A Conversation with Freeski Visionary Glen Plake

If you have ever clipped into a pair of skis, you likely know who Glen Plake is. One of the original ‘extreme’ skiers of the late 80s, once touted as a ‘rebel film star’, Plake has been charging the course over the past 25+ years, remaining as relevent to the industry today as he once was in his mowhawk-brandishing breakout years. (he still rocks the ‘hawk by the way, even at the beauty age of 50). On skis from the age of two and a former member of the US mogul team, Glen Plake has devoted his life to making sure the whole world likes skiing as much as he does. The Californian was one of the very first freeride ski icons immortalized in Greg Stump films that spawned an entire new generation of freeskiers.

Glen travels all over the world to ride with the locals and share his love of skiing. In 2011, he was inducted into the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Dividing his time between Chamonix and California, Plake recently spoke about his vision of a sport that his given him so much.

What’s it like to be a living ski legend?

“It’s something I never asked to be! When I was 12 years old, I just wanted to be a skier. Today, not a day goes by without someone stopping me for a photo in the street or on the terrace of the Aiguille du Midi. Because they all have memories of me when they were kids, through photos, films, conversations with their dad, and they want to share the fact that I had such a great influence on their lives.”

article continues below

Does it move you?

“Massively. Whenever there’s an encounter like that, it’s a great moment between two human beings. I think it’s fantastic that these people take the time to come and speak with me and tell me I had an impact on their lives. So I always take the time to let them take a photo or have a talk together. But being a “living legend” as you call it is also a great responsibility. I owe it to myself to live up to their expectations or the image they have of me. And that’s just as well, because I’m still passionate about what I do and the desire to share it!”

Glen Plake, levitation station.
Glen Plake, levitation station.

What made you want to work with your eyewear sponsor Julbo?

“In 2005, I didn’t have any eyewear partners. And I thought, this is crazy, not being with a brand when I spend so much time outside. I wanted to work with a company that came from the mountains. Lots of the mountain products you see come from surfing or urban environments: skiing is just a small part of those companies’ markets and not hugely important for them.”

So what happened next?

“Julbo is the only company I wanted to work with. I asked them: will you sponsor me? And to be honest, they said no for almost 2 years! Perhaps because they didn’t want people saying “Julbo’s bought Glen Plake.”

At the same time, things were changing at Julbo USA. I told them I could really help them with that market, as their products were only sold in specialist mountain stores at the time. And in the end, the deal was done!”

Apparently you were impressed by Team Julbo?

“Completely! The idea of being part of that team fascinated me. There’s Ueli Steck, Christophe Dumarest and so many others. Look at the diversity and the level: nobody has a team like us! If you compare it to other eyewear brand teams, we blow them away! After I joined Julbo, the whole team had a meeting in Longchaumois. And I was like a little kid in front of all these athletes!”

Photo courtesy Julbo.

Is that still the case?

“Yes! When I saw Ophélie David and Coline Mattel at the Olympic Games, I was screaming at my TV like a madman trying to encourage them. Because it’s Team Julbo and it’s like a family for me.”

Can you tell us about your experience of product development with Julbo?

“I’ve collaborated on two goggles and a third is in the pipeline. I love it! At the end of a day’s skiing, sometimes you think: I’d really like my goggles to be like this or like that. With Julbo it’s fantastic to be able to swap ideas and make those ideas a reality. When they give me the prototype created from our discussions, I think I’m really lucky to be doing this!”
Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 9.30.28 AM

Reblogged from Julbo’s Visions. Check out Julbo’s latest Mountain Sunglass collection here.