Inside Line With Ski Legend Glen Plake
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Glen Plake is arguably America's longest-standing professional skier. More than 20 years ago, he became a hero amongst the ski-movie-watching masses for his extreme skiing—he helped inspire the term—punk attitude, and signature two-foot mohawk. Since then, he has appeared in countless films and become one of the country's most notable ski mountaineers. This year, Plake featured in The Edge of Never, a film that follows the story of young Kye Petersen as he learned to ski a route in Chamonix that killed his father, pro skier Trevor Petersen. Plake talks to The Powder Feed about the film, life as a ski legend, and his current project: touring the country's down-home ski areas.
The Powder Feed: You and your wife Kimberly take off in your mobile home every winter on what you call your DownHome Tour. What exactly is it?
Glen Plake: I get to ski in the nicest places in the world, but I'm curious about where most people ski everyday. These tours are pretty simple. We just show up with swag from my sponsors and ski with people for a day or two. I get a kick out of skiing in places like Wisconsin and Minnesota and western New York. I think the big hills could learn a lot from the small hills. They're like social clubs. This year we're going through the Pacific Northwest—you know, Anthony Lakes, Crystal, Hood Meadows.
How did your involvement in The Edge of Never come about?
[Writer] Bill [Kerig] was doing research for a film called Steep and he called me just for research. I was just mentioning the Kye Petersen, Trevor Petersen, Chamonix connection, thinking it would be a nice vignette in another film. Lo' and behold, he found it compelling enough for a film in general about Chamonix. Believe me, all of us were questioning and thinking, yeah, good luck with that one, but he kept his nose to the grindstone. Amongst a lot of skepticism, they ultimately put together a very very unique piece of work. I am pleased with the way it turned out. It's not your blown-out made-for-TV documentary, and it's not a high-action ski film. It's unique. It's two hours, and you can actually sit down and watch it.
Did you learn anything from filming it?
I didn't learn a whole lot. It was natural. No one was putting on any faces for the film. We had a good time introducing Kye to the mountains he father loved, and we no doubt left an impact on him. It's been several years since the footage was created and since then Kye and I now ski a lot.
How has your career evolved since you first started as a pro?
My competitive career was nearing an end as my professional career was beginning. My mountaineering grew extensively and I was learning about the accomplishments of the Europeans at the time. I started climbing and skiing more. I like doing tricks, and I learned how to ride rails. I haven't changed a whole lot. I'm just as excited to ski as I ever was.
You recently designed alpine touring boots, the Dalbello Virus and Virus Light. Is this a new career in design?
As long as the only opinion I have to listen to is mine, I enjoy it immensely. [Laughs.] I've been designing my own AT boots for years. I can't stand it when we come up with good ideas but they don't fit the parameters of the stereotypical ski products, but little by little the things that interest me get into consumers' hands. Now I'm helping companies merchandise stuff. People can feel bombarded with options, so I put together suggested kits.
What has enabled you to ski for a living for some two decades now?
Well, I'm extremely blessed with good health. That's obviously the most important thing. I love what I'm doing. That's a cliche but it's true. I ski because I want to ski. And I haven't drank any alcohol in 19 years, maybe that's why I've stayed in physical health.
Why'd you quit booze?
Believe me, I raised hell like no tomorrow. The reason I quit drinking was because I went through two six-month county programs. Yeah, I went to jail twice. I realized there ain't no skiing in jail at all, so I just quit.
Do you think there are any misconceptions about you amongst the ski movie-watching masses?
I'm a better mountaineer than most people I know. I don't care, I don't promote it. It's my own life. Also, I've worked very very hard to be the athlete that I am, not only in snow skiing but in water skiing. I've had the pleasure of owning three national water-skiing championships and I've won the Baja 1,000 three times.
What is the reality of being a pro?
You have to detach yourself amlost wholeheartedly from, say, a nest. I'm on the road constantly. Last year, I was in what I call a stationary position for 27 days. I'm extremely lucky that my wife gets to travel with me as much as she does. Kimberly's also a very very accomplished skier who does it because she likes it.
Any advice for those who dream of becoming pros?
I wish I could tell everybody the road map but it doesn't really exist. You have to figure it out for yourself. It's the old punk rock values. Think for yourself. But be ready for opportunities to come your way and don't be afraid to take them.
What's your next project?
I want to get back to Peru this spring. Last time I went, we saw some things there that we'd like to go back and accomplish. That's as specific as I get.
One last question: What does your famous hair look like right now?
If you asked Kimberly it would be a four-letter word I shouldn't repeat. The side of my head is the texture of a tennis ball. I gotta clean up.
–Interview by Kate Siber