VSSA grad Aaron Blunck defends world championships title
Halfpipe skier with local ties makes history in Park City, Utah
PARK CITY, Utah — Aaron Blunck had to do something special to stand out.
Blunck, a Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy Class of 2014 graduate, was one of four American halfpipe skiers among 10 competitors in contention for the FIS Snowboard, Freestyle Freeski World Championships on Saturday. His first run was solid, putting him into third. But to defend the world championships gold he earned in 2017, Blunck had to pull out all the stops in his final run.
He dropped into Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort, flowing through the top section much as he had in his opening run, going from a switch left double cork 900 into a switch right double cork 1080, then a left double cork 900 down the pipe. Then he added his trump card, the right double cork 1440 he had first performed at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix in December, and flowed it into a switch alley oop flat 540 to finish his run.
The judges gave it a 94.2, and Blunck threw his hands up in excitement.
ONLY HALFPIPE SKIER TO DEFEND TITLE
But Blunck couldn’t truly celebrate after landing his big run.
He was still waiting for several athletes to finish, including Simon D’Artois, of Canada, and Blunck’s teammate, David Wise, a perennial medalist with a laundry list of difficult tricks in his repertoire.
“David Wise is a very, very competitive person, so you know he’s always gunning for the top spot,” said Blunck, who hails from Crested Butte.
That competitive streak had earned Wise, a native of Reno, Nevada, four X Games golds and two Olympic golds — all in halfpipe.
“Sitting down at the bottom, it’s hope for the best, expect the worst,” Blunck said.
Fortunately for Blunck, his fear was unwarranted.
Wise’s run was solid, earning an 86, but not enough to threaten the podium.
With Blunck’s final decisive run down the superpipe, he became the first skier to defend a halfpipe world championships title. And he recognized how fragile that title was.
“Whether it’s these guys or anyone else out there, anybody could win at any given time, it really just matters about the day, what’s going on in people’s heads,” Blunck said. “So to come out here and win in front of … home soil, I’m very stoked.”
He had earned the win, but it took all he had.
Among Blunck’s teammates, Wise and Alex Ferreira, of Aspen, had been cleaning up for most of the season, with Ferreira emerging from Wise’s shadow with a repeat Dew Tour win and his first X Games gold.
However finished eighth, just behind Wise, with a score of 84.20.
Taylor Seaton, of Avon, notched a score of 82.80 for 10th.
None of the Americans let their disappointment show after the competition.
“I’m glad I landed a run at all after crashing hard in practice right before the comp,” Seaton said. “I’m glad I got a score up on the board and wasn’t the one guy in the 20s from not landing a run.”
Ferreira said he’s walking away happy and healthy, and that’s all one can ask for.
“I’ve had a really great year,” Ferreira said. “I’m really happy to be healthy, and happy that I’ve been on top of the podium a few times.”
Ferreira said being a part of such a competitive U.S. squad is beneficial, even when he isn’t the one standing on the podium.
“It pushes us to go further, bigger, better and faster,” he said. “It’s really awesome to be part of one of the best teams, because you can really showcase your stuff, and you have people pushing you constantly.”
Wise concurred, saying the day’s skiing was “through the roof.”
“Any other day, if I had landed the caliber of runs that I had landed, I would have been on the podium today,” he said. “I felt like I got heavily deducted for some of my small, small mistakes. But sometimes you get points and sometimes you don’t. I’m still walking away today happy with how skiing as a whole performed and how I performed.”
Vail Daily staff writer John LaConte contributed reporting on this story