“I want to bring back the fun”
Homegrown professional halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck returns to the world’s biggest stage this weekend, the X Games in Aspen, January 22-25.
It’s the third trip to the X Games for the 18-year-old, having made the finals last year and finishing in 13th place overall. Blunck went on from there to Russia to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, where he finished in seventh place.
He closed out the season battling fatigue from a frantic 2014 competition schedule and opened the 2015 season back in December, finishing in seventh place at a USSA Grand Prix event in Copper and then seventh again at a Dew Tour stop in Breckenridge.
While his initial results were down from last year, Blunck remained optimistic about the season.
“It wasn’t the best results but a good start and it got my confidence going again,” says Blunck.
Except for one thing—his back. Blunck injured his back this fall during training sessions on the trampoline and while a cortisone shot and physical therapy sessions got him through the start of the season, the pain in his back returned and spread.
Blunck spent the holiday season back home in Crested Butte and with the storm system favoring the area, Blunck kept his skis on the ground, mixing in some powder skiing therapy.
Once he returned to Breckenridge to start the road to the X Games, he suffered another setback, landing a jump fully extended.
“I felt it immediately,” says Blunck. “I was now feeling it on both sides of my back and was in quite a bit of pain.”
An MRI showed a bulging disc and Blunck was grounded officially, taking the next two weeks off from any kind of skiing. Another cortisone shot got him back out skiing groomers but it wasn’t until this past Monday that he was able to jump back into halfpipe training.
Following his first two training sessions, Blunck says his back is feeling better. Furthermore, with this year being his third trip to the X Games, Blunck is coming into the event with big expectations. Based on his results from the Association of Freeskiing Professionals tour, Blunck is currently ranked fifth in the world and has his sights set on the podium in Aspen. He also has the benefit of some new tricks that only a few other skiers have in their repertoire.
“It’s definitely a different feeling this year,” says Blunck. “This year is a whole new ballgame and I’m gunning for the top of the podium.”
Yet, he’s keeping it all in perspective and is committed to finding his old self.
“I’m taking a different approach. I want to bring back the fun,” explains Blunck. “Last year was so stressful and I was so tired at the X Games. I want to be the kid I was two years ago—not afraid to go big, go out and have fun.”
The qualifying heats for the men’s skier Superpipe will be on Friday, January 23 and will be broadcast on ESPN3 starting at 5 p.m. The finals will be live on ESPN on Sunday, January 25 starting at 2:45 p.m.