Adventurers of the Year 2008

Spirit: Gretchen Bleiler

Gretchen Bleiler remembers the moment it hit. "After the Winter '06 Olympics, I went to the Daytona 500 and waved the green flag," she says. "Then it was straight to Tahoe for a Vans Cup. I was standing at the top of the half-pipe, but I felt nothing," she says. "Something was wrong." The silver medalist and one of the world's most decorated female snowboarders had lost her passion.

So she did something unusual. She took a year off. Instead of focusing on the 2010 Olympics (and the dozen or so competitions in the 2007-08 winter season alone), Bleiler, 27, ditched the terrain parks to rediscover her sport in the planet's remote backcountry. The first stop was the Japanese island of Hokkaido, one of the snowiest places on Earth. She and a few friends hit hike-in "pillow drops," huge hummocks of snow piled on steep boulders, and tore through avalanche barriers in search of fresh tracks. Then it was off to Krasnaya Polyana, in the Russian Caucasus, where Bleiler (filming segments for Uniquely, a film released this October) built kickers over fallen trees and carved isolated bowls via helicopter. Finally, she landed in the Alberta Rockies to nail a few big-mountain lines.

"It's amazing what happens when you take yourself out of what's comfortable," Bleiler says. By the time she hit the half-pipe again, she was a rider reborn, with newfound confidence and a freshly honed competitive edge. Proof that sometimes stepping away is the best thing you can do.

Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet