Downhill/Super-G skier Wiley Maple is done racing uphill. Pro for over a decade, the 29-year-old Aspen native has been famously plagued by injuries: four knee surgeries, three back operations and multiple more training mishaps—perhaps intensified, he suggests, by our town’s culture of extremes.
After placing 30th in Downhill at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Maple was again not invited to rejoin the U.S. Ski Team. Forced to pay his own way to the World Cup last year—$30,000, no biggie—Maple broke a hand and got seriously sick.
“Then the two big heart-crushers: I got flagged at back-to-back races [because] somebody crashed,” he explains, which might happen only twice in an entire career. “When you have to redo that level of intensity, it’s never gonna go well: Your legs are tired, your skis are toast, your adrenaline is gone, and your head is fried. Things out of my control were against me all season.”
Despite losing momentum, Maple returns to the World Cup this winter with renewed motivation. In May his childhood best friend and sidekick ski tech Sam Coffey died suddenly at age 29.
“All the buddies were like, ‘Now you have to do it,’” says Maple, bolstered and fresh from August training in Chile. Off race skis since April, he had channeled trademark tenacity as a lone wolf: “At the end of the camp, I was the fastest on nearly every single run with the Germans.”
Following October training in Europe and local fundraising in November, Maple expects to compete in the post-Thanksgiving 2019 World Cup kickoff at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. Former teammate and current ski tech Will Gregorak will keep him sharp, physical therapist Glen Mcleod will keep him strong, and charitable fans will keep his dream stoked.
“The entire Aspen community has allowed me to keep ski racing the last 10 years,” Maple says, feeling fiercer than ever from tough experience. “As long as my body is working, I’ll keep going.”