Extreme Skiing at the U.P.'s Mt. Bohemia

This serve-it-up-naked model’s golden underside is its rock-bottom cost of operation—no snowmaking expenses (270 average inches a year of the natural stuff whites out that cost), no grooming and no anything else but skiing and boarding. A staff of 14 oversees the mountain’s 400 skiable acres, as compared to say, Boyne Highlands, which cranks its staff up to a small army during peak season in order to offer amenities such as ski school, spa treatments and fine dining.

That first winter, 2000, Mt. Bohemia chalked up 9,000 skier visits. Eight seasons later that number has more than tripled. Eighty-two percent of those skiers are male, and 80 percent are under the age of 35. Arguably the most effective tool in Glieberman’s low-budget marketing arsenal is a red-lettered sign in the parking lot that reads: NO BEGINNERS ALLOWED.

I never doubted that if Glieberman built it, they would come. I knew because I am married to one of those hardcore snowmen that can’t resist the lure of a Bohemia-type experience—though at 49, Peter is admittedly at the slim end of the mountain’s demographic. The first snows bring on his ski obsession. The real problem with this obsession is not that I mind it, but that he insists on taking me everywhere he skis. Twenty-five years ago, when we were 25-year-old newlyweds, this mania stranded me on a nasty mogul run in Steamboat, Colorado. Fear and a certain young buck-irritated look on my husband’s face nearly ended the marriage there.

Let me also share this: if this man, bound by DNA to the conservative, New England work ethic of his forefathers, dared to dream of trading places with anyone else in the world, it would be Glen Plake, the Mohawk do’ed skier who defined the word extreme in the 1990’s, then spent the ensuing years traveling the ski world in his colorful bus, cheerleading for K-2 skis, before switching to Elan two years ago. And call it woman’s intuition (or just a no-brainer), but I suspect that if my husband could design his ultimate woman, she’d be a lot like Plake’s hot blonde, awesome skier wife, Kimberly.

And what total joke are the ski gods playing on me? Glen and Kimberly Plake’s bus, in all its wild and crazy glory, is parked at the base of the mountain as we pull up for our first Bohemia experience, the morning after our yurt affair. Out of all the resorts in the world Plake could turn up in today—a day on which I am nervously hoping Peter does not forget that we are 49-year-olds whose jobs entail spending an awful lot of time sitting in chairs—he’s here? The reason, it turns out, is to film a segment for RSN cable network on Bohemia. As we’re trucking our gear to the base lodge we pass fit Kimberly clad in a smashing white ski suit. She’s not wearing a helmet. I, however, am wearing a Sponge Bob helmet I bought (it fits and was cheaper than an adult helmet) in Houghton.

The gods are at play, but at least Mt. Bohemia is on my side. If there ever was a time when I could conquer this mountain, it would be this pale-blue, wispy-cloud day after just enough snowfall to cover most of the natural roughage, but not enough to create moguls I can’t see over. Meeting Glieberman at the ticket counter also helps lift my spirits. He’s affable, easygoing and very apologetic about our lost bunks. “Yurt poachers,” he says, turning to his soon-to-be wife, Lindsay, who is working the cash register. Then the guy goes on to explain that usually he has a yurt master (equivalent to a campground host) to troubleshoot poaching, but he had to be away last night.

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