“I took a huge step back and just remembered why I ski”
by Than Acuff
Crested Butte homegrown athlete and professional halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck has a new approach to competing on the halfpipe circuit this year. With the 2018 Winter Olympics on the horizon in February and athletes jockeying for spots on the U.S. Ski Team, Blunck made a conscious decision heading into the season this year.
“I took a huge step back and just remembered why I ski,” says Blunck. “It’s not about making the Olympics, it’s about enjoying skiing.”
Blunck had his most successful year of competing to date last year as he won gold at the X Games in Aspen, finished third in the World Cup overall standings and won the FIS World Championships in Spain.
This past summer he mixed in plenty of training in Crested Butte with Carrie Hicks as well as a couple of trips to ski, spending time on snow in Oregon, New Zealand and Switzerland. All of that training and his new mindset had Blunck coming into the 2017/2018 feeling better than ever.
“Going into this year I felt the strongest I’ve ever felt,” says Blunck. “I’m ready to go and super excited to ski.”
The competition season started with a Grand Prix event at Copper Mountain three weeks ago. The Copper event was the second of five Olympic qualifiers so energy was ramping up. Furthermore, it was a hectic lead-up to the event as low snow had athletes and organizers scrambling to get halfpipe training in before the competition.
With just a total of four hours of training spread out over two days before the event, Blunck admits he was not that psyched when he slid into the start spot at the top of the halfpipe.
“Honestly, it was the most nervous I’ve been dropping into a halfpipe in a long time,” says Blunck. “It was more from a lack of confidence in my skiing than anything else.”
Blunck finished the Copper Grand Prix in eighth place and while it was lower than where he typically finishes, he rolled with the result.
“I was fine with that. People were throwing down and I was happy with my runs,” says Blunck.
The Copper event was just what he needed to get his feet underneath him as he headed to Breckenridge December 14-17 for a Dew Tour stop and the third Olympic qualifier event. Despite all of the attention spent on the upcoming Olympics, Blunck maintained his mental focus.
“Going into that event, I just wanted to ski,” explains Blunck. “After Copper I knew what I needed to do.”
Blunck advanced out of the qualifiers in the middle of the pack for the finals, a place he prefers to any other.
“That’s right where I like to finish qualifiers, I was definitely stoked,” says Blunck. “There was really no stress.”
Blunck proceeded to make the most of his second run as he laid down a score of 93.33 to take the lead and then sat in the lead for a while until his friend Alex Ferreira upped the ante to take over first place with a score of 94.66. Blunck finished the day in second place.
“It was probably one of the best runs of my life and the best run of Alex’s life,” says Blunck. “Both of us were just so stoked for each other.”
Blunck is now back home in Crested Butte for a little rest and relaxation, tossing in a couple of trips to Summit County for some training to continue working on a couple of new things as the next events approach in January.
“I’ve been training a couple of new tricks and I want to be able to throw them once they are dialed,” says Blunck. “I’m really focusing on style and amplitude.”
With three qualifiers down and two to go, Blunck is sitting in third place overall. The U.S. Ski Team will take the top four to South Korea.
“I’m sitting in a good position right now and I couldn’t be more stoked with how I’m skiing,” says Blunck.