EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Going into the second U.S. Grand Prix of the season, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck said he wanted to stick to the same plan he had at the first Grand Prix, which earned him a spot at X Games.
"I just wanna do well and get another good result," he said Wednesday night, in anticipation of Thursday's Grand Prix qualifier.
Well he did, making finals once again for the third time in as many major competitions.
"Just making finals felt good," he said after Saturday's competition.
Making finals and collecting good results has been the story of Blunck's season so far. On Saturday he finished fifth, after a second in the first Grand Prix and a seventh at X Games with Thursday's result being the third major halfpipe final in a row to feature the 16-year old. His second-place finish at the first Grand Prix in December at Copper earned him the coveted X Games invite - going into that competition his goal was to make finals, which he did.
"I'm so pumped," he said from Aspen after making finals.
In finals, Blunck landed back-to-back double flips - a first for him. He crashed on his third run and finished seventh.
"I'm still happy I went for it," he said after the competition. "Once I made finals I knew people would be throwing back-to-back doubles, so I thought why not just go for it, I already made finals ... I landed the 12 in the back seat but just going for it and landing it was a first-time accomplishment which was huge for me."
Before Thursday's Grand Prix qualifier, Blunck was feeling tired from X, but confident.
"Even though I made finals at X Games I just have the same mentality at any event, that it's just another comp and I'm ready to go out and slay," he said Wednesday night.
He finished 10th at Thursday's Grand Prix qualifier, and opted to go with a safer run in Saturday's finals, only throwing one double. He stomped his run and wound up in fifth.
"I couldn't have asked for a better first run," he said of the tricks - a double cork 1260, left 900, right 1080, switch 720, right 900 and alley-oop flatspin 540. "I wanted to end with an alley-oop double flat 900 but it was too risky."
Blunck's teammate, Ski Club Vail freeskier Annalisa Drew, also made finals for the women at the Grand Prix after landing a her first-ever 1080 in qualifiers. Last week at X Games, Drew tried going even bigger with a 1260.
"She really went for the 12, which is a very hard trick to land," Ski Club Vail freeski/freeride program director Elana Chase said after X Games. "It is difficult to setup a landing on a trick like that. Once she gets a few kinks worked out in her run she is going to be an unstoppable force."
Drew finished sixth. Ski Club Vail freeskier Alex Ferreira was also in the Grand Prix, he didn't make finals and ended 28th.
Farrington takes third
Meanwhile, on the snowboard side, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington said she had fun at the Grand Prix while also finding her way onto the podium.
She was riding alongside Kelly Clark, who just came off a win at X Games, and managed to best the superstar. Clark trained on Ski and Snowboard Club Vail's airbag in Vail, where Farrington also trains, in the days leading up to X Games.
"It's always fun to ride with Kelly, I'm bummed she isn't on the podium with us," Farrington said after the Grand Prix.
Clark crashed in both of her runs. Meanwhile, Farrington landed a backside 900, backside alley-oop 540, backside 540 tail grab, frontside 360 and frontside 720 indy for her third-place run. "My front 9 was a little sketchy in my run, but what can you do?" she said. "I don't think I was riding my best, but I always have a good time at the Grand Prix and that's really what snowboarding is about."
Jiayu Liu of China won the women's snowboard halfpipe competition, while Shawn White took home the victory for the men.