As the Winter Olympics inch closer, we’re continuing to highlight the Aspen-area athletes who are training for the Games. Ski racer and Aspen native Wiley Maple is a speed demon. Last year, he was clocked going 95 miles per hour down a snowy course. But, Maple is more than just a skier, he loves art. During slow times at competitions, you can find him sketching to pass the time. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.
"I try to do one piece of art every year, which is hard to do because it’s hard to get the supplies and find the time to sit down and do it," he says.
Wiley says he likes to draw people. But, usually, his focus is on skiing, not sketching.
This YouTube video shows Wiley zooming down a sunny course in Squaw Valley, California in 2009. He clears the finish and takes ninth place overall in the US Alpine Championships Super G.
A lot has happened to the 23-year-old since that race.
"Since I’ve been on the ski team, I’ve had a major surgery every six months almost. I’ve broken my hands eight times, broke my back, busted my knee," he says.
Wiley broke his hand when reaching down to touch a gate along a super G course, going upwards of 80 miles an hour.
"You can hit the gates, obviously, with your shoulders, and they’re meant to move and you hit gates pretty much every run, but it’s when your hands are on the ground at the base of the gate, that part doesn’t move, so it does some damage."
The hands are minor compared to the injuries Maple endured with his knee. A torn ACL in 2012 is still giving him problems.
"(Reporter: Are you fully healed?) Not really, I mean I’m back to doing everything I want to," he says.
"Wiley tends to train very hard and very long," says Walt Evans with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
AVSC is the organization that trained Wiley from a young age. Evans says he’s watched Wiley compete over the years.
"Wiley first emerged when he was 15 years old and there’s a national junior event, Wiley won that event, he won the men’s super G in Sun Valley."
Three years later, when the high school senior was debating whether to pursue skiing, hockey or college, Wiley got a call from the US ski team.
"I applied to college and was going to try and be on a college ski team, but I definitely wanted to be on the US Ski Team, wanted to go to the Olympics."
Now, Wiley is training and traveling to competitions almost year-round. The few free moments he has, he spends at home in Aspen.
"I think if you grow up in a very special place, you might take it for granted and Wiley and his sister never have," says Mike Maple, Wiley's dad.
He also grew up in Aspen and skied competitively. Even Wiley’s grandfather was a ski pro in Canada in the 1940’s. So, it’s in the D.N.A. But, place has a lot to do with it too. When his son was young, Mike Maple says he knew he had to move his family from Colorado’s Front Range, back to the mountains.
"We were living in Golden, Colorado and I took him to kindergarten and I left in tears and woke up and smelled the coffee and thought, ‘my kids have to be raised in a mountain town."
The family moved and found themselves skiing...all the time. So, it’s no surprise, it has become Wiley’s focus.
"Skiing’s my favorite thing in the world and I love to compete," he says.
Walt Evans from AVSC says Wiley’s chances at making the Olympic team in 2014 are slim. But, he might have a better chance in 2018 when the Games are held in South Korea. Still, Wiley says he’ll train hard this fall with his sights set on Sochi.