Bleiler and Smith join long list of local Olympians

Congratulations, Gretchen and Jason.Both Olympians did their family, friends and community proud with their performances in Turin, Italy, this week.Gretchen Bleiler, who grew up in Snowmass Village and lives in Aspen, won the silver medal in the superpipe. (A lot of us here think she deserved gold, but that’s a different editorial.) Her latest accomplishment, on top of all her other success in the sport, cements her as one of the top female snowboard athletes in the world. Jason Smith, a Basalt native, has been on the snow since he was 2 years old. Smith, now 24, represented the United States in boardercross, which debuted in the Winter Olympics this year. He finished sixth.Bleiler and Smith join a long list of Aspen-area residents who have represented their community and country in the Winter Olympics. That list includes the likes of Max and Bill Marolt, Andy Mill, Beth Madsen McNichol, Terry Morse, Monique Pelletier, Katie Monahan, John Callahan and Chris Klug. Not a bad list to be on.That Gretchen and Jason are both snowboarders says a lot about where winter sports are going. Like so many valley residents who preceded them into the Olympic fray, they are on the cutting edge of sport. What a cool place to be. Fact is, the Roaring Fork Valley has been on the cutting edge of winter sports ever since Andre Roch cut the first run on Aspen Mountain. We live in one of those places that abounds with opportunity. Had life dealt Gretchen and Jason a different hand, they might be sitting in cubicles in some office building in New York instead of competing high in the Italian Alps against some of the world’s best athletes.How fortunate we are to live in such a place, where the idea of becoming an Olympian isn’t too far-fetched. So in addition to congratulations, we should also offer Gretchen and Jason our thanks for reminding us why this is such a special place.