Meet the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Class of 2019: Gretchen Bleiler
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: The Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Induction Gala is one of the most important annual celebrations of the state’s snowsports industry and a unique opportunity to meet, mix and mingle with the men and women who have shaped the industry. Leading up to the event on Saturday, Oct. 26, the Colorado Snowsports Museum will profile the five members of the Class of 2019.
Graced with the brightest smile in snowboarding, Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler has good reason to beam. As Colorado’s most successful snowboard athlete, her personality and character have exposed millions to snowboarding through her modeling in magazines like Glamour, but her talent in the halfpipe makes a much bigger statement.
When she was 10, her family moved from Ohio to Aspen, and then to nearby Snowmass Village. During the winter, the physical education curriculum at her school allowed students to spend half of their Wednesdays at the resort. On one of those Wednesdays, Bleiler learned to snowboard and was immediately hooked.
Four years later, Bleiler joined the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and began competing in local USASA competitions. Her first year on the team, she qualified for the national championships in every event. Following graduation from Aspen High School in 1999, Bleiler chose to defer college a year to see how far she could take her snowboarding.
Due to her success and results that year, she was invited to join U.S. Snowboarding and follow her dream of qualifying for the Olympic Winter Games. She had aspired to be an Olympian since her childhood, loving the challenge and pressure to perform at your peak.
At the age of 18, she was invited to compete in the Winter X Games. Four years later, she was on top of the world, winning the first of four X Games gold medals, along with the World Superpipe Championships gold and her second Vans Triple Crown title.
She experienced the highs and lows of the Olympic process, handling disappointment at missing the 2002 Salt Lake Games on a tiebreaker before dominating the qualifying for the 2006 Olympics, winning four of the five selection events and going on to claim Olympic silver in Turin, Italy.
Following her Olympic success, Bleiler used the platform to speak about her first-hand experiences with climate change around the world, as well as become an athlete-entrepreneur by working with brands to design innovative, environmentally-minded products. Bleiler also gave back to her sport by coaching young rippers at High Cascade Snowboard Camps while creating her own all-female competition, the Snow Angels Invitational at Snowmass.
She made a return trip to the Winter Olympics in 2010 but failed to medal. Then, as she seemed headed for another peak in her snowboarding career, she suffered what most would have considered a career-ending injury. Shattering her eye socket and suffering a severe concussion and broken nose, she experienced double vision for six months but overcame the obstacles, going on to nearly earn a spot on her third Olympic team.
Since retiring as an athlete in 2014, Bleiler has taken a holistic approach to her entrepreneurial advocacy. She continues to lend her voice to empowering and activating the winter and outdoor sports communities in creating the political will for meaningful action around climate change. She has testified before Congress, spoken at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris and participated in a White House roundtable.
Her company, Alex Supply Co., which stands for Always Live Extraordinarily, is focused on a mission to make living sustainably simple, designing reusable products and services that support living sustainably and pursuing one’s dreams. She is also an impactful public speaker and meditation teacher.
Tickets for the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Induction Gala are on sale, with reserved individual tickets priced at $325 and tables of 10 at $3,750. A $250 general individual ticket is available but does not include seating preference. The gala takes place at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Lionshead Village.
To purchase tickets or for additional information, visit snowsportsmuseum.org or call 970-476-1876. All proceeds from the gala benefit the Colorado Snowsports Museum.