Breckenridge Dew Tour: Bleiler pushing to new and different limits
Source: Summit Daily News by Bryce Evans
BRECKENRIDGE — At 26 years old, Gretchen Bleiler has certainly been a mainstay in women’s pro snowboarding for quite a long time. She’s done almost all there is to do in the sport — she’s won three X Games gold medals, an Olympic medal and a slew of other titles.
So how can someone who has achieved so much in such a short time continue to push herself to new heights?
“That’s a good question,” Bleiler said at the Dew Tour on Friday. “It’s hard.”
A year ago, Bleiler was beginning to get burnt out on competing. She still won the season-opening U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Breckenridge, but she said she just didn’t feel that itch to get out there.
She decided to step a way for a bit.
“Last year, I kind of took a break from the contests, because I felt that I had lost that competitive edge,” she said.
But she definitely didn’t leave her board behind.
“I got myself in the back country and pushed myself in a totally different direction in terms of snowboarding,” she said. “That kind of brought back the fire.”
Now, Bleiler is back, and says she’s motivated for a long season of competitions, which is highlighted by an appearance in the Winter Dew Tour superpipe finals today on Peak 8 at Breck.
On a mission
After winning a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics, Bleiler’s fame rose beyond her expectations.
Then she won her third X Games gold medal soon after and she had reached a level of stardom that few extreme athletes ever achieve.
But she didn’t waste her time basking in her accomplishments and accolades.
“I realized that after the Olympics, I had a platform to speak about things that were important to me and that people would actually listen,” she said.
Over the past few years, Bleiler has used her platform to not only help promote the sport that has given her so much, but also to help bring attention to a topic that she feels strongly about: the environment.
“I’ve really been trying to get behind it,” the 26-year-old Aspen resident said. “ … I’m trying to definitely broaden our horizons on that front and always working with my sponsors on trying to lesson the carbon footprint we leave.”
Luckily for Bleiler, she has pretty good access to sponsors, as she has her own line of ski apparel with Oakley.
Bleiler assists in everything from designing the fit, choosing styles and helping the line become more eco friendly. The Gretchen Bleiler Collection, which she dons on the hill, includes a jacket and pant that are made from 100 percent recyclable and recycled materials, she said.
In the past, Bleiler has taken photo shoot opportunities to get both her name and her sport out into the mainstream. She was the first ever female extreme athlete to be on the cover of ESPN The Magazine and even did a photo shoot for FHM that included swimsuit shots.
“Doing FHM, at the time, I think I was young and just felt the pressure to sort of get my … sport out there,” she said. “Whatever, I did it, and I’m not going to do something like that again because I feel there’s a more positive way to get a message out.”
After practice Friday night, Bleiler stood at the bottom of Breck’s superpipe just as the lights came on. She looked around with a smile, because, as she said, she was glad to be back where she started: in competition.
“It’s good now that there’s lights and people and cameras,” she said. “It can get hard to keep yourself going, but this is going to be awesome.”
Bleiler filled her schedule with competitions all winter. With the Olympics coming up in 2010, U.S. snowboarders have to fill a quota to be eligible for the team.
The dates of the Vancouver games are definitely circled on Bleiler’s calendar, and she said that her motivation is back.
As for the future, Bleiler doesn’t even try to guess. She currently enjoys competing, working on her line with Oakley and promoting the issues she cares about. And, she said, she’ll take the rest as it comes.
“You have to play with what motivates you, because it changes year to year,” she said. “ … Whenever I get a break though, I’m going to get myself in the backcountry and some powder, just throwing myself off some cliffs.
“It really helps to get that perspective.”