Saturday, March 28, 2020

Aaron Blunck brings home the Crystal Globe

“I reached a level of halfpipe skiing that I never thought I could get to”

by Than Acuff

Aaron Blunck set a goal this halfpipe ski season to win the FIS World Cup overall and bring home the Crystal Globe. He reached that goal last weekend in Calgary on the final stop of the FIS World Cup season. But, in the end, there’s much more to it than the trophy, the “10- to 15 pound Crystal Globe that has some serious girth to it.”

Blunck committed himself to a different approach to this competition season. The training was in place. The physicality and ability to do what needed to be done was there. So, this year was all about the mental game. His mental shift was to make sure that no matter what competition is on the horizon, what scores are given out for what run he just finished, the sole focus, or soul focus, was to have fun and enjoy skiing for what it is—skiing.

It just so happens that turned out to be the missing piece and he is now holding the Crystal Globe.

“I actually can’t believe it,” says Blunck.

And rightfully so, as his final three weeks of the season were about as crazy as could be.

It all started after winning the silver medal at the X Games in January when he and a fellow competitor and friend jumped into a complimentary truck to drive from Aspen to the next World Cup stop at Mammoth Mountain.

Actually, it all started when, instead of spending weeks preparing and training for the X Games, he headed to Canada for two weeks of skiing some of the deepest powder of his life.

“Some people thought I was crazy for going powder skiing instead of training for X Games,” says Blunck. “But I needed that.”

Then came the silver medal, then the truck, then an 18-hour drive to go surf before finally arriving at Mammoth Mountain to compete in the fourth stop of the five-stop FIS World Cup season.

It was there that Blunck hit a new level of competition consciousness. Though, he admits that leading up to the finals in Mammoth, something was wrong.

“Something felt off that day— I was super nervous,” says Blunck. “But once I dropped into the pipe, it all went away.”

Blunck then proceeded to have one of the best performance days of an athlete in the halfpipe ever as he scored a 94.20 on his first run, a 96.40 on his second run and then stepped it up again to score 97.20 on his final run to win.

“I just kept ramping it up,” says Blunck. “I’ve never had that feeling like I did after that first run when I thought, I’m gonna keep it going, I know I can do more.”

The win at Mammoth maintained Blunck’s slim lead in the overall standings, with one stop left in Calgary, February 12-16.

Prior to that, though, was a Dew Tour stop at Copper Mountain February 6-9. While separate from the World Cup, it was still one at which he wanted to do well. The Dew Tour has a modified halfpipe format that mixes in slopestyle elements along with the halfpipe.

“I wanted to win, but the course is so fun so I just wanted to go ski it and have fun and just see what happens,” says Blunck.

The rigors of X Games, Mammoth and then Dew Tour in consecutive weekends had worn on Blunck and fatigue set in, leaving him exhausted and with a sixth-place finish with the final World Cup stop in Calgary, Canada just four days later.

“This is where it gets crazy,” says Blunck.

First, his ski bag went missing so he missed out on the first day of training. Then, because of the location of the venue, there was nothing for Blunck to do but train in the halfpipe.

“I was just tired and I needed to ski something other than a halfpipe but it was a small ski area so there wasn’t much terrain and I couldn’t go hit jumps or rails because they were closed off for the snowboard events,” explains Blunck. “I was so frustrated.”

Qualifier day came and Blunck was feeling better until his second run when he hit the deck and slammed down on his elbow in the halfpipe.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with it but I’ve crashed before and never felt so much pain,” says Blunck. “I felt nauseated and was like, this is bad. But I just told myself to re-group for two runs, that’s all I had to do.”

Ultimately, while Blunck felt he put down a perfectly good qualifier run worthy of getting into the finals, the judges felt otherwise and he found himself out of the finals of the last World Cup event with his closest competitor, Noah Bowman, advancing to the finals to ski in his hometown halfpipe.

“Right then and there I was so frustrated and so bummed with myself,” says Blunck. “To come so close to a goal and not accomplish it was so frustrating.”

But, two hours later, Blunck got a text from his dad telling him that even though he wasn’t in the finals, he still had a chance. For Noah to win the Crystal Globe, he needed to finish in fifth place or higher.

“I was like, there’s no way that’s not going to happen. Noah is going to finish fifth or higher. He’s been killing it all season,” says Blunck.

When the final skier went through the halfpipe on his final run, Bowman was in fifth place and had taken the Crystal Globe.

“I was pretty bummed but I accepted it,” says Blunck.

Or so everyone thought.

But, the FIS officials came to Blunck and told him to go to the awards ceremony to receive his award, the Crystal Globe.

“It didn’t make sense,” says Blunck. “I get the Crystal Globe and I’m still feeling weird.”

It turned out, prior to the season, FIS changed the scoring rules stating that only four of the five World Cup scores counted in the overall standings with the lowest score dropped and, therefore, Blunck was the overall champion.

“They told me I won it fair and square,” says Blunck. “None of us knew that was a rule except for the FIS officials. I went from sitting there thinking something’s wrong to being told this is how it is. It was nuts. I couldn’t believe it. I set this goal, worked hard and accomplished it.”

With the Crystal Globe in hand, Blunck will spend the rest of the winter skiing here in Crested Butte before heading back east and then up to Canada for some filming, and more skiing.

While the destination was the Crystal Globe, it was the trip that brought Blunck to a new realization of skiing and himself.

“I learned a lot this year,” says Blunck. “The whole year was crazy. Things started making a lot more sense in my head. I learned to do what my mind and body tell me to do, not what other people want to do or want me to do. I reached a level of halfpipe skiing that I never thought I could get to.”

Check Also

Titans basketball season ends at regional finals

“The season just felt magical” by Than Acuff One could argue that, at the start …