“Proud does not really describe it.”
—Michael Blunck Facebook post
One of ours is going to the biggest sporting event in the world. If you haven’t heard, Aaron Blunck skied his way onto the first United States Freeski team and is heading to the Olympic Games in Sochi next month.
At the wise ol‘ age of 17, there are few better to represent us.
Here’s a quiet reason why we all can be proud Aaron carries that mantle. Go back and watch the YouTube of his final run in Park City. The run itself is smooth and impressive but it’s what happens after the run that speaks to him and his character.
As Aaron finished his final run Saturday in Park City, he waited for what seemed like an eternity for the judges to score the run that would propel him into the Olympics…or not. It must have been two and a half minutes of angst that felt like two and a half years. About a minute after the end of his last jump as he stands under the eye of the camera waiting for his score, he puts his hands together in the prayer gesture and says “Come on.” A few seconds after that, he takes off his helmet and looks at the sticker on the back. He turns his helmet and that sticker to the camera. The sticker says “Asher.”
Every skier at Aaron’s level has a multitude of logos and stickers adorning their helmets, skis and jackets. Before his first appearance in last year’s X-Games, he had been coached on how to stand in front of the camera and give the silent shout-outs to his sponsors. Aaron’s first shout-out while standing on the cusp of maybe going to the Olympics was to “Asher.”
For those who don’t know, Asher is Asher Crank. A Crested Butte native, Asher was taking a practice run in the Copper Mountain terrain park before a competition in January 2007 when he hit too much air and fell 30 feet landing on his head. He died. That was seven years ago this month and it crushed this community. Asher was 17.
Asher stickers are still everywhere in the valley—on cars, chairlifts, stores, skis, textbooks.
And now Asher is riding with Crested Butte’s latest Olympian; fellow freeskier Aaron Blunck, who took the time during what will be one of the biggest moments of his life to quietly honor a friend and inspiration. He consciously paid tribute to the mesh of connections that came before him.
He honored us all.
At the start of the third period at last Saturday’s high school hockey game in Craig, Colo., social media was alerted that Aaron had just qualified to make the U.S. Olympic team. As word trickled from the Internet to the iPhone to the stands to the bench to the ice, the Crested Butte Wolfpack stepped away from center ice and pounded their sticks on the ice and against the boards in the traditional hockey salute of respect and honor.
Aaron is the same age as the kids of the Wolfpack. They are his friends and his supporters. He’s still just one of the boys jumping into the Punchbowl or grabbing Teo.
Last summer, Aaron spent some time with the Gravity Groms. The Groms are the local little shredders who truly do shred in summer and winter. Aaron answered questions from the little ones and signed autographs. He gave them his time and the teachers made it clear he is considered a true role model for the Crested Butte kids.
Aaron will be representing the United States of America in general and Crested Butte in particular next month on the biggest of world stages.
He will go to Sochi wrapped in a blanket of respect and honor from his friends and his village.
Proud does not really describe it.