Glen Plake’s ‘Down Home Tour’: The Importance of Small Ski Areas in Ski Culture

Glen Plake is adored for his skiing but also his personality. Photo: Courtesy of Elan

There is no argument that Glen Plake is an icon. From his rather rowdy early days and early films to his more recent endeavors like making skis with Elan, advocacy for guides and ski instructors, to his own guide and instructing pursuits, he is a very busy man.

Plake, who is a U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame skier, first hit the ski film world with his hallmark mohawk in the Greg Stump classic Maltese Flamingo. Since then, he’s made many films, much of them with the legendary filmmaker Warren Miller. Plake is arguably the most famous non-racing skier to come from the United States, and unlike many of his peers who heavily depended on mechanized vehicles to get access to steep lines, Plake preferred to “earn his turns” as an avid ski mountaineer.

Plake’s passion for skiing is something that has never waned, nor has his personal connection to his fans and skiers alike, at ski areas all over the country.

Glen and Kimberly Plake enjoying the view on the way up. Photo: Courtesy of Elan

Those who have met Plake never forget their encounter. Whether it was the ski-touring tips he gave freely to visitors in Chamonix or just the kind casual conversation on a lift at Mammoth, Plake never fails to connect … and his Down Home Tour is no different.

Since 1991, Plake and his wife Kimberly have been spontaneously visiting small ski areas and riding with the locals. Unannounced, the two show up in their custom diesel Freightliner (basically, a badass motorhome). Plake has an affinity for off-road vehicles and racing (you might have seen him hosting on Truck Night in America) takes care of the maintenance of the truck. Then the two just hang out. From green runs to ski racing practice to out of bounds jaunts with ski patrol, the Plakes’ presence is a never planned, and always a gift to those who just happen to be at the ski area at the same time.

We recently caught up with Plake to chat about his tour and the importance of small ski areas, how to keep ski costs down and where to find stoke.

You don’t come to ski with the Plakes, they come to ski with you! Photo: Courtesy of Elan

Why are small ski areas so important?

Everyone thinks skiing is so expensive. It is becoming expensive, there is no doubt about it. The smaller ski areas feel like they have to compete with ski resorts, and offer the same product. Unfortunately, everyone thinks, “ski area” and they think golf course, condo sales … What happened to the little rope tow at the end of town that was a community asset that everyone goes under to kill time? Why do you have to pay $80 to go to the local little ski hill – we should all be having fun out here.

The Plakes make themselves at home since they bring their home to the hill. Photo: Courtesy of Elan

What are some tips for keeping ski costs down?

Season passes are usually not that expensive if you compare them to other things. You know you pay $4,000 for your mountain bike but not a $400 lift pass for the season. Nobody doesn’t want to ski on good equipment, but we can go to ski-swaps and get good equipment – you just have to make a commitment.

You have to be committed to skiing before it can be financially affordable. If you do not make the commitment, then it is going to cost you an arm and a leg.

How do you measure stoke?

We highlight and glamorize the most expensive forms of the sport [skiing] and then expect everyone to measure their experience against that. I do not believe it is fair. I don’t think sports should be separated by dollars. It could even be the worst snow ever. For sure, the amount of money spent doesn’t equal the amount of stoke.

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