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Local Knowledge: Ski icon Glen Plake on his love of Mammoth Mountain

A home mountain is a very special thing to skiers and snowboarders. One might even use the word sacred. To put this idea into perspective, we decided to pick the brains of some of the most influential figures in snow sports, asking just how special their home mountain is to them.

For our third installment of “Local knowledge”, we spoke with Glen Plake, one of the originators of freeskiing and the sport’s eternally rebellious talisman, who even at age 52 can still be found skiing harder than hell at his home base of Mammoth Mountain in California’s Eastern Sierra.

Glen Plake ski Glen Plake Mammoth Mountain
Even past the half-century mark, Plake is still ripping and raising hell. Photo: Courtesy of Elan Skis

You’ve been successful and influential enough in your career that you could ski anywhere in the world that you want to. So why do you choose to set up shop in Mammoth?

The reason I still call Mammoth Mountain my home base is just the consistency of the mountain. I mean it in a good way — and it’s a terrible analogy — but Mammoth is like a Toyota Corolla, man: It just runs.

It’s always open and always has good snow. It might not be waist-deep blower pow, and you might be skiing on corn, but hey, at least we’re not closing on April 12. I can come here anytime and have a great ski experience.

It’s April and we just got four feet of snow. The mountain is cutting another halfpipe right now up near the top of the mountain. What other ski resort can say it’s cutting a new pipe in April?

Always fun ripping around with @glenplake @mammothmountain

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So I take it you’re stoked the mountain will be running until July 4 for the second year in a row?

Hell yeah. Skiing in the sunshine and warm weather, I mean that’s what Southern California is. Everyone thinks you need to super cold temperatures and tons of powder for a great ski day.

Most of the iconic images we associate with skiing aren’t winter pictures — they’re spring time, they’re late in the year. People on patios after skiing, that’s not in December, especially not out in, say, Idaho. So I’m all about the spring skiing.

What effect do you think that variability in conditions has on the locals who ride Mammoth?

The reality of it is, if you’re skiing in Mammoth, it’s because you want to be out here and you want to be skiing.

And even though it might not be the most perfect little tourist town, the areas surrounding Mammoth are incredible in that they offer amazing biking and fishing and climbing and skiing. That fosters an awesome culture.

The people who are out here, are out here for a reason, and that’s to ski hard. This isn’t Aspen. You aren’t coming to Mammoth to keep up with the Joneses.

So that being said, if it’s all-time and you’re hitting one lift-accessed area on the mountain, where are you going?

I’m a stick in the mud for making laps on Chair 23. I’ll do that a bunch, I’ll go down the left side of the lift, I’ll ski it straight down, some times I’ll make the catwalk all the way to Paranoids. It’s not that big of a lift but it’s fun, steep stuff.

Glen Plake ski Glen Plake Mammoth Mountain
Plake says part of his love of Mammoth is the fact that he can climb, bike and ski around dedicated locals. Photo: Courtesy of Elan Skis

And after you’re done skiing, where are you going to grab some food?

The first stop I’m making is at Burgers Restaurant. Its name says it all and I’m old-fashioned in my Mammoth dining. If I’ve been skiing hard, and I want a burger, I’m going to Burgers. Otherwise, I’m maybe getting a bit further from the mountain and going to Giovanni’s for some pizza.

Do you ever see yourself leaving Mammoth?

I love it here. I spend time traveling to other mountains, but I always find myself wanting to come back to Mammoth. As far as the guaranteed snow and the experience here, and the proximity to all there is to do in the Eastern Sierra, it’s hard to beat Mammoth.

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