Pipe, Pampering, Progression

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Pro snowboarder Meg Pugh was driving from Utah to Snowmass for the Gretchen Blelier Snow Angel Invitational presented by Oakley last Friday when she saw a deer in the middle of the road, swerved to miss it and hit a guardrail. After passing a breathalyzer test and interrogation from a helpful police officer, Meg caught a ride to the nearby one-horse town, where there wasn’t a rental car to be found. Fortunately there was an impound lot, where Meg found her new ride…a 1985 Nissan Pile. (What it lacked in speed and safety, it made up for in style).

Meg missed Saturday’s halfpipe competition, in which host Gretchen Bleiler won with a series of flawless and varied runs, but puttered into Snowmass Village just in time to catch the athlete yoga session, a CoverGirl makeover and girl’s night out. (If you didn’t know how much Meg likes to compete, you’d almost think she planned it that way.)

The inaugural CoverGirl Snow Angels Invitational elevated women’s snowboarding to a new level. An event two years in the making, the Snow Angles Invitational brought together the world’s best female snowboarders to Gretchen Bleiler’s home mountain for a weekend of progressive halfpipe riding, girlish pampering and environmental education.

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After a practice and photo shoot on Snowmass Mountain’s immaculate halfpipe built by world renowned shaper Frank Wells, the athletes relaxed with massages at the Snowmass Club before attending an environmental workshop organized by green girl Gretchen Bleiler. Aspen’s Auden Schendler presented a slideshow and led a discussion circling around how the influential snowboarders could use their fame to make positive changes. Gretchen initiated an action list for the girls that included seeking environmentally friendly sponsors, talking to home resorts about sustainability and researching green political candidates. After the brainstorm session, the riders headed to The Little Nell in downtown Aspen for a cooking class with sustainable chef Ryan Hardy.

The Superpipe Jam got underway Saturday morning and the girls wasted little time warming up. The Jam format allowed the 13 competitors to make as many laps on the pipe as they could fit in the hour and 30 minute contest. The theme was progression and no one was holding back. Soko Yamaoka and Shiho Nakashima attacked the pipe like fearless Japanese warriors, Kelly Clark was boosting so high that when she crashed, she broke her helmet and technical wizard Tricia Byrnes lapped the pipe more times than announcers Liam Barrett and Chris Hotell could count. Oakley’s Elena Hight was the only girl to throw two 900’s in one run, young Kaitlyn Farrington was throwing stylie McTwists and Clair Bidez was perfecting her backside 900. It was next level riding and multiple sources were calling it the most progressive hour of women’s halfpipe to ever go down.

But it was Oakley’s Gretchen Bleiler who put together a series of unique runs that incorporated a new trick every time. One perfect lap included a frontside 720, cab 720, backside 540 and a frontside 900. Gretchen never takes the safe route and her own contest was no exception—she upped the difficulty and stomped it. And for that she was also awarded Most Progressive Riding. Kelly Clark took home Best Trick for her frontside 900, as well as Highest Air. Kelly and Gretchen were awarded spa treatments good for the Snowmass Club during Winter X Games 13 and every competitor walked away with cash from the $20,000 prize purse.

On Sunday the girls rehashed their night at the Fly Lounge in downtown Aspen, where Snow Queen vodka served the signature “Angle Drink” and the DJ spun dance beats all night long. The girl’s night out helped Meg forget about the car fiasco and at noon she joined Gretchen to lead a terrain park boot camp at Snowmass. It was almost time to pack up the Nissan and head back to Utah, but not before a massage and facial at the Snowmass Club.

Final results:
1st – Gretchen Bleiler (OAKLEY), Aspen, CO. – $10,000
2nd – Kelly Clark, Mount Snow, VT – $4,500
3rd – Elena Hight (OAKLEY), South Lake Tahoe, CA – $2,000
4th – Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT – $1,000
5th – Manuela Pesko, Lenzerheide, Switzerland – $500
Best Trick – Kelly Clark with a frontside nine hundred
Highest Air – Kelly Clark
Most Progressive Riding – Gretchen Bleiler

Oakley would like to thank the partners that made this event possible: Aspen/Snowmass, CoverGirl, Oakley, Herbal Essences, Dr. Hauschka Holistic Home Remedies, Mission Product, Nike, Snowmass Village, the Snowmass Club and The Villas at Snowmass Club.

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