Glen Plake is known for making “Extreme Skiing” a thing. Glen and Kimberly Plake bring their passion for skiing “down-home”.

You must know Glen. Slim build. Big laugh. Hot wife. California boy. Wears camo suits and Ski Trash t-shirts. Skis like Keith Richards plays guitar.

Your first glimpse might have been Glen swingin’ a lasso on the hood of a dirty pink SUV in Greg Stump’s 1986 The Maltese Flamingo, billed as Hunter S. Thompson’s favorite ski film. Or maybe it was Glen skiing Couloir Poubelle and hot-doggin’ the bumps next to Mike Hattrup and Scot Schmidt in The Blizzard of Aahhh’s, the rockumentary that made the word extreme so popular Taco Bell named a combo after it. Glen was the young punk in the flick — you know, the badass who could magic-carpet ride down a fifty-degree, rock-sharpened slope while jivin’ a mohawk.

“I grew up in a gambling town as a mogul skier,” he once told CNN, “which is as punk rock as it gets.”

Oh yeah, the mohawk. Sometimes it’s red, or blue, or red-white-and-blue, and it’s fifteen inches high — so high that when it’s in the air it’s got its own flight plan.

Yes. You must know Glen.

Or you think you know him. Truth is, Glen Plake is everyman’s skier. Every couple of years, he and his wife Kimberly ride — unplanned and unscripted — into dozens of mom-and-pop American ski areas in a tricked-out Freightliner RV as part of their Down Home Tour. Kimberly drives the rig and doles out autographed posters as Glen is swarmed by small-town fans – kids and grown-ups, old-timers and experts, racers and butt-draggers, and anyone who’s awed by his rocket launch from rowdy Tahoe worm-turner to ski movie icon to one of PSIA’s top examiners. He’s so easy to jam with, so salt-of-the-earth, so magnetic that within seconds of your first fist-bump you think you’re his pal. And if you think that, you’d be right. While Glen Plake is a good skier and a good talker and a really good guy, his psyche digs deeper than you might guess. More than a rock star with a weird haircut who’s mad about skiing, Glen is a soulful thinker, a keen observer, and a professor of technique.

I caught up with Glen and Kimberly Plake — no easy feat — at their Lizard Rock Ranch in Nevada’s high desert. It’s an oasis for the Plakes, who say they’re “home” as few as eight days a year. Gazing out one of fifty windows at a one-hundred-mile view, on this day they’re comfy and rested and ready to talk candidly about their lives – their triumphs, their mistakes, their sorrows, their high and low points. Jumping in without so much as a how-dee-do, Kimberly — a zesty Texan with an athletic stance on skis and a beauty-queen background — tells me she and Glen suffered through seven miscarriages, and that they’ve both been “clean and sober since 1992.” Bombshells deployed, the two let me dig as deeply as I’d like into what makes the couple strive and survive. It’s fascinating stuff, which all stems from a love of skiing.

Glen’s affair with the sport started at age two in Lake Tahoe. Raised a freestyler, he was a smear-turner and a mogul skier skilled enough for the U.S. national team, but edgy enough to nix it with a Nah, that’s not for me. Instead, Glen glued his hair into the shape of a mohawk and played up his party-punk persona. “I grew up in a gambling town as a mogul skier,” he once told CNN, “which is as punk rock as it gets.” He was skiing hard, partying harder, and in the midst of fighting drug charges when filmmaker Greg “Stumpy” Stump cast him in Aahhh’s at the last-minute, and ordered his ass to the French Alps ASAP for filming. Glen sped to a passport office and sold his car on the way to the airport, skipping out on his court appearance. It was 1988, and Glen — in his early 20’s — was sure he was leaving the U.S. for good, which was A-OK with him. He’d just raise more hell in France once the shoot was over.

Fast-forward to the following winter and Blizzard of Aahhh’s is a VHS super success, with every skier-kid from Mad River to Mammoth watching Glen and Hattrup and Schmidt and the boys “skiing the extreme” to electro beats of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. In his liquid narration, Stump, a former radio DJ, tells the audience, “This film is a compilation, which might make you say aahhh.” Skiers ate that shit up. The film was a game-changer. Bryant Gumbel asked to interview the boys on the Today Show, so Glen just had to come back to the States. In the end, Stump paid Glen’s fines and Glen paid some time, but he got to come home to make the TV appearance. And from that NBC moment on, has been hailed as skiing’s most riveting rocker.

Glen Plake loves to talk grassroots skiing, and I love listening to him. He’s a knowledgeable guy, a preacher of positive ski culture dedicated to the goodness of the family-owned ski area — the mom-and-pop shop with a five-hundred-foot vertical that’s located just outside of town, the ski area Glen says “no one’s ever heard of.”

“These places are small,” Glen adds. “You know, your Dad ran it. The kind that has community assets, roller rinks, Saturday night race tracks. It’s a pretty pure form, a place you just go to slide on your skis. It doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘ski resort’ experience. It’s not owned by a big company. It’s probably owned by a family, or an individual somewhere, or a community of individuals. It’s a place where people go to enjoy a pastime, enjoy a winter’s day. You’re only going for one thing, and that’s the skiing.”

On Down Home Tours, Glen and Kimberly show up unannounced, bumping their rig into dirt parking lots and letting the kids gather ‘round. “Are you Glen Plake?” one gaffer asks Glen, recorded on YouTube. When Glen confirms, the gaffer says: “I’m so much sicker than you, man.” Glen laughs big and shoots back, “If that’s the case, why weren’t you in Chamonix last week?”

The tour zig-zags around the U.S. guided by nothing beyond forecasts for snow and more snow. Michigan. Wisconsin. Upstate New York. West Virginia. The Plakes’ first tour was their honeymoon in the early ‘90s, 13,000 miles, 33 states, and 50 resorts in 68 days. You get the vibe they do it not to pimp their own brand, but, rather, to pimp the joy of skiing. To this day, Glen hops out of his truck and onto his Elans, then offers free ski lessons. Kimberly, looking fine in M. Miller, works like a Trojan to make these chance meetings  run smoothly. The two eat burgers cooked on the grill and hang out in Ski Patrol rooms, just shootin’ the breeze about what they all like about skiin’. Glen says he loves the fact these ski areas aren’t Disneylands, but places to have experiences without providing those experiences. They’re not the mega-mountain resorts of the world and that’s okay, says Glen, “they shouldn’t have to compete.”

Still, when Down Home Tours are over, when the snow’s gone and it’s time for the Freightliner to head back to Nevada, Glen says he worries. “I don’t know,” he sighs heavily. “When I leave them, I’m afraid. These moms and pops are dedicating their lives, that’s why small ski areas are surviving. What happens when they can’t do it any longer? It’s no different than owning a family farm. They’re having to compete against big name resorts in Colorado and Utah, and I don’t believe they have to do that. They can never live up to that bar. Why make ‘em?”

Glen Plake met Kimberly Manuel at Stratton, VT in 1989. “I was there demo-ing skis with a girlfriend who wanted to meet Glen Plake,” Kimberly says. “Let’s just say, she went home with a poster.” Since then they’ve been a star-crossed couple. Kimberly still compares Glen to Mick Jagger. Of Kimberly, Glen says, “I’m very lucky to have her.”

When they met, Kimberly was a model, a Texas beauty queen, and a former Rangerette. A tomboy with a past hot-roddin’ around the slopes on family ski vacations, and someone who never dreamed she’d marry the world’s most recognizable skier.

Still, their early road trips together weren’t smooth. In the early 1990s, Kimberly describes a lifestyle increasingly out of control. “We were full-time skiers,” she says. “Everyone around us was on vacation. We spent our days with people who partied. We were wild and crazy — drinking, dancing on tables—our marriage nearly dissolved. We’d gone down a path of destruction. When Glen got into a bar fight and I had to bail him out of jail, that was it. Over dinner that night we made the decision right then, together, to get sober. We’ve been clean and sober since 1992.”

Today, the Plakes split their time between their RV, the Nevada ranch, and a chalet in Chamonix. Glen is an Elan ambassador, and develops new technology with Italy’s Roxa Ski Boots. On the side, he hosts Truck Night in America for the History Channel. Besides running the Glen Plake show, Kimberly’s an ambassador for M. Miller. With an eye for fashion and a frisky sense of ski style, she’s gunning for her own capsule line — The Snowplake Collection — under the M. Miller label.

I ask Glen if Kimberly’s his Yoko Ono. Another huge laugh. “She’s certainly the warden.”

From day one, Glen took Kimberly under his wing. “Because of him, I am the skier I am today,” says Kimberly, now a PSIA Level Three ski pro. “He has a beautiful eye. He’s able to put his advice into terms that are so relatable. Basically, he’s a professor of skiing.”

Which leads us to Glen Plake’s latest obsession: ski teaching. As most things do with Glen, it began with movie cameras. A decade ago, Glen was asked to teach a New York TV producer how to ski live on television as part of a learn-to-ski campaign. Glen, being Glen, said “Sure!” and jumped in with both boots. “But,” says Glen, “I had no idea what I was doing. When she asked, ‘What happens at the top of the lift?’ I said, ‘Huh. That’s a good question!’’” He laughs. “When we got to the top I said, ‘I’m just gonna go ahead and grab you here and we’re just gonna take this one to the ground. When I say so, gradually fall my way, okay?’”

Though he’s survived an avalanche and skied off mondo cliffs, the experience jarred him so badly that Glen approached a top guy at the Professional Ski Instructors’ Association (PSIA) and admitted he needed to learn how to teach. “I said, ‘Look dude, I know I’m hittin’ you with a blind one, but I’m indirectly rep-ing your organization.’ The PSIA guy replied, ‘We appreciate your interest. Go take your Level One.’” Yet another bodacious laugh. “So, I did.”

Later that season, Glen showed up at Breckenridge among 250 new hires to try a PSIA Level One exam. “By then I’d been reading the technical manual for about a month, so I thought I was in good shape. But when I got on snow, I said, ‘Dude, I gotta work on this gliding wedge and open parallel and wedge Christie ‘I’m gonna have to clinic!’”

Glen Plake passed his first exam. Then, eventually, his second. “Level Two was harder,” he admits. “We were getting into advanced theories and how to apply them — a whole other skill level. I was worried.”

Today Glen Plake is a Level Three instructor and a PSIA Education Staff Examiner. He climbed PSIA’s rope ladder the same way everyone else does — no free rides for this iconic freerider. Still, he admits to loving it when, as a student, PSIA examiners asked him to pitch in with advice. “I am hot shit,” he says, “or have been occasionally. I loved it when they asked me if I had anything to add. They know I’m blessed with experiences.”

So, there you have it. Hot shit and blessed with experiences. Ski icon or ski film icon or film star? Professor. Everyman’s skier. Punk rocker. Never mind Mick, Keith, Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols. Skiing’s got its own hall-of-famer. Glen Plake.

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