Taylor Seaton 5th at Grand Prix halfpipe ski competition in Copper | VailDaily.com

Taylor Seaton 5th at Grand Prix halfpipe ski competition in Copper

Avon skier Taylor Seaton airs out of the halfpipe on Friday, Dec. 7, during the U.S. Grand Prix World Cup event at Copper Mountain. Seaton finished fifth.

COPPER MOUNTAIN — Aaron Blunck tried out a new technique to take the top spot at the Grand Prix, while Taylor Seaton stuck to the basics for a solid finish in fifth.

The halfpipe season officially got underway with the annual Toyota U.S. Grand Prix of freeskiing and FIS World Cup this week in a post-Olympic year filled with uncertainty about what's next in the sport.

Blunck, a 2014 Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy graduate, opted to hit the halfpipe walls only four times, but made a big splash in debuting a new trick in the Friday, Dec. 7, halfpipe finals, a right-spinning double cork 1440.

COUNTING ON IT

Seaton, of Avon, was the first of 10 competitors and notched the early score to be at 86 with his flurry of six different spins in different directions.

On Blunck's first attempt, he put all four of his tricks to his feet, but didn't top Seaton's score. Many assumed Blunck was being penalized for doing less tricks, but Blunck didn't second guess his strategy.

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"I've been trying the last few years to push five hits, finally this year I started working with Peter Olenick and he was like 'Dude you don't got five hits, let's be honest, you always push it, you tore your obliques at X Games because of it, let's just go with four hits,'" Blunck said.

In debuting the four-hit finals run to a score of 82, Blunck said he tried not to get discouraged.

"I knew I could do better," he said. "My switch dub 10 at the top was sketchy, I barely held the grab, and I had a really bad hand drag on the 14."

In cleaning up those mistakes, Blunck was rewarded with a score of 96, a big score in any 100-point contest.

"Very hyped," Blunck said of the start to the season, adding that his new goal now is to win every halfpipe contest he enters in 2018-19.

"That's the plan," he said.

'STYLE AND VARIETY'

Meanwhile, Seaton said he was also happy to see his brand of skiing rewarded by the judges in 2018-19.

"I'm really happy with the score I got, I think it shows that there's still room in this sport for someone who goes for style and variety," Seaton said. "It also gave me some hope for the rest of the year as there's a few new elements I'd like to bring to my run and to the sport in general."

Seaton made headlines a few years ago when he was the first person to ever land all four regular spinning 900s in a halfpipe contest, spinning both left and right off both the left and right wall. With both left and right spinning switch — backward facing — tricks in the run, as well, Seaton says he tries to remind the younger skiers that there's many different ways to spin in the halfpipe. The only thing left to bring now, Seaton said, is the remaining two spins — called switch "alley oop," or up the halfpipe, facing backward. Very few competitors were performing frontward alley oop tricks on Friday and no switch alley oop spins were performed.

"With how much effort these kids are putting into learning their tricks, I keep thinking someone is going to start doing both-way alley oop 900s," Seaton, 28, said. "But then I try an alley oop 900 my unnatural way and I remember how hard it is to do."

That trick, the unnatural alley oop 900, tripped Seaton up on both his second and third runs in the best-of-three contest. In his first run, he had opted for one less rotation in an alley oop 540.

"I definitely had room to improve," Seaton said. "Which makes me feel pretty good about this result. I think it's going to be a fun season."