For someone as busy as Ms. Bleiler, three days at home during peak competition season is virtually unheard of. For most of the winter, her home is an overstuffed travel bag, a cramped plane seat, an endless train of hotel rooms. However, this was no normal season for Gretchen-it was a post-Olympic silver-medal season. Never has there been a more deserved time for her to take some moments for herself and wrangle her life back from the clutches of competition snowboarding. We caught up with Gretchen for just such a rare three days as she chilled out back home in Aspen, rode with friends, and breathed in that fresh mountain air. It don’t get much better than that!-J.S.
What was this post-Olympic season vibe like for you? Were you relieved to not have the pressure, or did you miss the excitement of it all?
The beginning of this season was the first time that I really felt burned out on competing-it was so odd, I’d never truly experienced anything like it before. I realized that the Olympic qualifiers, the Olympics, and even the years leading up to that point all took more out of me than I had thought. I decided I needed to make my own schedule this year and ended up at the Baker Banked Slalom, shooting with Oakley in Whistler, and then riding at home in Colorado with a different crew. After that I found myself out of the rut and really motivated.
What inspires you to step it up?
Watching girls ride inspires me the most. When I see a girl throw a trick that I’ve never tried, I automatically feel competitive and know it’s possible. That’s why the progression in women’s snowboarding is exploding right now-more and more women are trying new tricks, and once it’s been done then everyone’s in! It’s really all mental.
How much do you deal with fear when riding?
I feel like I am constantly working with fear. As a professional snowboarder, it’s your job to be the best, which means that every single day you have to push past your comfort zone. Scaring yourself every day is just in the cards.
What about nerves? Do you get nervous anymore dropping in for a contest run?
Always. You’d think the more you compete, the easier it’d get. The difference between now and when I first started competing, though, is that now I know how to deal with the nerves and the pressure.
You were back in Aspen during this shoot-what do you love most about your home time?
My favorite thing is the smell of the air when I step off the plane in Aspen-there’s nothing like it. I love being home, and I wish I could ride there more often. Maybe next year I will. Anyway, because I usually have a limited time at home, I have a lot to take care of-bills, mail, going through boxes of product, and then cleaning so that I can fit the new product somewhere. Most nights I end up at my mom’s hanging out and eating one of their world-famous dinners. Both my mom and stepdad are great cooks, which is probably why I’m not-I’ve been spoiled.
What was playing on your iPod during this time?
The playlist is all-time. I was really feeling my cheesy boy band playlist … who am I kidding? I’m always feeling it!
Boyz II Men, “Motownphilly”
Color Me Badd, “I Wanna Sex You Up” and “All 4 Love”
Bobby Brown, “My Prerogative”
Bell Biv DeVoe, “Poison”
Corbin Blue, “Push It To The Limit”
New Kids On The Block, “Hangin’ Tough” and “Step By Step”
Rappin’ 4-Tay, “Playaz Club”
Juvenile, “Back That Azz Up”
Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man”
Did you have anything you set out to do at the beginning of the season?
Last year I needed to win contests to get to the Olympics, but when you’re winning contests you’re not necessarily progressing your riding-you’re just polishing what you’ve got. This year it was all about progression and not perfection for me.
So how do you approach learning a new trick?
Well, it’s mandatory that I can see and feel the trick in my head before trying it-then I know it’s within my range and time to try it. When I’m on the mountain and ready to go, the most important elements are commitment and confidence.
What were you excited about this season?
I got really excited about talking about our environment. After the Olympics I knew it was time to start supporting causes I believed in. The environment has always been important to me, and this year you could see the effects of global warming everywhere, so I got involved with stopglobalwarming.org. It’s a virtual march to raise awareness-check it out and sign yourself up to march!
What luxury do you allow yourself in the off-season that you never get a chance to do during winter?
I go on surf vacations. For the past three years, I’ve gone to Costa Rica. I love the warm water, surfing, and of course working on the tan poolside while drinking a pià'§a colada.
What are some of your other recent obsessions besides snowboarding?
Designing my signature line with Oakley! From colors and fabrics to graphics, hangtags, logos, and fit, I’m obsessed and learning a lot in the process. Oakley’s Gretchen Bleiler Collection will be out in 2008!