Freestyle skiing revival
Plake’s Gunbarrel 25 gives skiers a taste of yesteryear
By Jeremy Evans
Tribune staff writer
When Janez Demsar moved to South Shore in 1991, he remembers TV trucks parked at Heavenly every weekend. He remembers more than a dozen Alpine races and freestyle mogul contests throughout the year for both professionals and locals.
Fifteen years later, that’s all he has left. Memories.
“There’s nothing really going on anymore,” Demsar said. “We all know the focus isn’t on Alpine racing or freestyle racing, but on terrain parks.”
Enter Glen Plake.
Two years ago, the South Lake Tahoe native and world-famous ski personality started to create more memories for local bump skiers when he established the Gunbarrel 25.
With most events in the 21st century geared toward snowboarding or halfpipe skiing contests, Plake wanted a way to showcase The Face and Gunbarrel, Heavenly’s legendary 1,600-foot fall line that served as his babysitter growing up.
“While Heavenly is now a major ski resort, with a gondola and a village, that’s known around the world, it’s still our local ski hill,” said Plake, who returned this week from a two-month skiing stint in Chamonix, France. “It’s important not to lose that. The beauty of this event is the people associated with it. This event wouldn’t be anything if all these people didn’t show up.”
The third annual Glen Plake Gunbarrel 25 is scheduled for Saturday and is shaping up to be his most popular. In 2004, there were 98 participants. In 2005, there were 120. This year, he figures to at least equal last year’s total.
“We should be right up there again at 120,” Plake said. “I’m glad I can be the person who hosts the event, but it really is the community’s event. I encourage everyone to come on out. It’s very spectator friendly with all sorts of things going on.”
The rules are simple. The fastest to complete 25 laps wins. Anyone who completes 25 laps receives a commemorative pin as proof of their accomplishment.
There are six divisions – men’s and women’s skier, men’s and women’s experimental (snowboarder, telemark skier, monoboarder, etc.) and 16-and-under divisions for boys and girls.
There also is an ironman and ironwoman award, given to the person who completes the most laps in the allotted time. South Lake Tahoe resident Andre Villarét holds the record with 46.
The rules may be simple, but pounding the bumps on The Face and Gunbarrel for six hours is difficult.
“I think there are people every year who are surprised how difficult it is to ski Gunbarrel 25 times,” said Stateline resident Tom Bork, who won the men’s skier division in 2004. “We know how tough it is because we do it all the time, but it’s not easy for someone who doesn’t do it.”
Demsar and Bork are the only two men’s division winners in the event’s history. Demsar, a former Yugoslavian national team ski racer, completed last year’s race in a record-time of 3 hours, 10 minutes.
In honor of Heavenly’s 50th anniversary, Plake added a Gunbarrel 50 race this year. Less than 10 people have registered for completing 50 laps, which equates to 80,000 vertical feet in under seven hours.
“The 50? No way I’m doing that,” Demsar said. “I don’t need a psychiatrist.”
2005 Gunbarrel 25 Winners
Men’s Skier: Janez Demsar
Women’s Skier: Raegan Bellik
Ironman winner: Andre Villarét
Ironwoman winner: Ivana Kynclova
Men’s Experimental: “Timber”
Women’s Experimental: Jen Menzel
Note: Experimental division includes telemark skiers, monoboarders and snowboarders; Ironman and Ironwoman awards were given to those who completed most runs in the allotted time.
Glen Plake Gunbarrel 25/50
What: Freestyle race for all ages, genders and disciplines
Where: Heavenly Mountain Resort, California Base Lodge
Cost: $25 (includes T-shirt and dinner)
Note: Same-day registration is permitted. For Gunbarrel 50, race is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., but could start sooner so arrive by 8 a.m. For Gunbarrel 25 race, arrive by 10 a.m. for a 10:30 a.m. start time. Race ends at 4 p.m.
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As another summer heads to Lake Tahoe, residents are finding ways to stay busy and one of the more popular activities to gain traction on both shores is pickleball.