Athlete Spotlight: Wiley Maple
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It’s been a long time since I last wrote, and now seemed as good a time as any to fill you in on my recent whereabouts and activities.
Last season was my first full season on the World Cup downhill circuit. It was an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I can’t wait to get back to those tracks and do some real damage this year.
Unfortunately, I went into last season with a 40-percent-torn patella tendon, and against doctor’s orders, I raced all season without the surgery that was suggested. I just couldn’t pass up my first opportunity to race World Cup all year, and although it was very painful, my knee held up well enough until the last race, and it was worth all the pain to see those tracks and compete against the world’s best.
After months and months of physical therapy and hard training, I’m back and healthier than ever. Just slipping my foot back into my three-sizes-too-small race boot and hearing the click of my bindings gave me an outrageous grin. After skiing in Chile in September, I went back to Park City, Utah, and trained in the offseason’s last push before the race season. Since then, we all have been training at the new U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain. The hill has been prepared better than ever, and we have had four-event training since the first of November – even full-length downhills (a rarity seen nowhere else in the world but Copper this early in the season). Every European national team flocked to Colorado for the opportunity to train on our hill. Our entire team is better prepared than ever, and I think it will prove to be a very successful season for the U.S. Ski Team.
Unfortunately, a couple weeks into Copper training I smashed my hand into the base of a gate and had to undergo yet another hand surgery, which forced me to miss the first World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta. It wasn’t all bad, though. It gave me the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with my friends and family at home in Aspen. Thanksgiving is without a doubt one of my favorite holidays. What’s better than skiing Aspen on opening day and feasting with friends and family? I spent my first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from Aspen last year – it was a wild and cool experience, but there’s nothing better to me than the holidays in Aspen. It was so good to get home and run into old friends.
I spent Thanksgiving skiing on Aspen Mountain. I lapped the old Bell Mountain chair and bombed down Spar Gulch run after run. Spirits soared as the wind hit my face again, and I funneled down the banks of Spar. There is little question as to why skiing is so much fun: It’s the pure freedom and expression of going anywhere on an endless canvas, as well as the sanity in the speed that leaves the world’s worries behind. It’s that wind in your face, and the smiles all around as people start remembering why we all stick around for the winter months. It brings us all to a higher place when the entire community spills into the mountains together for a day of fun. What better place is there than a place where the whole town shows up every weekend to play together? Ski towns are the healthiest of towns.
After a full day on the mountain, I gorged myself on a perfect feast prepared by my aunt and uncle with an entourage of good people to smile with. Having spent last year’s Thanksgiving in a hotel in Canada and not even being served turkey, it was such a treat to come home and spend it with my friends and family this year.
After a good break at home, I was back in the van and off to Copper for a few more days of training before heading to Beaver Creek and the Birds of Prey downhill, which is the only stop in the U.S. on the men’s World Cup circuit. Race day is today, and I hope to see you all there. If you have never seen a World Cup downhill in person, there will never be one closer – at least until we get the men back to Aztec on Aspen!
Before signing off, I would like to quickly take this opportunity thank all of you for the outstanding support you have given me over the years. Without you and the Aspen community, none of this would be possible, and it wouldn’t be half the fun it is. It gives me such great pride to have this amazing opportunity to race and travel the world representing all of you and the town we call home. Thank you.
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