Second place at Grand Prix puts Blunck in the mix
The X Games dream for Aaron Blunck started when he was just a grom on his couch watching television.
“It’s always been a dream for me, ever since watching the X Games when I was like six or seven,” says Blunck. “I remember watching Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont and thinking, I want to be on TV, I want to be like those guys.”
That dream came true this week as Crested Butte’s own Aaron Blunck placed second at the Visa U.S. Grand Prix ski halfpipe at Copper Mountain Friday, January 11. The result sealed him an invitation to compete on halfpipe skiing’s biggest stage, the Winter X Games in Aspen, January 24-27 and is a great way to kick off his bid for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Blunck’s had a tremendous season so far on the halfpipe skiing circuit, reaching the podium in two of the three major events thus far. In fact, the only time he didn’t make the podium was because he wasn’t at the event.
He tested the waters of the U.S. Grand Prix event last year and made a commitment to take his game to the next level this year at the same event.
“This year my main focus was to make the finals,” says Blunck.
He suffered a hiccup on his first qualifier run but regrouped to place ninth and make the cut to the finals.
“There was a lot of pressure on that second run but I knew I just needed to land a good run to advance,” says Blunck. “I was really happy with my qualifier.”
The pipe for the finals was hit with fresh snow the night before the finals, forcing Blunck and his coaches to tweak his finals run to fit the slower conditions.
“He actually had more tricks planned for his run but because of the weather we didn’t use them,” says Elana Chase, Blunck’s freeskiing coach.
Blunck had a small but significant mishap on his first run of the finals when he landed his first hit off-balance, losing critical points.
“I missed my pop a little bit on the dub 12 [double cork 1260] and landed in the back seat with a hand drag,” says Blunck.
Rather than make any changes, Blunck stuck with what he knew, focused on laying down a much cleaner second run.
“I was able to get my pop, which is what I needed, and landing high set me up the rest of the run,” explains Blunck. “I knew that was the best run I could throw in those conditions so I was happy with it.”
Then his score popped up on the screen and Blunck was awestruck.
“When I saw my score, I was mind-blown,” says Blunck, “but there were some heavy hitters still coming up.”
Blunck sat there and watched as the who’s who of halfpipe skiers dropped into the pipe. By the time all was said and done, Blunck’s score held up and he stepped up onto the second spot on the podium.
“It was kind of surreal but I realized all of the training I’ve done has finally paid off,” says Blunck.
“It was just a matter of time,” adds Chase. “He’s a great skier and a good competitor.”
Immediately following the event, talk of an invitation to the X Games for Blunck started circulating.
“Everyone was saying I was going to get an X spot but I didn’t believe it,” says Blunck.
Then, on Monday night, January 14, while in Whistler for a North Face Park and Pipe Series event, Blunck got the word from the top.
“I got an email from Chris Schuster, head of the X Games, and he said, ‘Congratulations, you will be receiving the official X Games invitation,’” explains Blunck. “It’s crazy. My first thought was, ‘WOW, this isn’t real.’”
“He’s demonstrated his abilities,” says Chase. “His skiing spoke for itself. But, it’s not just about getting into the X Games; it’s about getting there and making some noise.”
The next day Blunck received the official invitation and put together two solid runs to qualify for the slopestyle finals at the Whistler event.
He will also compete in the halfpipe competition on Thursday, January 17 before returning to Colorado to prepare for primetime.
“I’ve got a couple more tricks I’m working on,” says Blunck. “One new trick that I’ve landed and hopefully a second trick that I will work on the week before X Games.”
As for Sochi, the qualification process is still somewhat dubious with numerous variables in play, most of which are out of Blunck’s hands.
“Now it’s just about keeping himself in the top spots,” says Chase. “Keep skiing well and not worry about it.”
“It helps that I got my name out there more,” adds Blunck.