Skinning the Maltese Flamingo
A conversation with Glen Plake
Glen Plake on mogul skiing, skateparks, and ski area management philosophy.
Backcountry is all you read about now. The gear guides are nothing but touring gear. But nobody’s really doing anything about it other than talking about it. There’s got to be some developmental programs to go along with it. I wouldn’t be talking about it if the products didn’t exist, but now they do.
A guy comes in and says, “I’d really like to try out those powder skis. I have a buddy of mine who just loves ‘em!” And the shop employee—super cool guy, and I’m sure he’s a really good skier, may even be skiing on the tour or something—walks over and grabs something 120 underfoot, super-duper banana galore, and says, “This is what me and my buddies ski, and this is it.” That’s not it for that guy. He needs maybe 100 underfoot. We just throw all this stuff at people; we have to be good stewards of what we’re doing.
I grew up skateboarding and support skating, but I drove by the skatepark in town the other day and I was so pissed off. I thought, “That’s ridiculous.” We’ve got a big giant concrete skatepark in a town that’s not very financially stable, and it’s completely free! I mean we’re a mountain town, there’s snow on the friggin’ ground. And we got this big gigantic skate park that’s free, but you get near that ski area and it’s, “Okay, get your wallet out.”
My only goal for this year is to blow mogul skiing through the friggin’ roof. I’m sick of it taking a back seat to everything else.
You can ski bumps with your dad. What’s nice about bumps is that you can ski them without people who know how to ski them. Yeah, I’ll rip a section and then stop and watch you come down.
With these big, fat skis it’s become very difficult to ski moguls, there’s no doubt about that. But I really think we lost the voice [for mogul skiing]. For instance, when Jonny [Moseley] won the Olympics (Nagano in ’98), technically that could have been the greatest thing to ever happen to mogul skiing, and yet what was the Jonny Moseley Invitational? A frickin’ skiercross race. I could never figure that one out.
Some areas have taken that best teaching area, or that mom and dad-type run, and they have turned it into the park. And I’ve ridden the chair with plenty of people who tell me that used to be their favorite run. Do they march into marketing and complain? No, they just kind of go along their way… I think people are just out skiing, they’re not looking for war.
There are many ski areas. But what happens is that the ski resort ends up being the standard. You’ve got these poor ski areas trying to live up to [that standard]. And then you have your Mad River Glens. “We got a snack bar, we got a chair lift; you have a good day.”
Some local ski instructors and businessmen bought this mountain, Bluewood in Washington, as it was going out of business. They refurbished it and it’s a great little community ski area, and they got some permits to put up this lift. The ironic thing is where they want to put up this lift is this open, treed area. And the Forest Service is questioning this lift because the ski area doesn’t want to cut any runs, they simply want to put this lift up and let people ski this forest. But the ski area model is about, “Where are your runs?”
Out here in the West, we’ve got the situation with June Mountain. It cannot, and will not ever be successful as a modern ski area in the modern ski area model. You could do some neat things—a backcountry school, maybe have race camps there, or other little ideas. The Forest Service would never accept any of those ideas because they don’t fit the model of the ski area. Excuse me, ski resort.
My ideas might be wrong, but they’ve lasted a long time.
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