 75 this will be his last ski season working full time.

The typical arc of learning to ski goes something like this: there’s the person wanting to learn how, there’s the person who teaches them how, and then there’s the person who teaches the teacher how.

That’s Jerry. He’s the instructor’s instructor. He literally wrote the teaching manual used by the Professional Ski Instructors of America. For nearly 40 years he served in one leadership capacity or another with the ski instructors organization, including terms as chairman of the national steering committee and vice president of education. His “see it-feel it-understand it” approach to skiing — what he calls the “Cycle of Learning” — is woven into the fabric of instruction at resorts across the width and breadth of America. If you’ve taken a lesson from a certified PSIA instructor, you’ve taken a lesson from Jerry Warren.

It all began some 56 years ago when he dropped out of college

Jerry grew up in Springville and went next door to BYU after high school. In the course catalog, he saw that BYU offered a skiing class at what was then known as Timp Haven, the little mom and pop ski area in the shadow of Mount Timpanogos halfway up Provo Canyon.

Since he’d already skied at Timp Haven several times, he signed up for the class “because I thought I’d get a good grade.”

Karl Tucker, the golf coach at BYU, taught the class. About halfway through the course, he turned to Jerry and said, “You’re really good at this. Why don’t you help me teach?”

Not only did that cinch him an A in the class, it also led to a job offer from the Timp Haven ski school, which in turn led to his decision to leave college in the rearview mirror “because I’d found what I wanted to do.”

Jerry Warren, Sundance’s director of skiing, poses for a portrait at Sundance Ski Resort in Sundance on Thursday, March 30, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News

Two seasons later, Robert Redford bought Timp Haven, changed the name to Sundance, after his recent role in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” upgraded the facilities, and sent Jerry’s career on a trajectory that would take him around the world but always bring him back to the place in the shadow of Mount Timpanogos where he began.

From the beginning, the young actor and the young ski instructor — Redford was 32 when he bought the resort, Jerry was 21 — hit it off.

“We just started skiing together and became friends,” says Jerry. “We rode the lift and started talking. He said he was having trouble with this turn or that turn, so I started coaching, and he loved it. He was actually one of the more powerful first learners of the cycle of learning before I knew what the cycle of learning was.”

After another two seasons, Jerry left Sundance in 1971 when Junior Bounous, Sundance’s ski school director, accepted an offer for a similar position at the new Snowbird Ski Resort and asked Jerry to come with him as assistant director.

Bounous, en route to his own legendary career, encouraged Jerry to try out for the PSIA national demonstration team, a select group of elite skiers who travel to locations around the skiing world instructing other instructors on the finer points of American skiing technique.

Jerry made his first of four national demonstration teams in 1974. Other four-year terms followed in 1978, 1982 and 1988.

He wound up spending 17 years at Snowbird, but periodically, Bob, his skiing buddy from Sundance, would meet him at Snowbird for a day of skiing — and try to talk him into coming back.

“It was always friendly, just a little nudge,” is how Jerry frames it, “trying to set the hook.”

Jerry Warren, Sundance’s director of skiing poses for a portrait at Sundance Ski Resort in Sundance on Thursday, March 30, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News

In 1988, Jerry took the lure when Redford sweetened the offer, asking him to not only run the Sundance ski school, but to also be the director of all mountain operations.

“We kind of hit the same beat on a lot of things,” Jerry says of his relationship with Redford, “and I’m not talking political, or anything else. We share a love of what God’s given us in these mountains and the environment. We’re on the same page in those areas, and that’s why I came back.” 

A bit older now, Bob and Jerry picked right up where they left off. “If he was in town for five days, we skied three of them,” says Jerry.

Apart from a two-year sabbatical in 1994-96, Jerry has been a Sundance fixture ever since, declining offers from bigger-name resorts to stay close to his roots and continue to refine his Cycle of Learning and Homebase teaching philosophies that simplify learning how to ski. In 2009 Professional Ski Instructors of America honored him with its lifetime achievement award — an honor that has been given to just 23 ski instructors — and in 2010 he was inducted into the group’s Intermountain Division Hall of Fame, joining legendary Utah-based ski instructors the likes of Alf Engen, Junior Bounous, Earl Miller, Phil Jones and Stein Eriksen.

Jerry says he’ll stay on as a “consultant” at Sundance, meaning two things: he can make his own schedule, and, “I’m going to probably do more skiing than I did before.”

He makes clear that the sale of Sundance two years ago, when two real estate investment firms bought the property from Redford, did not factor in his decision to retire. Rather, his biggest motivation for stepping down is so he and his wife, Connie, can spend more time with their three children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “The time just flies by as they grow up” he says, “and I need to hook on to them flying by and hang on.”