LAKE PLACID - Glen Plake slid down the small hill at North Country School on one ski, spinning in circles, showing great balance and showmanship simultaneously.
As he approached the end of his run, he playfully lifted himself with his poles until the tips of his skis were planted in the snow and perpendicular to the ground. Then as quickly as he rose, he fell to his back, his skis now crossed and a loud laugh escaping through the smile on his face. The crowd around him chuckled approvingly.
"I like making the little hill as complicated as it can be," Plake said a short while afterward. "It's really fun. What a wonderful place actually."
Glen Plake rides the tow rope at North Country School in Lake Placid, where demo day was held Saturday during the Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival.
Photo — Mike Lynch
Since at least 1988, when he starred in the ski movie, "The Blizzard of Aahhhs," Plake has been a household name for backcountry skiing enthusiasts. He has rare skiing talent and a free-spirited personality to match it.
This weekend, he was the featured athlete for the Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival, which is organized by The Mountaineer gear store in Keene Valley and Cloudsplitter Guides, also of Keene Valley. Julbo, which makes sunglasses and ski goggles, sent Plake here.
Plake spent Saturday interacting with skiers of all ages at North Country School, teaching them the basics of skinning and other backcountry skills. Representatives from Dynafit, Black Diamond and other ski equipment companies were on hand to provide free gear rentals and advice on the latest ski technology.
Saturday night, Plake gave a talk and video presentation at Keene Central School. Sunday, he ventured into the High Peaks for his first Adirondack backcountry tour.
Plake said he's been here in the summertime but hadn't been able to get here in the winter.
"I've been en route to the Adirondacks several times," Plake said. "Unfortunately, one time was about 10 years ago when this massive ice storm came through."
Plake lives most of the year in Chamonix, France, where he's been since he flew there to film "The Blizzard of Aahhhs." An American, he grew up in Livermore, Calif., on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. He spent many of his early ski days at Heavenly Valley.
In his teens, he skied for the U.S. National Mogul Team before become a ski film star and a sponsored athlete. Now, Plake said he skis about 300 days a year.
"I was in Chamonix two days ago, the world's largest lift system," Plake said. "Now I'm here at a rope tow servicing some hundred odd-feet of hill here, and we're just having the same amount of fun. It's just beautiful to have that contrast in my life."
On the small hill at North Country School, the local skiers were excited to have him.
"Glen's awesome," said Ron Konowitz, of Keene Valley, who helped with the clinics. "He's so warm and welcoming. He's quite a personality. Watching him ski is impressive."
John Doan, who heads the ski program at North Country School, said the school was happy to offer up its ski hill for this event. The demo part of the ski festival has traditionally been held at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown, but it had to be switched to a different location due to the lack of snow there.
"The event's been great today," Doan said. "Really, I think this is one of the first times the general public has been invited to this ski hill in a long, long time. We're happy to have him. We do a lot of backcountry skiing at the school. Outdoors is a big part of what the school is about, so it's great to host this."