Gretchen Bleiler has won five X Games medals, and had a 13-year run with the U.S. snowboarding team where she went to the Olympics twice: in 2006 and 2010. She did not, however, make the team for the 2014 Winter Games. She was the first female action sports athlete to appear on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.
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Growing up, Gretchen Bleiler had three brothers and said, “I was just the tomboy following them around all the time.” When she was ten, her parents got divorced and a year later her mother moved. “Oakwood, Ohio is a very small town where everyone knew everyone’s business and I think she just wanted a different life for us.”
Gretchen Bleiler began snowboarding when she was 11 soon after she moved to Aspen, Colorado, and was competing at 15. Her signature moves include frontside 900s, crippler 720s and corked spins.
She said, “I always wanted to go to the Olympics…watching them compete…it made the hair raise on my arms and gave me the chills.” She missed qualifying for the 2002 Winter Olympics due to a tiebreaker.
In 2012, in a trampoline training accident, she shattered her eye socket and suffered a concussion. She said she never fully recovered from those injuries. “It’s been a tough season for me…it’s been really humbling. But the fact that I hung in there and did the best I could, that was a really good thing for em.”
Gretchen Bleiler recently announced that she will retire from competition after this season. “It definitely makes me sad,” she said. “I’ve grown up through the X Games and it’s like a chapter of my life is ending. But I’m so grateful I’ve had such a long career….” She did not win her final event at the X Games. “Of course it would have been nice to have a fairy-tale ending and win this event, but this is life. I did the best I could.”
Over her career, Oakley and Mission Skincare have sponsored her, among other brands. As for her shoot with FHM in 2003, Gretchen Bleiler said, “I did it as I felt I had to rather then I wanted to. Looking back it makes me feel really lucky to be where I am now as I can choose what I want to do or not do and I would definitely say no now…I think there are better ways to get yourself out there.”
After leaving the sport, Gretchen Bleiler will focus on environmental advocacy efforts and as a meditation coach. When not competing, she enjoys surfing, mountain biking and interior design. She resides in Aspen and is married.