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Alta States

The Glen Plake Story



It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was the fifth running of Words & Stories. And as usual, I wanted Whistler’s annual mountain gab fest to be a good one. But how do you improve on such great tale spinners at Jeff Holden and G.D. Maxwell and Ivan E. Coyote and Jim McConkey and Ace McKay-Smith and Kinnie Starr? I needed a ringer. I wanted to anchor this year’s show with somebody that would really light a fire under people’s butts.

“Why don’t you invite Glen Plake,” suggested my friend Jack Turner. One of the most creative people I know in the ski business, Turner can always be counted on to come up with a great idea or two. But this time, his idea was truly exceptional. I was hooked from the moment he mentioned it.

It made sense. Plake had recently severed his career-long relationship with K2 and was now working with Elan as one of its principal ski ambassadors. As it turned out, Turner also had a couple of friends in management there. “We can make this thing happen,” he told me in his inimitable little-kid way. “We’ll make this year’s event a night to remember.”

And why not? Given his unique look and way-out attitude, Plake might just very well be the most recognizable Snoweater on the planet. And he loves to talk about skiing. Climber, adventurer, all-round fun hog — and surely one of the greatest jesters and entertainers skiing has ever seen — the Mohawked One has done more in his lifetime to promote snowplay and sliding down mountains in wintertime than just about anybody I know. He’d be perfect for Words & Stories.

Remember Blizzard of Aaaah’s? Or License To Thrill ? Or even A Fistful of Moguls ? Remember just how revolutionary those ski flicks seemed when they first came out? At a time when most people thought skiing had totally lost its mojo (and in many respects, mainstream skiing really did lose its way in the ’80s), here was this wild and crazy ski character with a braying laugh and balls of steel. He was American through and through — a working class hero who wore his skis long and his hair straight up.

But the kid sure could ski. Along with his alter ego, Scot Schmidt, he came to redefine what American big-mountain skiing and adventuring was all about. And he did it laughing all the way.