What happens when America’s most famous badass skier decides to barnstorm across Vermont with his wife in a converted semi tractor trailer, busting in on small ski areas as he goes?
Glen Plake arrived in Vermont in January, 2019, with his hair down, his signature spiky mohawk replicated by a fake one on his helmet. That mohawk, along with his outsized personality and penchant for extreme skiing, has made him one of America’s best-loved two-plankers.
He’s appeared in numerous ski films, most famously Greg Stump’s classics, Blizzard of Aahhs and License to Thrill. A native Californian, Plake has made first ski descents in Europe, Japan, North and South America and Asia. “Skiing 50-degree slopes at 20,000 ft. is a game where the rules have not changed,” he says.
Plake is also a national champion in both slalom and marathon waterski racing—“skiing at over 100 mph.” He’s won multiple titles in off-road rally car racing including the Baja 1000 and 500, and is a 508 (endurance cycling) solo finisher. But in recent years, he and his wife Kimberly have devoted part of their winter to loading up a giant semi tractor trailer with everything they need to live on the road and headed out on what they call the Down Home Tour, helping perform his role as an ambassador for National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. In January their seventh Down Home Tour stopped in Vermont.
Well Kimberly and I actually met at a trade show at Stratton almost 30 years ago. We’ve come back a lot but there are a lot of places in Vermont we’ve never skied.
So what was on your hit list?
I really wanted to make a pilgrimage to the areas where two sets of brothers I’ve skied with (in my extreme skiing days) come from: Rob and Eric Deslauriers at Bolton and John and Dan Egan at Sugarbush. I’d never skied at Stowe before and had to go to a trade show there so hit that up too.
What were the highlights?
It was amazing to ski up Bolton with Adam Deslauriers and, after a week of rain, stand at the top of the mountain and look out at the sunset over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. What a view! And then at Sugarbush I got to ski with John Egan and meet Win Smith—he’s such awesome guy—and my old pal Deano [Dean Decas]. Those places are still real and really what help keep skiing alive. You can’t argue that skiing is expensive when at Sugarbush you take three lessons and you get a season’s pass. It’s these independent places that are going to save skiing. I also skied with the junior freestyle kids at Mad River Glen, which I hadn’t skied since Mrs. Pratt owned the place.
Why go to all the small places ?
I’m appalled at what skiing has become in so many places—they’re like amusement parks. I wanted to go to “ski hills” and “ski areas”—places where skiing is all you do, not “ski resorts.”
And your favorite?
Man, you have to go to this little community ski area up in Corinth, Northeast Slopes! We rocked in there the night before a storm in our big ol’ rig, slept in the parking lot and then helped the guys plow a foot of snow out of the parking lot and rev up the rope tow the next morning. There were like three generations of cousins running the place and it seems like they’re all volunteers. And lift tickets are $15! It’s places like these that still have the heart of skiing in them.
We’re headed to New Hampshire and Maine next, but we never really plan our trips. We don’t call ahead. We’ve turned down big media sponsorships. We want to keep it real so we just sort of show up and ski with whoever is there. So maybe we’ll swing back here. I’ve wanted to ski the Middlebury Snow Bowl and I’ve heard really good things about Magic.
Featured Photo: Glen Plake (left) catches a powder day at Northeast Slopes in early January. Photo courtesy Northeast Slopes.