Gretchen Bleiler

Date of birth: 10 April, 1981
Nationality: American
Sponsors: K2, Oakley, Dakine, Aspen Ski Co., Polar Revolution, Giro, T-Mobile and Snickers

Recent results:
2005

1st Winter X-Games – halfpipe
1st US Open – halfpipe
2nd World Superpipe Championships
1st Winter Gravity Games – superpipe

2003
1st Winter X-Games – halfpipe
1st US Open – halfpipe
1st US Grand Prix – halfpipe
1st Vans Triple Crown
1st World Superpipe Championship
Transworld Snowboarding Female Rider of the Year

What have you got planned for the 05/6 season? Where are you going to be based when you’re not travelling?
Well, the major events ahead of me are the Olympic qualifiers. There are going to be five Grand Prix events that will make up the qualification process. The first two will be in Breckenridge Colorado, the next at Mount Bachelor, OR and then the final two at Mountain Creek, NJ. I live in Aspen, Colorado so whenever I have a minute to catch my breath, I’ll be there!

How did you injure your knee the season before last and is it 100% fine now?

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Gretchen at the Surfside Carnival , pic by Jocelyn Chu

I tore my ACL and meniscus during the first contest of the 2003/2004 season. I was practicing for the slopestyle finals of the Vans Triple Crown in December of 2003 and ended up over-shooting my landing. I was doing a backside 360 and because I over shot the jump, I also slightly over rotated the spin. So I came down in the flats a little over rotated and instantly knew that I had blown my knee. But, yes, now my knee is better than ever and I am in great shape going into this 2005/2006 season.

I just partnered with 24 Hour Fitness who is the official fitness centre sponsor for the US Olympic Team. So it’s been great because with all of my travel it’s now really easy to workout wherever I am because there is always a 24 Hour Fitness to go to!

How did it feel to dominate so heavily at the X-Games at the start of 2005 after your knee injury? Was it intimidating having had that time off – especially with the really young riders coming through? (not that we’re saying you’re necessarily old!)

I expected myself to come back and to come back strong. Before I hurt my knee, I was coming off a season where I had won eight consecutive contests and had scored the highest score a woman has ever received in competition. So I was confident that missing a season was not going to put me too far behind.

Coming back from my injury was mentally hard in the beginning because I put so much pressure on myself to just start winning everything again and because of this I wasn’t riding my best. But just before the X-Games I took some time off competition in order to just ride in a non-competitive atmosphere and work on getting the fun and confidence back in my riding. So when the X-Games came around I knew that I had the potential to win again.

What are your favorite things about being a pro rider?

Getting paid to do what I love! I get to travel around the world with my best friends and see new places and cultures and snowboard at the same time! This is an amazing life that has taught me a lot about the world and myself.

What’s your favorite place to ride?

Aspen/Snowmass! Out of all of the places I have travelled to around the world, I always find myself comparing everything to Aspen/Snowmass and I still have not found a place that even compares!


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Are you interested in getting more into to the film side of the sport?

Even though I do love to ride the halfpipe and do love to compete I find that it really helps your overall riding if you push yourself in all of aspects of snowboarding. Riding the park and riding in the backcountry as well as the pipe makes you more of an all around rider that is able to adapt to anything, anytime.

I got to film a tiny bit with The Community Project as well as Misschief’s As If, in between contests this year and I felt that it really helped push my riding. So I do see myself trying to dedicate more time to filming in the future.

But I also do see competition always being a big part of what I do, competing is my passion and it’s what I am best at. You’ve got to take advantage of your strengths, after all if everyone was good at competing then I think everyone would compete!

Have you qualified for the 2006 Olympics? Do you think it’s a positive thing for snowboarding to be involved in the Olympics?

Like I said above the Olympic qualifiers start this December. And yes of course the Olympics is a positive thing for snowboarding! In 2002 after the US men swept the podium, everyone in the country was talking about snowboarding. I remember going to the hair salon to get my hair done and hearing women in their 50’s and 60’s talking about it. I think the more support the sport has the better!

What essential items do you carry with you to make all the traveling more

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Gretchen and her Collection crew

bearable?

Well, The Collection, the team that I am on and started with Ross Powers, Andy Finch, Kelly Clark, and now Luke Mitrani and Mason Aguirre, has an RV that travels with us to most all of our US events. So we are able to hang out in there and get away from the weekend crowds at resorts and play video games be able to just relax in our own space.

Snickers is one of our main sponsors and they have been very supportive of what we are doing with the team concept. And we get all the Snickers we want, so I always travel with a few of those:) Then there’s my Napster MP3 player, I can’t go anywhere without my music!

What kind of off the hill training do you do?

During the off season I really focus on getting as strong as I can be before starting a new season. I weight train, do a lot of core exercises, agility, plyometrics, intervals, and stretching.

How disciplined are you and your fellow riders when it comes to preparing for big contests these days? i.e. do you all stay home the night before, eat properly and stay off the beer – or have you guys been known to compete with a bit of a hangover?

The Collection rents a house wherever we compete which ends up being a really nice environment for everyone. But everyone has their own routine and preparations before a contest. In general, I always try and eat healthy and I am a sleeper! I generally need anywhere from at least eight to ten hours of sleep a night.

Do you have anyone working with you on fitness/nutrition?

I work with 24 Hour Fitness, who is supplying great training support throughout the year. Even with my hectic schedule, I can go to any of their facilities and get the workout I need to stay strong.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve done on a snowboard?

A Michaelchuck. I just learned this trick this fall in New Zealand, it’s so scary to me right now because it is really unlike any trick I have ever thrown.

Do you ever get the fear? If so, how do you work past it?

I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone who snowboards gets scared all the time. But that is why snowboarding is so fun, it’s all about pushing past your comfort level and doing things you never though you would do. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you have just landed a trick for the first time.

What’s the best piece of snowboarding advice you’ve been given?

In the halfpipe it’s all about putting all of your weight on your back foot.

Do you think the gap between what men and women can do on a snowboard is narrowing?

I know that it is! When I was in New Zealand this fall I was seeing women do combinations of tricks that guys are doing, it’s really exciting to be involved in this progression.

Do you prefer to ride with guys or girls when you’re having a play day?

Both, I love to ride with The Collection.

It has to be said that you’re a bit of a ‘looker’ (ie: a foxy chick!) but you’ve proved that she’s not just a pretty face when it comes to snowboarding. Do you ever worry that the way you look as a female pro can affect your position as a marketing dream, or does do genuinely think that if you’re riding is good enough, you’ll get the deals?

In snowboarding it’s all about snowboarding. If you are a good looking girl and you are a ripping rider than that is an extra advantage. But because snowboarding is still a relatively core sport, girls who are good looking that are not that good at snowboarding do not and cannot get the attention that other women tend to get in the more main stream sports.


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Gretchen and her beloved Mix

Were you involved in choosing the graphics for this year’s K2 boards and other products that are part of the women’s alliance? If so can you give us an insight into the designs and why they were chosen?


Yes, The Mix is the board that I ride for everything, whether I am competing in the X-Games or riding powder in the backcountry. Because of my huge support and association with The Mix, K2 gave me the control to design the graphics for the Mix that is currently out in stores.

The inspiration for these graphics came from Roy Lichtenstien, a pop artist. I have always liked his art and I always thought that it would look so good on a snowboard, because nothing like that had ever been done before. So we were able to do this and customise it to our sport.

On all of the boards you will find a strong woman with a statement with a lot of attitude and power. Much like the woman who would buy this board, very competitive and independent and strong willed! I just get such a kick out the board every time I look down at it, it’s so original with lots of character!

What board are you riding in 05/6 and what do you like about it?
I will be riding the K2 Mix, this year the Mix will be my line. I get total control over the make of the board and the graphics. So be looking for them in 2006 they are going to be the hottest woman’s all around board out there!

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