Aspen’s Gile eyes Europa Cup success following return home for AVSC’s Ajax Cup
Aspen native is a fourth-year member of the U.S. ski team
Bridger Gile hasn’t had the best start to his season, but the Aspen native is confident his skiing is headed in the right direction.
“I’m pretty close. It’s one or two races away,” Gile said Thursday from Aspen. “I’ve been at it for a couple of years now and it’s been pretty tough, but I think this year I’m skiing better and hopefully it’s the year.”
Gile, 23, is a fourth-year member of the U.S. ski team. He’s one of eight men on the B team, a group led by veteran Jared Goldberg. Gile has started a handful of World Cup races over his short career, a level he wants to return to.
So far this season, he’s raced exclusively on the Europa Cup, recording three DNFs in four starts, all giant slaloms. He did finish 20th in a Dec. 1 GS in Gurgi, Austria, his first European race of the winter. He’ll return to that circuit next week, where he’ll be chasing top-30 finishes that would earn him more World Cup starts.
“If I can get in the top 30, that’s my most current goal. And then with that you can kind of create a living for yourself,” Gile said. “I had a pretty productive summer. Gained a little bit of weight, got a little stronger. Hopefully that translates into skiing. Feeling pretty good. Haven’t had a lot of races yet, so hopefully this next block will be some good races.”
Gile is back in Aspen this week for the holidays and was a late addition to the Audi Ajax Cup, the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club’s ski racing fundraiser that takes place Friday on Aspen Mountain. He is one of the 16 professionals who lead each of the 16 teams in the head-to-head GS races, with skiers hoping to claim the coveted Gorsuch Cup by the end of the afternoon.
This is the 13th year the Ajax Cup has occurred, but it’s a first for Gile, who was happy to step in and help out his local ski club.
“Growing up in this club and being able to give back to the opportunities they gave me is awesome,” Gile said after Thursday’s handicapping session on The Little Nell run. “And it’s cool to spread the love of ski racing.”
The list of pros includes up-and-comers like Gile, to some of the sport’s all-time greats, such as Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller. Gile credits skiers like Miller, whose 33 World Cup wins are the most all-time by an American male, for his desire to compete professionally.
“Those are the people I grew up watching and made me want to become a ski racer. Even to hang out with them, talk to them, is awesome. So racing with them is going to be sweet,” Gile said. “They just love ski racing and it’s awesome they are here.”
Gile is one of many Ajax Cup pros who has direct ties to Aspen and AVSC. Even Olympic halfpipe skiers Alex Ferreira and Hanna Faulhaber are among the 16 scheduled to race on Friday, and Gile believes Aspen’s ski culture has a lot to do with its ability to produce such talent for the local club to bring back each year.
“Everyone that lives here is on the mountain whenever they can be,” Gile said. “Just always being able to ski creates a lot of excellent athletes, excellent skiers. And then having AVSC that is able to provide little kids with a more structured thing so the parents can just let them go and they are safe, it’s unreal.”
The 13th annual Ajax Cup is scheduled to run throughout the day Friday, with the finals to be held late in the afternoon. Outside of the VIP area and the after-race party, spectating is free.