Aspen’s Maple eager to hit slopes

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Malcolm Campbell/Alpine CanadaWiley Maple attacks the famed Hahnenkamm downhill during a January 2012 race in Kitzbuhel, Austria.

ASPEN – On the mend from spring knee surgery and looking forward to what he can accomplish during the 2012-2013 season, U.S. Ski Team member and Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club product Wiley Maple said he’s feeling better than he has in years.

Maple, 22, took a break from training at Copper Mountain before this Friday’s fundraiser at the Wheeler Opera House to talk about life on the road, what team member he’d like to beat and how he keeps it all together.

Aspen Times: How are you feeling in advance of the season?

WM: Through the summer the slowness of my recovery was very disheartening, and I spent a lot of time worrying whether I would be able to “go fast again,” but by mid-July I made a drastic turn and started feeling significantly better, allowing me to get back to hard training and the things I love.

After a hard summer’s fight back to fitness, I am feeling stronger than I have in years and looking forward to see what I can accomplish this upcoming season.

AT: Last season you scored your first World Cup points. What did that do for your confidence?

WM: Skiing on the World Cup circuit last season was an awesome experience. I was skiing the best I ever have and each run down a World Cup track was taking seconds off my time. Breaking into the downhill in World Cup takes time and experience. I am confident that I can get it done given the opportunity.

I scored my first World Cup points in my first World Cup Super G start. It was an amazing feeling to come from 61st and break into the top 30, especially after such a wild run. Super G is a very different event than downhill. A Super G course is set different every time and as there are no training runs, anything can happen on the right day.

AT: What racers should we be watching this season in the speed events? Who would you love to consistently beat?

WM: I think Bode always has the potential to be on top of the podium depending on how much he is willing to put into his season. I also think Marco Sullivan will be making a hard comeback. Marco recently switched to a ski company more suited for him, in my opinion, and after years of injury, I think he is feeling good again.

As one of the younger athletes on the U.S. speed team and the World Cup circuit, I love challenging myself against and beating my senior members on the team.

AT: Do you think Lindsey Vonn should have been allowed to race with the guys this year?

WM: I do not think it is my place to say or pass judgment on Vonn attempting to race in a men’s World Cup. She is a very talented athlete and is one of the best the sport has ever seen.

I personally think it is a publicity stunt that would yield very little success for Vonn if she were to attempt to compete with the men on the World Cup downhill circuit. Having trained alongside Vonn for years in the prep period at Copper Mountain’s early season downhill training, she hasn’t been competitive with the men’s World Cup racers. … Having said that, it would be very interesting to see what would happen if she was granted the opportunity to race with the men.

AT: How will the coaches decide what events to send you to during the early season? Is a Beaver Creek start a possibility?

WM: The coaches will put me in World Cups when they think I’m skiing well and ready to race at that level. I skied very well in the training runs at Birds of Prey last year and think that it is one of my best chances for World Cup points in downhill.

AT: What is your favorite race venue?

WM: Very stereotypical of a downhiller, I would have to say Kitzbuhel. It has its prestige for a reason: The track there is one of the steepest on the circuit. It has some of the biggest jumps and the most unforgiving turns.

It was so much fun to punch out of Kitzbuhel for the first time and to survive it. Looking forward to attacking it next year.

AT: What is a typical day in the life of a professional ski racer?

WM: In season we are waking up in the dark most every morning and getting ready to race or train. After a long day on the hill, there is little you want/can do but sit around and wait. We have some kind of dry-land everyday to help us recover or maintain strength throughout the season.

In season, we are living out of a suitcase, moving to a new venue every week. There is obviously no possibility of a job other than being a ski racer over the winter season.

AT: Do you and your teammates ever get to go out and do “normal” 20-something activities?

WM: Yes, but not as often as would be healthy, in my opinion. I have definitely been missing the college life some of my friends are living. It has to be the right place at the right time.

Most people know ski racers “send it harder than most” because we put so much time into our sport and rarely get to unwind throughout the season. When we do get the chance to go out, it’s safe to say we do it right, stay up dancing and playing the night away.

Over the summer, I need at least a month of good music, good friends and partying to stay sane and forget that I’m in a sport as intense as ski racing. … I try and live like a normal 22-year-old as often as possible because you only get one chance to be young.

AT: A little about the film “Deep Winter” that’s being featured at your fundraiser Nov. 9 at the Wheeler. (A silent auction and reception starts at 6:30 p.m., and the film screening follows at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $15.)

WM: It’s an interesting film that is actually very related to my life right now. The film is about a young ski racer who sacrifices some of his youth to chase dreams of the World Cup while his friends live the life of “normal” young people.

I invite you all to see what happens. Mike Marolt is putting on the event for me.

AT: How critical is community support to your success on the U.S. Ski Team?

WM: I am surely one of the luckiest athletes on the team to come from such a great town like Aspen. Without the community’s support, I would not be able to chase these dreams. I may have given up on the sport if people weren’t supporting me so enthusiastically.

It is so cool to come home and run into people following and supporting my career, and it is without doubt one of the reasons I do it. It gives me such pride to represent the good people of the Aspen community on the World Cup tour. I hope to do it for years to come.