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Sustainable Snowboarders

by Jarrod Denson

Photography by Zach Hopper

Gretchen Bleiler

Olympic Silver Medalist and Four-time X Games Gold Medalist

Champion snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler travels around the world, “chasing the snow,” she says. “And I have absolutely seen the changes in our climate. We don’t want to lose winter,” she continues. “Every single one of us needs to be part of the solution, and more conscious of how our everyday actions and decisions impact our planet.”

After winning the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics, Bleiler realized that she had an “awesome platform, with the potential to go bigger and talk about issues related to the environment.” She began to work with POW (protectourwinters.org) and went to Capitol Hill to lobby legislators and raise awareness about global warming. According to Bleiler, legislators are used to seeing representation from the other side, and it was powerful for them to hear from athletes representing the snow-sports industry. It was an awakening for her, too. “It made me realize where we as individuals have such power in our vote,” she says. “Contacting our senators and congresspeople to let them know how we feel can really make an impact.”

Bleiler and her husband, Chris, try to live sustainably in their daily lives, i.e., they bring reusable bags to the grocery and use reusable water bottles. But those bottles can be hard to clean, which is why they invented their own: the Alex bottle (alexbottle.com), made from stainless steel that opens in the middle, making it easy to clean and easy to nest the top into the bottom for compact travel.

Originally a skier, Bleiler learned to snowboard when her mother moved the family to Aspen from Ohio. “It was new, it was a challenge, and the rules were made up as we went along—and I loved that,” she says. “One of the coolest things about snowboarding is that it is such a mental game. It is about your perspective, and being grateful for where you are in the moment. When you let go, live in the moment and go with what life gives you, that’s when you are able to do your best.”



Photography by Cindy Santini

Chanelle Sladics

X Games Bronze Medalist, Surfer and Skateboarder

Professional snowboarder, surfer, skateboarder, yogi and self-described “urban tree hugger” Chanelle Sladics says, “I’m passionate about things that need to change.”

And one of those things is single-use plastic. Her mom is a dental hygienist, and when Sladics realized that 500 million plastic straws are disposed of daily in the U.S., she created Simply Straws (simplystraws.com), a reusable glass drinking straw, as an alternative. A goal for 2013 is to get the first city to ban plastic straws the way Boulder, Colorado has banned plastic bags. Another passion is healthy food: “I want to support local food and happy animals,” she says. “And when it comes to meat, eggs, dairy and cheese, organic and hormone-free is crucial.”

Born and raised in Newport Beach, CA, Sladics has always been “oddly drawn to the mountains,” where her family vacationed every year. “Snowboarding is so much fun and it allows me to connect with nature. I’m really passionate about getting people into nature, because once you get into nature, you’re one step closer to caring.” In the course of her career, Sladics has broken bones 14 times, most recently, last year, in a freak accident in practice, when she miscalculated her speed on a jump, came up short, and “it felt like falling off a two-story building.” The injury may have slowed her down, temporarily, but it certainly hasn’t stopped her. Sladics has recently become a certified yoga instructor and gotten hooked on free-diving, though not in her home state. “California water is so polluted, it’s sad to see what we’ve done to our coastline,” she says. “I get an ear infection every time I surf there!” Her work with Surfrider Foundation (surfrider.org), promotes activism to protect the oceans.

“What I feel snowboarding in the mountains is what diving is like underwater,” she says. “I use yoga to manage my breath, slow down, and find my present moment. Flexibility, as an athlete, is a metaphor for your life. That’s what yoga inspires: what you put in your mouth, your heart, your sense of freedom.”


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