I’ve never been a world champion. I’m pretty stoked.
by Than Acuff
Aaron Blunck put the finishing touches on his most successful year as a professional halfpipe skier winning the title at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain on Saturday, March 18.
Blunck has been skiing at the top of his game all season long, reaching his initial peak in January when he won the gold medal at the X Games in Aspen.
“Taking gold at X gave me an extra boost of confidence just knowing that I could push more and my skiing was getting noticed,” says Blunck.
From there he headed off to Mammoth, Calif. for a Grand Prix world cup event and the first Olympic qualifier for the U.S. team headed to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. After three days of sunny weather, things turned for the worse as the qualifiers and finals approached. In addition, athletes were still recovering from the X Games just a week prior.
“Everyone was so tired from the X Games,” says Blunck. “The qualifiers went down but then the weather just got worse and worse.”
Blunck finished qualifiers in fourth place but extreme winds and whiteout conditions forced organizers to ultimately call the event, leaving the qualifier runs as the final standings.
“I had confidence in my run but it was scored low, I thought and I knew I could up that score had finals happened,” says Blunck. “I didn’t think it was a break in my success.”
Blunck then returned to Crested Butte to recharge, a strategy he decided upon before the season started. After a week of recovery with a couple of ski days thrown in and rehab time with Carrie Jo Hicks, Blunck hopped on a plane and headed to PyeongChang to the Olympic halfpipe venue for another World Cup event and for an Olympic preview.
“We got to go there and get a taste of what South Korea is like and see how the venue is,” says Blunck.
Blunck had a spectacular showing in South Korea, taking advantage of the “best pipe we’d seen all season” to post a second-place finish and move into second place in the overall World Cup standings.
Blunck took the next 10 days following the event to return to Crested Butte for another reboot and more rehab sessions.
“It was nice to come home, ski a couple of days, go snowmobiling, get outdoors and just step away from the park and pipe,” says Blunck. “Just go skiing and other things so I don’t get burnt out on the halfpipe.”
Blunck suffered a setback to his rising success at the finals of the World Cup circuit in Tignes, France. Again the weather played a role in the halfpipe event, as days of snow forced organizers to leave competitors just one hour of training before their runs. Not only that, but nerves got the best of Blunck as well. With points leader Torin Yater-Wallace out due to an injury, Blunck was in the mix to take the World Cup title.
“The crystal globe came down to three guys,” says Blunck. “The pressure got to me really bad in the finals though, and I crashed and finished in third in the overall standings.”
Blunck had one more event to go, the FIS World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain five days later. The event drew athletes from more than 50 countries and was opened by the King of Spain. But before he could even think about dropping into another halfpipe competition, Blunck needed another reprieve, so he took a side trip to see Chamonix for the first time.
“That was absolutely the coolest thing ever,” says Blunck. “It was like being a kid and going to Disneyland. I went into Spain fully charged.”
Furthermore, Blunck made a decision an hour before dropping into his run in Spain. With the halfpipe shorter than most, he switched up his run to make the most of the pipe and posted a score of 91.8 on his first run. It was a high enough score to hold the top spot through the next two runs and earn Blunck the world champion title.
“I wanted to finish the season with a great run and I did and ended up on top,” says Blunck. “I’ve never been a world champion—I’m pretty stoked.”
The competition season is now over and Blunck is back in Crested Butte to ski, hang out with family and friends and take some time away from the halfpipe.
“I’m back home for the rest of the season,” says Blunck. “Comp season is over so now I’m starting on some film projects.”
The next goal for Blunck: The winter games in South Korea. Right now he has the fourth spot on the U.S. team with four more Olympic qualifiers starting in December.
“It’s a good position to be in with four more events to go,” says Blunck.