Gretchen Bleiler: Aspen’s favorite cover girl
ASPEN ” Being the dogged competitor she is, Gretchen Blelier never wants to be fourth in anything.
Except this: the fourth female athlete to grace the cover of ESPN The Magazine.
Aspen’s own snowboarding siren has been asked to pose for plenty of glossy covers ” most memorably for a lad magazine wearing nothing but body paint ” but none of those experiences compare to this most recent one, Bleiler said Thursday.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said the 26-year-old local, whose jam-packed, ambidextrous life as a halfpipe innovator, fashion designer, pitch woman and role model is captured in precise detail in the magazine’s cover story, on newsstands now. “I haven’t experienced the fame of the magazine yet. I think it’s just so new. It is exciting. I have worked really hard in snowboarding to get where I am, and I so love to take advantage of the opportunities that I’ve had because of the sucess I’ve had.”
To say Bleiler ” the silver medalist at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics ” has worked hard for her success is an understatement. As portrayed in the magazine’s story, her daily life goes at a pace that would flatten normal human beings. In the midst of it all, there’s not much time to savor the rewards that come from all of that hard work.
Not when you’re designing and launching your own signature line of Oakley apparel, offering feedback on your own signature model K2 snowboard and doing appearances and filming commercials for your other sponsors. All of this while trying to remain atop your perch as one of the best female riders in the world.
Bleiler, who opened this season with a win last month at the first Grand Prix in Breckenridge and has designs on returning to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I always wanted to get out there to see how far I could take my snowboarding. I don’t think much has changed since I started snowboarding, I’m just a little busier off the mountain now.”
Bleiler won Winter X Games superpipe gold in 2003 and 2005 in front of her hometown fans, but last year wound up second to Australia’s Torah Bright. Bright unleashed one of the most technical runs ever seen in a women’s pipe contest, then went on to win the seasonlong Burton Global Open Series title ” and the $100,000 in the prize money that went with it.
Bleiler went back to the drawing board in the offsesaon, despite having yet another standout year.
To get back to the top of the heap, she spent time practicing tricks she’d long since bypassed during a rapid progression up to the top of the food chain in women’s pipe riding. She’s still the only woman in the world who does a crippler (an inverted spin) in the pipe and one of only a few to consistently stick 900s.
Bleiler said, however, that she’s recently been more concerned about her overall amplitude on less technical tricks such as an alley-oop (a 180 spin back uphill into the pipe) and 540s. Gearing up for Friday’s women’s superpipe final at Buttermilk, she’s also been working on a Cab (switch frontside) 720 ” which she’s never done in competition ” in the Breckenridge halfpipe. The hope, as always, is to be the most complete rider in the field when she competes.
“I’m very competitive,” Bleiler said. “I’m very hard on myself. I just didn’t throw the best run I could have thrown last year [at the Winter X Games]. That’s why I was disappointed, because I didn’t live up to the goal I set for myself.” After a short pause, Bleiler offered up a dose of healthy perspective.
“There’s good days and bad days, and you really have to take a step back and realize what you’re doing out there and put on a good show,” she said. “You can make it a huge deal or just have fun with it at the same time.”
She then added, “I’m always excited for the X Games, regardless of what happened last year. It’s just such an amazing event. … It’s the biggest event of the season, and to have it in my home town, I put a little extra pressure on myself to do well. I take all that pressure from my community and turn it into a positive. Just going out there and throwing down my run that I know how to throw.”
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Aspen Sister Cities members dedicated a plaque in Sister Cities Plaza to Don Sheeley, who served as president of the organization from 1998 until his death in 2017.