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An Interview with Glen Plake

We spoke to Glen Plake, a pioneer of extreme skiing and the spokesperson for January as “Learn a Snow Sports” month, as he was boarding a flight to Moscow, Russia, about Midwestern ski areas, high school ski racing, and why skiing isn’t a sport just for the filthy rich.
posted: 01/19/2010

So, where are right now?
Um. Let me look at my boarding pass really quick, I honestly can’t remember. (Pause.). Oh, right. I’m in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, boarding a flight to Washington. Then reconnecting to Moscow.

Moscow?
I’m heading to Sochi, Russia, the first stop on the Freeride World Tour. I’m part of the security team that makes sure the slope is safe from avalanche danger and good to go for the competitors, which means I get to ski the venue. I’m also doing some communications and VIP work with Nissan, the sponsor of the Freeride World Tour.

You just finished your Down Home Tour, a trip around the U.S. to visit small ski areas, which explains why you’re in Pittsburg and why you have trouble remembering exactly where you are.
That’s right. We went to Oregon, Washington, California and skied all these great little hills. I just finished skiing six ski areas in Pennsylvania.

What’s the point of the Down Home Tour?
Most people are not from or ski big fancy ski areas. I think the little ski area is where it all goes down, it’s where we learn how to ski, it’s where the community is. If you took away the tiny ski area, then big ski resorts would have a hard time staying in business. My career in skiing hasn’t been an X Games, Red Bull, publicized career. It’s been hand-fed by individuals at little ski areas who have been watching my films and seeing the magazines I’ve been in. This is my way to personally thank the people who’ve made my career possible and it’s a way to say I love what you guys are doing.

How did this tour come about?
The basis of the whole thing started when I met a guy skiing in Chamonix who was from North Carolina. That kind of started it. I don’t have a quest—I’m not trying to ski every ski area in America, I’m just skiing. When I heard this guy was from North Caroline, I said I want to check out skiing in North Carolina. So I went there on aThursday afternoon, walked up, and bought a ticket. It’s nice to go see what happens at these ski areas and how they work.

What kind of stuff do you see at a place like Liberty Mountain, Pennsylvania?
I love the ski racing thing that goes on. I love the park scene. And the moguls scene. No ski magazine every does a story on high school races but everywhere I show up, there are buses of high school ski racers.

And you’re also trying to encourage people to get into skiing for the first time, right?
We have a terrible stigma that we’re an expensive sport, which isn’t true. It’s not a Fifth Avenue sport; it’s a sport for a hicktown in Pennsylvania. That’s the truth. This whole Sun Valley, Vail serende has been leading this industry for long enough. We need to let the people go skiing. The little ski areas are where it goes down. It’s been really enlightening. Whether you’re a skier or not, take a lesson—you might learn something.

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