Born in Ohio and raised in Aspen, Gretchen Bleiler made her Olympic debut in Torino, winning silver in women's halfpipe. Since then, the photogenic snowboarding star's agenda has been decidedly hectic off the snow, from designing her own clothing line to getting married during the summer of 2009.
How radical of a change was it growing up in Ohio and then moving to Aspen at age 10?
Yeah, moving from Ohio to Aspen was like jumping the planet. Going from traditional Midwest to the Rockies where I went to school, where the first thing we did was go climb a 14,000-foot peak and camp along the way. And during the winter we had avalanche danger days. We literally couldn't go to school because there was too much snow and there was danger of it sliding over our campus. So it was completely a different world, but I love that I did grow up in Ohio, because it really made me appreciate the mountains and appreciate having these four amazing mountains in my backyard to go and snowboard.
Has your perspective on snowboarding changed at all since winning silver in Torino?
After Italy, it was such a high that I needed to take a step back and explore a different side of my sport because ever since I was probably two years old I wanted to go to the Olympics and it's really hard to actually go, accomplish it, win a medal and then get back to the regular everyday context. So I sort of took a step back and what most people don't realize about snowboarding is there are two aspects to the sport. There's the competition side, but then there's the side where some riders spend the entire season in the back country, tele-skiing, get back in snowmobiles, riding big mountain lines, dropping cliffs. And that's kind of what I did. And it gave me the call and the appreciation for the sport and made me a better all-around rider.
In what ways is your life different since 2006?
My situation in snowboarding has changed. I have had a certain amount of success and now I'm busy, I'm designing my own collection with Oakley and working with K-2 on my snowboard and came up with an all girl snowboard invitational called the Snow Angels, and working with the environment. So now life is so much more full. I'm maybe even taking snowboarding a little bit more seriously than I ever have, because when I am up on the mountain, I need to be there one hundred percent because I don't have as much time on the mountain anymore because of all the other aspects of life. So it's just taking-taking these experiences and making sure that I'm having fun with it. I still love it. Because I think it's so important to enjoy this entire Olympic experience, the qualifications, the training, and then of course when you get there, having the time of your life and not letting the pressure and the medals take precedence. Because if you're having fun doing what you're doing, you're not going to have any regrets.
Where do you feel like you are from a competitive standpoint heading into Vancouver?
I'm really excited about this coming Olympics because I have had the experience. I've been there, I've worked for it. I've also been through the Olympic qualifying experience and not made it. I've been through my ups and downs and learned so many lessons and I'm prepared. I'm ready. And I'm just excited to go out there and give it my best and ride better than I've ever ridden in my entire life.
Compiled by Matt Stroup, NBCOlympics.com
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.