G R E AT L A K E S SU R F E R S

SWA M P B U G GY R AC I N G

SOUL O F AT H E N S

MIDWES A R INES JANUARY/FEBRUARY 01 MIDWEST AIRLINES • JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 • YOUR PERSONAL COPY S S RY YOUR ERSONA CO Y

PEAK

For athletes like Lindsey Vonn, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are the ultimate Olympic training ground.

SEASON

T IE KA

MyMIDWEST JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010

UH L AE NDER

56

GR

ET
EN CH

BLEILER

KAT KATIE UHLAENDER: STEVE BOYLE/NEWSPORT/CORBIS ; GRETCHEN BLEI ER: DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA/CORBIS D STE E LE EWSPORT/CORBIS GRETCH E LEILER: D R R: D Z A A/CORB

STE

VE

FI

Peak Performers
BY ALEX MILLER

WHEN THEY’RE LOOKING TO BUCKLE DOWN—OR REST UP—BEFORE THEY GO TO THE WINTER OLYMPICS, MANY MEMBERS OF TEAM U.S.A. HEAD TO COLORADO. LUCKILY FOR THESE FOUR HOPEFULS, THAT MEANT STAYING HOME.

SH
ER

STEV STEVE FISHER AARON DODDS; LINDSEY VONN: J T TE SHER: O ONN: JONATHAN SELKOWITZ/CORBIS KOWITZ/CORB W Z/CO /C

COLORADO IS USUALLY WELL REPREsented in the Winter Olympic Games, and this year should prove to be no exception. With its 26 ski and snowboard areas, incomparably active population and long, sunny winters, the state is home to dozens of athletes doing their best to make the cut for the U.S. team in their respective sports. We caught up with four veterans, each of whom has a pretty good possibility of bringing home a medal, to ask what they think of their chances—and to find out what they love about living in the Rocky Mountain state. What we discovered is that no one takes anything for granted in the world of Olympic competition—especially the support they get from their hometowns.

LI N

DS

EY

VO
NN

57

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 MyMIDWEST

LINDSEY VONN
HOME: VAIL SPORT: ALPINE SKIING AGE: 25

A FEARLESS ALPINE SKIER WITH two World Cup championship titles (2008, 2009) under her belt but a disappointing finish at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Vonn will likely be one of the top athletes to watch at Whistler this year. She competes in all five alpine skiing disciplines—downhill, super G, slalom, giant slalom and super combined—and the faster the event, the better. “Downhill and super G are the ones I’ll be looking for medals in, and I’ll try to do my best in the others,” Vonn says. As for how she’s preparing for the Olympics, Vonn cites the standard mantra—focus, discipline and hard work—but adds that the encouragement she gets from the Vail community is an important motivating factor. Last September, the city even held a pep rally in her honor. “The community is so supportive, and it’s something I can draw confidence from,” she says. “Seeing the kids’ excitement and knowing they’ll watch me in the Olympics makes me really happy. It also gives me the extra motivation to do well for them.” Because of the hype and excitement surrounding the Olympics, for Vonn, there’s no competition quite like it. “It’s a world stage where everyone is watching you,” she says, “and I feel a great deal of pride being an American representing my country. It’s special.”
LINDSEY ’S VAIL PICKS Vonn says downtime is hard to come by, but she takes advantage of Vail’s offerings as much as she can. “I like to go shopping on Bridge Street,” she says, “and my husband and I enjoy eating at Pazzo’s Pizzeria (970-476-9026; itsblank .com/pazzos).”

MyMIDWEST JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010

58

HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES SPORT

KATIE UHLAENDER
HOME: SUMMIT COUNTY (BRECKENRIDGE, KEYSTONE, COPPER, ARAPAHOE BASIN) SPORT: SKELETON AGE: 25

P  

icture hurling yourself down a bobsled track on a Flexible Flyer and you’re not too far from the sport of skeleton racing. It’s not for the faint-of-heart, and Summit County’s Katie Uhlaender is anything but. The daughter of Major League outfielder Ted Uhlaender, she inherited her father’s competitive spirit and athletic determination. But 2009 was a tough year for Uhlaender: Ted died in February and she shattered her kneecap while snowmobiling later that winter. With much of the year spent in various surgeries and rehab activities while mourning the loss of her father, the two-time World Cup champ is still pushing hard for her spot on the Olympic team. Uhlaender jokingly states that she is “officially homeless,” but because of the boost she gets from the community, she always considers Summit County to be her home. “That local support is crucial,” she says. KATIE’S FRISCO PICKS “I didn’t realize the last time [at the 2006 When it comes to kickWinter Games, where she placed sixth] how ing back, Uhlaender much my hometowns were supporting me. gravitates toward Frisco, I want to feel that and take it with me to a central location between Summit County’s [this year’s] Games.” four ski areas. She enExperience will also play an important joys going to Kemosabe role in Uhlaender’s performance. “I am Sushi Bar (970-668really thankful I’ve been through the Olym2100; kemosabesushi pics before,” she says. “You can’t ever know .com) and Pika Bagel or plan what you’re going to see there. It’s (970-668-0902). After bigger than yourself. But I’m not a rookie hours, she hangs out anymore—I know how to be prepared.” with friends at Upstairs When you’re hurtling headfirst down at Jonny-G’s (970-668an icy track faster than anybody else in the 5442; jonnygs.com), a world, a little preparation can go a long way. bar in Frisco Mall.

59

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 MyMIDWEST

GRETCHEN BLEILER
HOME: ASPEN SPORT: SNOWBOARDING HALF-PIPE AGE: 28

STEVE FISHER
HOME: BRECKENRIDGE SPORT: SNOWBOARDING HALF-PIPE AGE: 27

STEVE FISHER’S BRECKENRIDGE PICKS Exploring the many shops and eateries along Breckenridge’s Main Street is an activity in and of itself. Fisher recommends “a nice, healthy, light lunch” at Amazing Grace (970-453-1445)—an intimate cafe that serves sandwiches, soup and baked goods—and happy hour at the Blue River Bistro (970-4536974; blueriverbistro.com). Later in the day, he suggests Relish (970-453-0989; relish breckenridge.com) for a dinner of hearty, Colorado-inspired cuisine.

MIDWEST AIRLINES offers daily flights to and from Denver, as well as other Colorado cities through a codeshare arrangement with Frontier Airlines. Details can be found at midwestairlines.com.

MyMIDWEST JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010

60

STEVE FISHER: ERICH SCHLEGEL/CORBIS; GRETCHEN BLEILER: HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES SPORT

n a sport where many of the top athletes are too young to legally drink, Breckenridge’s Steve Fisher is an old hand. At 27, he’s been snowboarding for 20 years, and he’s a favorite to compete in the snowboard half-pipe at Whistler this year. According to Fisher, experience, as well as knowing better than to listen to the naysayers, will play important roles. “Maturity plays into it,” he says. “I’m over the petty stuff; I don’t care what people say. I’m at peace with my career.” In true snowboarder fashion, Fisher’s training regimen sounds somewhat casual. “I jog to stay in shape and do some light weight training and injury-prevention stuff,” he says. That said, he’s very focused when it comes to mental preparation. In the last Winter Games, Fisher just missed getting on the team and admits that at the time, he was a little burned out. But this year is different. “I’ve got my feet back, and I’m finding the love for competition again,” he says. Part of

that came from just enjoying the place where he lives. High up at 9,600 feet above sea level, Breckenridge is a picture-postcard mountain town with a popular ski resort. It may be a tourist mecca, but Fisher says that it also has a base of locals that gives the area a real community feel. “The residents in town are absolutely in love with outdoor activities, and they’re also really warm and caring to tourists,” he says. Thinking of the Olympics, Fisher says he’s excited—but also looking at the big picture. “It’s great to do well, but I don’t think winning is what defines you as an athlete,” he says. “Snowboarding is not about winning or being the best, but about just having fun with people you enjoy riding with.”

VETERAN SNOWBOARDER Gretchen Bleiler attracts a lot of attention wherever she goes. Whether it’s because of her all-American good looks or long list of awards, Bleiler takes it in stride, and this year, her focus is on beating her performance in the ‘06 games, where she won the silver medal in the women’s half-pipe. “When winter hits, I’m 100 percent focused on my riding,” Bleiler says. And she has a great place to practice—when asked about Aspen, which has been her home since she was 10 years old, she gushes. “I have been fortunate enough to travel to some of the most beautiful locations in the world because of what I do, and I always find myself comparing them to Aspen. I still haven’t found a place that I love more,” she says. Bleiler cites Aspen’s natural attributes—which make it a perfect place for outdoor activities year round—as the reason for her dotage, and also appreciates that it is “a small town with big culture.” Though it means being away from the place she loves, Bleiler can’t wait to hit the slopes at Whistler. Like her compatriots on Team U.S.A., she sees the Olympic Games as an opportunity to be a part of a different kind of community. “The Olympics are special because they bring people together. When you’re competing in the Olympics, it’s no longer an individual thing. You’re representing your country, your community and your family.”

GRETCHEN’S ASPEN PICKS “I love getting a tune-up with acupuncture and chiropractic treatments at The WIN Health Institute (970-384-8484; winheal thinstitute.com),” she says. “I also like having a nice meal with my friends and family members. For a quick, easy, delicious and organic dinner, head to Toppers (970920-0069; toppersaspen.com).” Another favorite dinner spot is Matsuhisa (970-544-6628; matsuhisaaspen.com), a Japanese sushi and seafood restaurant. “Eating there is always a nice way to end the day,” she says.

61

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 MyMIDWEST

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful