Text by Catharine Livingston; Photograph courtesy of Oakley
Yesterday we had the good fortune to catch up with one of last year's Adventurers of the Year. Halfpipe queen Gretchen Bleiler dropped by our offices to show off her latest Oakley line of ski and snowboard apparel, which hits stores this fall. The 28-year-old Olympic Silver medalist and three-time X Games Gold medalist stuck around for a few extra minutes to chat about her summer plans (including her wedding in Costa Rica next month) and, of course, Vancouver 2010.
Post-nuptials, what’s on tap for the summer?
The Winter Olympics are coming up in February, and our Olympic qualifiers start in December. There are five Olympic qualifiers, two in December and three in January. So this summer is going to be all about training. But I’m taking a different approach going into these Olympics than I did for 2006. In the past, I’ve had such tunnel vision. This time, instead of spending the whole summer in the gym, I’m going to mix it up a little bit. I’ll still do some weight training, because that’s important for injury prevention and overall explosiveness, but I’m also going to try some yoga, pilates, and dance. I’m a big surfer, too.
You’ve got a lot going on—wedding, Olympics, your new Oakley line…. Is it tough to manage everything?
Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed, but I feel like if I can organize it all and put each thing into its little compartment, it’s manageable. I’m pretty much in constant contact with Oakley over the winter while I’m competing. Right now we’re making final decisions for next season’s line. And I’m working with my other sponsor, K2 on board boots and bindings. So yeah, it’s a full life. But it’s a lot of fun.
You made a big push to get more eco-friendly fabrics and technologies into the latest Oakley collection. You’ve also been a spokesperson in the climate change realm for a few years now. When (and how) did the environmental advocacy become such a big part of your life?
After the Winter Olympics in 2006 I realized I had a platform to speak about causes that were important to me—and people would listen. As a professional snowboarder, my livelihood obviously depends on snow. And for me traveling around the world, chasing the snow, I see the effects of climate change first hand. You can tell the difference. Events in the middle of January have been canceled because of lack of snow. We almost got rained out of our World Championships a couple of years ago in Switzerland. In the middle of January. So it’s really easy for me to talk about it.
How are you feeling about Vancouver 2010? Any butterflies?
Yeah, a little bit of the butterflies, but I’m also just really excited. My experience in Italy in 2006 was so amazing. I love how snowboarding is like no other sport out there—I mean, some of my best friends are my biggest competitors. And we just cheer each other on. It’s a very supportive sport.
What moves are you working on?
A couple of weeks ago, the US team had a training camp at Buttermilk in Aspen. We had a 22-foot halfpipe, which is what the Olympic pipe is going to be, and the conditions were perfect. I worked on a new combination that I had never done before. My signature trick is a Crippler 540, so now I’m rotating an extra 180 degrees. So it’ll be a Crippler 720. So you’re landing switch and going into a cab 720. No other girl has ever done it before. Every year I push myself to do something different—and push the boundaries a little bit more.
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