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Even with his mohawk down, ski boots off, and mouth closed—hiding his diamond-studded tooth—Glen Plake is easily the most recognizable character in skiing. Nearly a quarter century after his breakthrough performance in Maltese Flamingo, California-bred, Chamonix-based Plake, 47, is still relevant—and probably logging more vert than you are. And he’s not just a hotdogging, hair-done shock jock. These days, when he’s not crushing technical mountaineering descents, he’s spreading the gospel of skiing across the world.
I was recognized walking through Paris with a baseball hat on three times last week. It’s a bit surreal that I’m recognized for something as simple and stupid as skiing. But I like it. I can’t say I don’t.
I’ve been in and out of Chamonix for the past 25 years. Skiing in Europe, you can do things in a shorter amount of time and push it more. You can stick your neck out further, take more risks, and explore because of the backcountry huts and easy access.
In the U.S., ski touring is new, for the most part. There are some bad habits forming and some technique that hasn’t been perfected. We tend to set our skin tracks really steep, and we use too much riser.
You have to be careful of all these dang guidebooks now. They’re stealing discovery away. Go walk up the frickin’ bowl. You don’t need a map; just go ski it.
The Down Home Tour [Plake’s annual circuit of small stateside resorts] is my way of skiing with people. We don’t tell anyone we’re coming; it’s just my wife, Kimberly, and me skiing ski areas. At Stevens Pass, the patrol was all stoked to take us out to their secret spots, but I’m supposed to be out skiing with people, so I asked, “Is it all right if these other people go?” We literally had 22 people out-of-bounds. Had to get a head count.
There’s a neat generation coming up. They’re coming from a park scene, and as they mature they gravitate toward a backcountry experience. It’s a natural progression. You realize that there’s a bunch of stuff out there besides just riding the yo-yo.
I love that we have mind-boggling equipment changes. I love that there’s an industry building up around it and that people have sponsorship opportunities, but at the same time I question the competition that seems to be developing.
This modern athletic arena is all about parties and concerts and, oh yeah, we’re going to sneak in a competition. That’s never made any sense to me. I’m here to ski, not to go to your frickin’ party.
The only sugar I eat is licorice, and I don’t drink any alcohol. I think no alcohol makes a massive difference performance-wise. Everyone wants to go out and party, but you can’t—you’re a frickin’ skier.