Bridger Gile jokes that he hit his high point when he was a kid. Indeed, his accomplishments on skis were jaw-droppingly bountiful for someone barely out of kindergarten. By the age of 4, the Aspen native became the youngest person to hike and ski the notoriously steep Highlands Bowl. By the time he was 8, he’d won multiple NASTAR championship titles, had appeared in two Warren Miller films, had forerun the Winter X Games superpipe, could do a back flip and numerous other high-flying tricks, had been featured in a New York Times article and had an Obermeyer jacket named after him.
“I definitely hit my peak when I was young,” says Gile, who, at age 20, joins the ranks of Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety, Julia Mancuso, Tamara McKinney, Steve Mahre and many more as Ski Racing Media’s Junior of the Year, thus proving that his resume highlights are far from finished.
He earns the honor following the best season thus far of his racing career, albeit a season abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gile kicked things off in December by winning a couple of FIS races against stacked fields in Colorado – a super G at Copper Mountain and a slalom in Steamboat Springs – before taking the NorAM circuit by storm, notching three podiums at Whiteface Mountain, NY, including an alpine combined and giant slalom victory.
It was the eve of his biggest race of the year – the 2020 Junior World Championship GS race in Narvik, Norway – when the lights suddenly went out on the season.
“We were going to bed the night before GS. Our coach knocked on door to say that the race was canceled. Everything was canceled. We flew out the next day,” Gile recalls.
Gile returned home to Aspen, where the pandemic couldn’t keep him off of his skis. He earned his turns skinning every day and made the most of his time away from competition, although perhaps his biggest disappointment was the cancelation of the U.S. Alpine Technical Championships, which were scheduled on home snow at Aspen Highlands and Snowmass in March.
“To race U.S. Nationals at home on that hill would have been awesome,” he says. “I’m super bummed it got cut. Sometimes you go to spring series and do well, so it’s too bad to miss out on that. But if any season was to get cut short, this was a good one. At least I had a good season until it got cut.”
With his NorAm success, Gile is now eligible to compete on the World Cup. He was named to the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s B squad this summer and has spent the last few weeks dryland training and mountain biking in Park City as well as participating in a couple of on-snow training camps at Copper Mountain and Mount Hood.
“We’ll go back to Hood around the 20th of August if there’s enough snow, but that’s about as far as we know. Nobody really knows what training or the schedule might look like after that,” he says.
Presuming that there is some semblance of a competition circuit this season in spite of the pandemic, Gile plans on easing into the World Cup via the Europa Cup.
“Competing [at the World Cup] in Soelden depends on how much snow time I have going into the year and how fast I’m skiing before that,” he says. “If Beaver Creek happens, I’ll do that one. I’ll see how those go. Doing the Europa Cup, I’ll get used to the depths of that level of competition. Europe is a whole different depth.”
While Gile has shown great talent and ability in every discipline, he is going to make GS his main focus this season.
“I think I have the biggest understanding of GS, where to put the pressure, the turn,” he says, adding that making it to the top of the world in any discipline is his ideal end goal. “Winning globes would be the ultimate dream. I don’t really care which it’s in. Any or all of them would be pretty sweet. This is a first step. Everything you’ve done, you have to start fresh with the next step. But it’s good to see the hard work paying off.”
Ski Racing Media Juniors of the Year
1975 – Leslie Leete Smith Steve Mahre
1976 – Christin Cooper Eric Wilson
1977 – Heidi Preuss David Stapleton
1978 – Tamara McKinney Scott Hoffman
1979 – Tamara McKinney Mike Farney
1980 – Noel Lyons Mark Tache
1981 – Brenda Buglione Tiger Shaw
1982 – Eva Twardokens Steve Hegg
1983 – Eva Twardokens Jesse Hunt
1984 – Diann Roffe Jesse Hunt
1985 – Carter Payne Tim Curran
1986 – Hilary Lindh/Krista Schmidinger
1987 – Sally Knight Tommy Moe
1988 – Heidi Voelker Jeremy Nobis
1989 – Kim Schmidinger Tommy Moe
1990 – Julie Parisien Ryan North
1991 – Kathrine Davenport Paul Casey Puckett
1992 – Kathrine Davenport Michael Makar
1993 – Kristina Koznick Chip Knight
1994 – Kjersti Bjorn-Roli Forest Carey
1995 – Sarah Schleper Wisi Betschart
1996 – Kirsten Clark Justin Johnson
1997 – Jonna Mendes John Minahan
1998 – Jonna Mendes Brad Hogan
1999 – Caroline Lalive Marco Sullivan
2000 – Julia Mancuso Marco Sullivan
2001 – Julia Mancuso Jake Zamansky
2002 – Julia Mancuso Steven Nyman
2003 – Julia Mancuso Jeremy Transue
2004 – Lindsey Kildow Ted Ligety
2005 – Resi Stiegler Tim Jitloff
2006 – Megan McJames Christopher Beckmann
2007 – Leanne Smith Will Brandenburg
2008 – Kiley Staples Tommy Ford
2009 – Julia Ford Tommy Ford
2010 – Mikaela Shiffrin Will Gregorak
2011 – Mikaela Shiffrin Ryan Cochran-Siegle
2012 – Mikaela Shiffrin Ryan Cochran-Siegle
2013 – Mikaela Shiffrin Ryan Cochran-Siegle
2014 – Mikeala Shiffrin
2015 – Mikaela Shiffrin AJ Ginnis
2016 – Mikaela Shiffrin Erik Arvidsson
2017 – Alice Merryweather/Breezy Johnson Sam Morse
2018 — Patricia Mangan River Radamus
2019 — AJ Hurt River Radamus
2020 — Keely Cashman. Bridger Gile