Aspen’s Ferreira getting revved up for his second world championships appearance
Back-to-back contests with a career’s worth of promise on the line have Aspen’s Alex Ferreira fired up. The halfpipe skier has managed to shine on the sport’s biggest stages in recent years and they don’t get much bigger than the world championships.
“It’s definitely going to be intense, but it always is intense. I’m an intense guy, so let’s do this thing,” Ferreira told The Aspen Times on Saturday. “I’m going to take it a little different this time. I’m just going one day at a time and I’m going to put as much positivity with each foot forward and just do my best.”
The homegrown local will have the rare opportunity to compete at worlds in his own backyard when Buttermilk Ski Area hosts the prestigious event this week. Held once every two years, the world championships were supposed to have been held in Zhangjiakuo, China, last month, but were ultimately moved to Aspen, and rather last second, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Buttermilk also hosted X Games in January, the only event Ferreira has competed in so far this season. He finished seventh in his bid to defend his back-to-back gold medals and will look for better results come world championships. Usually, skiers have at least the Copper Grand Prix in December to warm up with, but that contest was among the many cancellations this season related to COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s just been a thing in my career where I’ve never really done well in the first event of the year,” Ferreira said. “You got to get used to those nerves. It’s such an intense moment. It’s such a whirlwind of emotions, and it’s hard to prepare for that until you do it.”
This will be Ferreira’s second time competing at world championships. He also skied in the 2019 contest hosted by Park City, Utah, where he finished eighth. Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck won that day to defend his world title from 2017 in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
Ferreira was only a discretionary pick for worlds by the U.S. ski team this season, joining Blunck, Winter Park’s Birk Irving, Nevada’s David Wise and Boulder’s Lyman Currier on the five-man halfpipe squad. Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber was named to the U.S. women’s halfpipe ski team for worlds along with Vermont’s Devin Logan and Californians Brita Sigourney and Abigale Hansen.
“I’m super grateful to be able to have the opportunity and the chance to compete,” Ferreira said. “That does mean they have faith in me, and that’s an interesting position to be in. I’ve never really been discretioned on. I’ve always earned my way, so I feel like it’s a little bit of a thank you.”
Ferreira didn’t necessarily struggle at X Games in January, as he was able to hit a lot of his tricks, but was unable to completely finish any of his runs. Among the challenges was competing without his longtime coach, Elana Chase, by his side. Chase is currently in China coaching their national team ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be hosted by Beijing.
“Just didn’t land exactly how I wanted. It’s OK. It’s part of the game,” Ferreira said of X Games. “It’s the first time I haven’t been at the top of the contest without my coach Elana Chase. That was a little difficult, but I’ve been through one so I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to handle it this time.”
If the world championships weren’t enough, Buttermilk also will host a World Cup and U.S. Grand Prix event immediately following worlds. Both events have weight when it comes to Olympic qualifying, while the Grand Prix will be the first direct U.S. team qualifier for the 2022 Games. Racking up podiums is the name of the game during the Grand Prix events for American athletes, as that’s their ticket to China.
Ferreira competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics, winning silver behind Wise’s gold, after a career-defining stretch through the Grand Prix contests during the last Olympic cycle. This included a podium finish at the 2018 Grand Prix in Snowmass.
“There is always pressure on everyone, regardless of if you have done well or if you haven’t done well,” Ferreira said. “It’s so cutthroat being from America and being named to Team USA for the Olympics. Everyone is under pressure. I’m under pressure. It’s what you can do with that pressure. Hopefully you can turn it into diamonds. It’s part of the game of sport. Nobody knows what is going to happen. That’s what makes it exciting.”
The halfpipe skiing qualifiers for the world championships are scheduled for Wednesday, with finals on Friday. The Grand Prix qualifying is scheduled for March 19, with those finals set for March 21. The Olympic Channel will air the freeski halfpipe finals live from the world championships.
Because of the pandemic, spectators are not allowed on venue for either event. This is a negative for someone like Ferreira, who often has a massive cheering section at X Games, but he understands it’s necessary to hold the events at all.
“Every day is a gift that we get to compete and showcase our talents,” Ferreira said. “In my career, especially at Aspen, I totally feed off the fans. I ski for me, obviously, but I also ski to show people. I’m a showman, I’m an entertainer, I’m a performer. And I like that. I like that aspect of being an athlete. I think it’s fun.”
Wednesday, March 10: SB slopestyle/ski halfpipe qualifying
Thursday, March 11: SB halfpipe/ski slopestyle qualifying
Friday, March 12: SB slopestyle/ski halfpipe finals
Saturday, March 13: SB halfpipe/ski slopestyle finals
Sunday, March 14: SB big air qualifying
Monday, March 15: Ski big air qualifying
Tuesday, March 16: SB/ski big air finals
*Grand Prix runs from March 18-21
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.