It goes without saying that in the youth-driven constantly evolving ski industry, complacency is death. Some professional skiers survive long enough to be considered legends, and then they’re allowed to be a bit complacent because they’re fucking legends. If making it in the ski industry is like trying to storm the beaches of Normandy, (Think nearly impossible, with lots of bullets and people dying horrible deaths.) these legends walk around the beach like Neo in the Matrix, and any bullets that dare come close are rendered impotent with merely the wave of a hand.
I apologize, because Matrix references are definitely not at all cool, but it’s the image that unconsciously came to my head when I was writing about this. Take it or leave it. (When the imagery cropped up in my mind, it was Mike Douglas waving away bullets like popcorn, if you care to know.)
Eventually, when certain skiers become immune to these bullets, it can still be very valuable for their sponsors to support them. Take Glen Plake (The Ageless One) as an example. K2 still supports and sees value in him, which I think is great. I think it’s great because not only does it show K2 has a respect for their hard working riders even when they’re past their prime, but it shows they understand how fucking stoked Glen is on skiing all the time. I’ve never personally met the man, and the closest I have ever come to him was walking below him (literally) when he was doing a TV interview at SIA, but I think I can state with some confidence that nobody is as stoked on skiing as he is. One thing in particular that he did, and K2 fully supported, is his brilliant and now possibly defunct Down Home Tour. If you don’t know what it was, Glen basically loaded up a motor home with his wife and toured areas of the country every year. Along the way he met up with some of the younger K2 athletes, and just skied everywhere. How amazingly stoked would you be to see Glen just shredding away at your local hill? It makes me want to jump up and down and use words like “stoked” and “shredding” just thinking about it. Now I’m aware some of you might rather see Sammy Carlson rolling around, but really… Plake! I guess I’m officially old and crusty.
What I was getting at before I started rambling was this: Plake is a legend and K2 fully supports their long-term investment in him. Glen Plake of course supports skiing everywhere, and K2 benefits in the process. (They do own half the industry.) Some of you might cringe at the thought of Glen Plake as one of skiing’s ambassadors, but you just don’t understand.
Unfortunately, for every Glen Plake feel good story there are 10 shitty stories. This is because, as Doug Bishop mentioned in my last post, there is a general lack of support for our older generation in skiing.
A few examples I can think of immediately off the top of my head:
-Philou getting unceremoniously axed by Salomon for Candide back in the day.
- Phil Belanger and Phil Larose being dumped by Dynastar. (Then Dion was made Team Manager? Remember what I said about Normandy? This war has the least likely survivors.)
- Iannick B, Julien Regnier, and others being cleared from Orage’s roster to make budget room for he who shall not be named.
- Vinnie Dorion being dropped by all of his long-time sponsors at once. (Dragon, Helly Hansen, Salomon. Chop, chop, chop.)
- Chris Turpin being dropped by pretty much everybody. (I maintain that he is still fucking amazing to this day.)
When “aging” pros get axed these days, they either fade into obscurity, take a position in the industry, or sign to a new indie ski company/old pro graveyard. That’s not to say the only thing valuable about them anymore is their name. With age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom and maturity. Not only do these guys apply that wisdom to their skiing every day, but a lot of younger skiers could learn a great deal from some of these “older” riders. If ski teams these days were actually teams, not just a collection of individuals with the same person signing their paycheques, these older cats could come in really handy for fostering a sense of community in the upper echelons of our sport. (Everyone loves a father figure.) Many other unmentioned benefits aside, the respect a company garners from maintaining a good relationship with an athlete that has worked all of his or her life to benefit their brand can be huge. I’m certainly not Volkl’s number one fan, but damn if I didn’t bow and pay respects when they decided to support Marc-Andre through his life-changing series of events.
On a different tangent, the final note on “What’s Really Old?” I have for you is about the gradual increase in the talent level of pro skiers over time. The older guard of our sport only started freeskiing in their late teens and early twenties, while a lot of the young kids coming up right now started in their early teens. It’s not that obvious who has the advantage when it comes to natural talent, but the experience the veterans have is irreplaceable. Since we have had such a huge jump in talent (with the new generation now skiing on or above the level of the first) imagine when kids who have fathers like Mike Douglas, Mike Nick, and Shane McConkey start to mature. I’m pretty sure Shane’s kid will have more experiential knowledge of skiing than people twice his age by the time he’s twelve. The only indicator we have right now of the talent kids like that can harbor is Kye Petersen, and he was raised in part by an entire generation of pro skiers, as opposed to just one. (No disrespect to your Mom or Dad Kye, you know I have all the love in the world.)
So I end this second installation on similar note as my first.
We have some very interesting times ahead, so stick around.
Rest In Peace, Trevor Petersen