Bump it up, at the Gunbarrel 25 in South Lake Tahoe, California. PHOTO: Hank de Vre
Founded by the most recognizable skier in the world, Glen Plake, the Gunbarrel 25 is a resurgence of an art form—the beautiful, increasingly rare dance known as bump skiing. Heavenly’s Gunbarrel, a 1,600-vertical-foot run of the deepest moguls in Lake Tahoe, has a rich history that includes Wayne Wong and the Hot Doggers, ballet skiers, and the Pro Mogul Tour.
Anyone can enter the Gunbarrel 25 and ski (or attempt to ski) 25 laps of thigh-burning bumps, whether you’re 6 or 60. Some may never hit 25 runs in a full day’s worth of skiing. Others bang it out in under three hours. The fastest time for 40,000 vert of moguls is two hours and 45 minutes, a record held by a Slovakian former ski racer named Janez Demsar. There are men and women in the Gunbarrel 25 who ski moguls like dolphins jumping in the water, as POWDER senior correspondent Mike Rogge so eloquently described the competition when he entered last year. This year, to take the agro down a notch or two, prizes will also be awarded for the best costumes, tricks, and team spirit.
Plake has since moved down to Mammoth, where’s he’s looking to start another mogul event under Chair 23. Meanwhile, his father, Jim Plake, and a crew of South Lake skiers, including the guys at the Powder House ski shop, are keeping the event’s spirit high. Even though he’s no longer involved in Heavenly’s best event of the year, Glen Plake gave me a call this week to talk bump-skiing philosophy.
It’s more of an enduro. It’s more like riding a century on your bicycle. It’s making a commitment to something that’s not going to be easy to do.
You never know who is in the lead. You just know there are lots of people riding around in a circle and you’re just going and going and going.
In motorcycle racing, I just loved competing that way. And I thought it’d be so cool to do something like that with skis. So I came up with the idea to do a Gunbarrel 25.
It’s not a Chinese Downhill. It’s so far away from a Chinese Downhill it’s scary.
The great trophies that are in just about every ski lodge, none of [those events] are being held anymore. You look at the great trophy in the trophy case and the last event was in the mid ’70s.
So two things inspired it: one was a form of motorcycle competition that I wholeheartedly enjoy. And two, I wanted to see the big perpetual trophies that people can aspire to have their names on.
Mogul skiing doesn’t have anything to do with powder. The more people the merrier. It’s super fun. It’s difficult. It’s challenging. You can be a great mogul skier and a crappy mogul skier and be on the same run.
Powder bumps are super fun. Big, rock hard, icy moguls aren’t.
It’s 3-D. I think a lot of skiing today is very two-dimensional with all the grooming. There’s nothing natural about skiing at all anymore, except the mogul run. That’s still a natural skiing situation.
Just shove your tips into the biggest pile of snow you can.
There’s more mogul skiing now than there has ever been, and yet no one is even talking about mogul skiing. I find it very, very strange.
Mogul skiing is a very beautiful thing that we really ignore. It’s an incredibly beautiful study, and also it’s just a great way to ski. Ok, here we are, we’re now in springtime—big slushy moguls in the afternoon.
Backcountry mogul skiing is going to be the next big thing. Because there are moguls now where there have never been moguls before. It’s really a progressive time in the sport.
You can ski all day long and rarely get your heart rate up. You finally go ski half a mogul run and you’re like, ‘Man, I’m moving here!’
We need to rediscover the check turn, the pole plant. Maybe it’s old fashioned, but whatever. I enjoy it.
With that event that I started up there, it was inspired by the crew. You just go out and rat pack. Every ski area has got its rat pack and they go out and rage together. Now the rat packs are just stuck in the park. I think we need to go enjoy the mountain, too.
The bump run polices itself. You want to go straight? Cool man, we’ll watch. You’re going to go about 10 bumps and then beater on down.