Three years ago, nearly to the date, I had the opportunity to ski with the legendary Glen Plake at Mammoth Mountain. I was sixteen at the time and didn’t appreciate who I was skiing with, or how much his words and lessons would shape my skiing “career.”
I can easily divide what I learned/ experienced into five parts. The first time I met him I was star stuck, I could barely hold a conversation. First thing he taught me is you never know who you’ll run into. Everyone on the mountain is there for an escape, and to enjoy skiing. You are just like everyone else on the hill, the gaper, the pro, or the knuckle dragging park rat. We’re all connected. Granted I was there for a PSIA convention, my purpose was more professional than the average joe’s.
While on the mountain, have fun. There is no point in skiing if you’re not going to enjoy it. If you’re there to compete, to learn, or even buck cliffs, there is someone else who wishes they could be up there in your spot. Take very moment for granted and once you’re in the zone, don’t leave it. Skiing can be serious, but you can have fun and be focused. Talk to people on the chairlifts, spray your friends and keep it interesting.There is something to be said about watching a man the same age as your father hotdogging it down the mountain. If he’s living life that large you should as well.
What hit home the hardest was when he admitted it’s going to be hard at times. Skiing is not always easy, and things will not always go your way. You will have physical and mental locks, and how you deal with them shows your character. During these three days I had started using poles again after my first shoulder dislocation. It was tough for me, and I’ve faced several injuries since. He taught me it’s okay to be scared and to know when to quit or come back later.
looking like a goon at a dinner, the first night I met him
Don’t judge people too harshly. It’s one thing if a guy snakes you, but itv there’s a beginner who hasn’t quite figured out turning, have patience. We were all at the level once, and being rude to someone (who doesn’t deserve it) can really put them off from the sport. Become a mentor to some one and encourage those who dare to try something. If you’re on a chairlift and see someone get up from a brutal crash, don’t be afraid to applaud them. I was the youngest skier at the conference, and had two upper level skiers take me under their wing, and without them showing me the way thing would have been much harder than they were.
Being on the mountain is a gift. It’s a home, an escape, it’s dangerous.You need to respect the mountain, but also challenge it. Go big when you can, and know when conditions aren’t right for something. Wear sunscreen, or layer up with a face mask. Being prepared is something that can save your life, and I learned that the hard way. Glen taught me how to scope a line, how to set up my line, and how to pull out if it wasn’t safe. He taught me how to save myself from the mountain.
One brain injury and shoulder surgery, two home mountains, and three years later I’m still grateful for the weekend I got to spend with one of my heroes. Blizzard of Aahhh’s was the first ski movie to get me stoked about skiing, and I got to ski with the man who was in it. I'm biased towards Tahoe skiers, seeing I learned to ski there, but Glen is one of the few I'm constantly saying is my favorite. Thanks Glen, for reminding me why I go up on the mountain and strap two pieces of wood on my feet.