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Career Retrospective: Gretchen Bleiler

Career Retrospective: Gretchen Bleiler

Header image via MaxPixel

Gretchen Bleiler is one athlete carving up a bunch of different areas of life.

She’s a 2x Olympian and Olympic Silver medalist. 4x X Games Gold recipient. A World Superpipe Champion. Oh, and an entrepreneur. And an environmental advocate.

It hasn’t solely been personal achievements. She’s out here trying to do good, too. And like everyone that puts on a figurative cape, she has an origin story.

 

The Beginning

 

At ten years old, Gretchen Bleiler and her family moved from Ohio to Aspen—you could say things were set in motion then, even if she didn’t yet know it. Two years later in Snowmass Village, her school’s PE class enabled students to spend their winter Wednesdays at the local resort. It is here where the seed was planted and cultivated, as young Gretchen learned how to snowboard. By age 11 in 1992, she had found her passion.

It took only four years before Bleiler enrolled in the Aspen Valley Snowboard Club, taking her shredding skills into official competition locally via USASA events. She wasn’t just “there,” either—she friggin’ qualified for Nationals in each and every event, right off the bat. 

Upon kicking high school’s ass in June 1999, Bleiler elected to stave off college to see what a career in snowboarding might hold. Fortunately, in September of 2000, she received an invite to join U.S. Snowboarding for the Winter Olympics. The stage was set and the powder white pro landscape was wide open to her…

 

Career Highlights

 

Bleiler took an auspicious start and turned it into an absolutely stellar career.

She kick-started the women’s invert revolution, landing the first competition-based Crippler 540. In 2003, 2005, and 2006 for good measure, she nabbed more halfpipe wins than any other woman. And as we opened with, she’s now a 2x Olympian with a silver medal victory in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

There’s so much that Bleiler’s accomplished, in fact, that it’s easier to just list it all out:

 

  • 2002 and 2003 Vans Triple Crown Title Winner
  • 2003 World Superpipe Championships Winner
  • 2003 Arctic Challenge invitee (one of only four women)
  • 2003 U.S. Open Champion
  • 2003 X Games Halfpipe Gold Medalist
  • Snowboarder and Transworld Snowboarding 2003 "Female Rider of the Year"
  • 2005 US Open Halfpipe Champion
  • 2005 X Games and Gravity Games Gold Medalist
  • 2006 Olympic silver medalist in Turin
  • 2006 Overall Grand Prix Champion
  • 2006 FIS World Cup 1st Place
  • 2006 Female Snowboarder of the Year for FUEL TV
  • 2006 ESPY Award Nominee
  • 2008 X Games Halfpipe Gold Medalist
  • 2008 Winter Dew Tour Superpipe Champion
  • 2010 X Games Superpipe Gold Winner

 

 

Life After Professional Snowboarding

 

Following a 2012 training accident that in part resulted in missing the 2014 Winter Olympics squad, Gretchen Bleiler retired in January 2014. But that isn’t the end of her story.

Bleiler co-founded Always Live Extraordinarily (ALEX) with her husband, driven by the goal to design products and services that empower the pursuit of one’s dreams and a life of sustainability. Products include smart, reusable bottles (and yes, you can even hide a beer bottle in some of them)!

ALEX isn’t Bleiler’s only post-snowboarding endeavor, however. After seeing first-hand in her pro circuit travels how shorter winters are impacting snowpack and the economies of mountain towns, since the 2006 Winter Olympics she has been working to raise awareness on climate change. She’s spoken in schools, at conferences and private events, taken the podium at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris, and served on the Protect Our Winters Rider’s Alliance.

And her latest endeavor? The Art of Living Extraordinarily podcast.

If you want to connect further with Gretchen, check out her Instagram and follow her on Twitter.

 

Quotes

 

“You don’t wake up and say: 'Today I’m going to be more creative. You do the things you love to do and try to get at their essence and allow things to emerge.”

“From day one, snowboarding led me down a totally different path, and it's that path that's kept me laughing and continually intrigued. I love the satisfaction at the end of the day of overcoming my fears, of spending all day outside working hard, and there's nothing better than the feeling of landing a new trick for the first time.”

“Life is short, and if we enjoy every moment of every day, then we will be happy no matter what happens or what changes along the way.”

“As long you are doing what you love and making decisions from the heart, you will be successful.”

“What snowboarding has always had and the Olympics has not touched is that spirit, that original spirit of creativity and athletes standing up and having a voice and being innovative. But I guess what the Olympics has done is provided a platform for that spirit, and that's what I see as being a really positive thing.”

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