• Jen Booton

Badassery: The Bad Boy of Skiing

Each week we highlight badasses from history and today doing the unthinkable in celebration of human potential. This Week: Glen Plake, the mohawk-wearing bad boy who transformed skiing forever.

Glen Plake is well-known for his colorful mohawk and bad-boy attitude, but it was his extreme skiing, unapologetic sending, and thirst for adventure that helped to elevate the sport and secure his stardom.

Through the 1980s and 90s, Plake faced immense criticism as a blue-haired punk. In a 2000 article published by Ski Mag, the author talked about how many dismissed him as “washed-up or irrelevant.” Someone who “should’ve disappeared years ago,” a “mohawked footnote to the neon, cliff-jumping ‘80s, a braying bad boy long on hype and short on substance.”

Nevertheless, Plake persisted. He carved out a niche for his recognizable appearance and willing to send it in front of cameras on the world’s most challenging mountain descents and in local ski areas around the U.S. He first shot onto the scene in a number of Greg Stump’s ski movies: The Malthese Flamingo in 1986, Blizzard of Aaahhs in 1988, and License to Thrill in 1989, helping to launch a new genre of freestyle adventure ski films. His later influential film appearances included Stump’s Fistful of Moguls (1998), Steep (2007), The Edge of Never (2009).

Plake got his start skiing at a very young age in South Lake Tahoe when his mom enrolled him in ski school at the age of 2. He accelerated his skills of ski racing and freeskiing through the U.S. National Moguls Ski Team circuit and eventually took home three World Hot Dog skiing champion titles.

But it wasn’t his skills that catapulted him to stardom. It was his bold attitude and thirst for adventure, which resonated with so many young people around the world and helped grow the sport. Plake has climbed and skied some of the baddest mountains around the world, from Peru to India, the Alps to the Himalayas and Mont Blanc in Italy. With more than 100 ascents and descents on monster mountains, he’s become a source of inspiration for other skiers to push the limits of skiing.

In 2010, he was added to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame for his efforts in promoting the sport and becoming “the most recognizable and quite possibly the best-known skier in the world.”

“Glen has done more than anyone to promote the love for skiing to millions of people,” it said.

Today he serves as an accredited instructor, often doing surprise visits at local resorts and trying to spread the love of the sport to as many new people as possible. He’s transformed from an anti-establishment outlier to an accredited Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) teacher.

Glen converted the sport of skiing from a clean and neat practice to a bold and daring activity focused on exploration, pushing the limits, and taking on as much new terrain as possible. And now he’s doing all that while preaching safety.

Plake is skiing’s anti-hero. And the sport will never be the same again.

Learn more about his metamorphosis and influence here: