Monday, July 13, 2020

Aaron Blunck takes silver medal at X Games

Ski powder, win silver, surf and continue quest for the Crystal Globe

by Than Acuff

aron Blunck just returned to the competition circuit last weekend to take the silver medal in the halfpipe skiing competition at the X Games in Aspen on Sunday, January 26. It’s his second medal at the prestigious showcase of snow sports athletes having won the gold medal at the X Games in 2017. In addition, Blunck is currently sitting tied for first place in the overall halfpipe ski World Cup standings three events into the season, keeping the coveted Crystal Globe trophy well within reach.

Blunck finished 2019 winning the FIS Freeski Halfpipe World Cup at Copper Mountain in mid-December and placing second the next week at next stop of the World Cup circuit at the Secret Garden ski resort in China. Following China, Blunck returned home to Crested Butte for the holidays with his sights set on other things, most notably powder. And, as it turned out, everything fell into place as he ended up skiing the Crested Butte backcountry and then found himself up North for two weeks doing more of the same, only deeper.

“I was at home and I got a call from some friends in Canada on New Year’s Eve asking how soon I could get up there,” explains Blunck. “The forecast looked insane so I bought a ticket from Grand Junction to Canada on January 3 and was on a snowmobile the next day at 6 a.m. skiing some of the deepest pow of my life. I got to ski pow in Canada and free the mind instead of spending time in the halfpipe training before the X Games.”

Blunck eventually had to get back to business and spent a couple of days training in Copper before heading to Aspen. While the X Games have been some of Blunck’s best times, winning the gold medal in 2017 for one, he also struggled at the event last year as mounting pressure to prove himself and finish on the podium wore him down.

This year though, with a fresh approach to competing and two weeks of Canadian powder skiing under his skis, Blunck came into the X Games just as he had hoped, relaxed. Furthermore, this year’s X Games came with a tweak to the common scoring practices of skier halfpipe competitions. Typically, athletes get three runs in the halfpipe with their highest score marking their final result. The X Games mixed things up this year with a “jam” format that created a different approach for the athletes to their runs.

“You were really judged on overall expression throughout all of your runs,” explains Blunck. “You could throw down a super technical run and then you could do a style run. It was a lot more lenient and I was able to go into it with an open mind. I was all about the opportunity to be more diverse.”

Once the jam session ended, Blunck wound up in second place and then things got even better as he and friend and fellow competitor Birk Irving jumped into a “loaner” GMC Sierra 1500 Denali truck waiting for them in downtown Aspen immediately following the conclusion of the competition. Their bags were already packed and they proceeded to take turns napping and driving watching the sun come up over Las Vegas and arriving in Santa Monica, California just in time to get some surfing in, get fed dinner by Irving’s uncle and then head to Mammoth that night arriving at Mammoth at 1 a.m.

“We pulled a really, really savage move,” says Blunck. “It was a little different celebration than the usual one after X Games. It was all-time.”

While Blunck admits fatigue has now set in following a week of X Games, the road trip and a day of practice at Mammoth, he likes where he is at heading into the next World Cup stop.

“I’m feeling really good,” says Blunck. “This year I have goals but I still want to ski and make it the most fun year yet. Just do my runs and land them for myself.”

Blunck has a day of rest and then starts the Mammoth event with qualifiers on Thursday, January 30 and then drops in for the finals on Saturday, February 1.

Following Mammoth, Blunck returns to Colorado for the Dew Tour at Copper Mountain February 6-9 and will then wrap up the World Cup circuit in Calgary, Alberta February 12-14 where he hopes to lift the Crystal Globe trophy as the FIS World Cup champion.

“That’s the main goal, other than have fun and put together some good film sessions,” says Blunck.

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