Gretchen Bleiler
(Photograph by Grayson Schaffer)

Gretchen Bleiler

Gretchen Bleiler

It’s hard to call an Olympic silver medal a defeat, but that’s what Gretchen Bleiler’s 2006 halfpipe loss to Vermont native Hannah Teter seemed like. Bleiler, the 28-year-old from Aspen, Colorado, has been the dominant woman in snowboarding for the past half-decade, but she’s entering this Olympic year as an underdog: She was literally knocked out of the 2009 Winter X Games by a fall that left her with two black eyes. If all goes according to plan, though, she’ll be victorious at the X Games in January and the Vancouver Olympics a month later.

Gretchen Bleiler

Gretchen Bleiler

What’s more important for you: the X Games or the Olympics?

You can’t really compare the two. The X Games is the biggest event of the season for snowboarding. And it’s in my hometown of Aspen. But the Olympics? That’s something I grew up watching as a little kid. And it only comes around every four years.

Do you feel like you need to win gold?

Everyone who goes to the Olympics wants to win a gold medal. There’s no denying that. My goal in Vancouver is just to land my perfect run. I know if I do that, I’ll be fine.

What’s in your perfect run?

Most of the girls are doing back-to-back sevens. That’s pretty stock, so I changed it up to a crippler 720 into a cab seven—which is awesome for me, because no one else is doing that.

Uh, crippler 720? Cab seven?

In the halfpipe you’ve got the frontside wall and the backside wall. The crippler is an inverted 720 off the backside wall—two rotations during one backflip. Cab seven is two rotations starting switch.

What comes after the X Games and Olympics?

It’s hard to go from the biggest competition in the world to, um, a normal contest. I did that the last time around and it felt really odd and anticlimactic. This time, I’ll probably head into the backcountry.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Photograph by Grayson Schaffer