Faulhaber, Ferreira qualify through to halfpipe skiing finals at world champs | AspenTimes.com

Faulhaber, Ferreira qualify through to halfpipe skiing finals at world champs

Hanna Faulhaber airs out of the halfpipe during the women’s freeski qualifications during the FIS World Championships at Buttermilk in Aspen on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Faulhaber finished fifth and will compete in the finals on Friday. (Tamara Susa/Aspen Snowmass)

Fresh snowfall overnight made for a sticky superpipe in the morning, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber in her world championship debut on Wednesday at Buttermilk Ski Area.

The 16-year-old was fifth in the women’s halfpipe skiing qualifier and will compete for the world title in Friday’s final.

“I feel amazing. It was pretty slow in the beginning, but that last run was super fast and I got to ski how I like to ski, going big. So it really felt good,” Faulhaber said. “It’s so nice to be able to compete at home, just sleeping in my own bed, being around all the people I love, having my family be able to be out here.”

Also advancing to Friday’s final on the men’s side is Aspen’s Alex Ferreira, who is competing in his second world championship but first in his home halfpipe. He finished ninth in Wednesday’s men’s halfpipe skiing qualifier to make Friday’s 10-man final.

Wednesday’s events helped kick off this year’s world championships at Buttermilk, which only became the host about a month ago after the original event in China was canceled and Calgary backed out as a replacement. While general skiing and snowboarding is still going on at Buttermilk, public spectating of the competitions is not allowed, making for a much different vibe than any other worlds to date.

“I’m really happy to be back. My only chance (to qualify for the Olympics this season) other than this this year was at X Games,” said Canada’s Rachael Karker of ESPN’s signature comp also held at Buttermilk. “But super happy to be back in Aspen in the same pipe and competing with all my friends.”

Karker was the top qualifier in the women’s halfpipe contest, scoring 94.25 on her second of two runs. Her first run score of 93 would also have been more than enough to hold down the top spot. Great Britain’s Zoe Atkin was second with 87.75 and Russia’s Valeriya Demidova was third with 85.50.

California’s Brita Sigourney qualified fourth with 84, the first of three straight Americans, including Faulhaber in fifth and Vermont’s Devin Logan in sixth (80.25). The fourth American competing in the 15-woman field was Winter Park’s Svea Irving, who scored 67.75 to finish 10th, with only the top eight making finals. Irving was a late replacement for California’s Abigale Hansen, who had originally been named to the U.S. squad.

Faulhaber scored 81.25 on her second qualifying run, a slight improvement over the 75.25 she put down on her first run. The last time she competed in the Buttermilk halfpipe was at the Revolution Tour stop two weeks ago, which she won. Now, she’ll hope to repeat that success on the world championship stage come Friday.

“Just land a clean run and possibly make it to finals,” Faulhaber said of her goals coming into the contest. “That’s happened, so just go from there and put together another clean run in finals and see where it goes.”

China’s Eileen Gu, who became an instant superstar in her three-medal X Games Aspen debut in January, qualified seventh with a 77. Gu won the women’s halfpipe skiing contest at X Games, edging Canada’s Cassie Sharpe. Sharpe, the reigning Olympic champion, did not compete at worlds, nor did reigning halfpipe world champion Kelly Sildaru of Estonia. Both were injured during their time at X Games earlier this season.

Japan’s Saori Suzuki was the eighth and final qualifier into Friday’s final at worlds, scoring 74.25. Canada’s Amy Fraser (69.5) was the first skier out, qualifying ninth.

Ferreira sneaks into men’s halfpipe final at worlds

Ferreira joins a star-studded list of contenders to advance to Friday’s final, including Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, who is looking for a world championship three-peat after also winning the titles in 2017 and 2019.

“Super stoked to be at a place I know really well,” said Blunck, who won X Games silver for the second straight year back in January. “Definitely stoked. It was nice to start the day off with a little bit of snow showers. I’m stoked going into finals. I typically don’t like to qualify in first and I’m not in first, so it’s perfect.”

Canada’s Brendan MacKay was the top finisher in the 22-man qualifier, scoring 94.25 on the first of his two qualifying runs. Winter Park’s Birk Irving, coming off his first X Games podium this year, was second with 92.50 and Canada’s Noah Bowman was third, scoring 90 on his first run.

“It felt really good,” MacKay said. “It was a bit of a gamble for everyone today, just given the variable conditions. So I decided to try to go for more of a technical run I haven’t yet landed cleanly in training, and luckily I was able to get my grabs and put it down and I’m really happy I went for it.”

Reigning X Games champion Nico Porteous of New Zealand was a quiet fourth in qualifying, scoring 88.75, with Blunck right behind him in fifth with 87.75. Canada’s Simon D’Artois was sixth (86.75), two-time Olympic champion David Wise of Nevada was seventh (86), France’s Kevin Rolland was eighth (77.25), Ferreira ninth (74.25) and Switzerland’s Rafael Kreienbuehl was 10th (68.25).

Ferreira, who had a safe first run of 71.50, finished eighth in his only other world championship appearance, hosted by Park City, Utah, two years ago. He’s a two-time X Games Aspen champion and the reigning Olympic silver medalist.

“It snowed last night, so the pipe was a bit different,” MacKay said. “It was a bit slow, and we were all struggling a bit in training. First run, Noah Bowman just laced such a sick run, put up a really high score and I feel that started the event off with a bang. It got everyone super fired up to get after it.”

Just missing the finals cut in 11th was Boulder’s Lyman Currier (67.50), while Great Britain’s Gus Kenworthy, who formerly represented the U.S. in competition out of Telluride, was 12th with 67.25. Norway’s Birk Ruud, who won three medals at the Aspen Rev Tour stop two weeks ago and was a brief roommate of Ferreira’s during his time here, was 14th with 60.25.

Finland’s Jon Sallinen, who previously trained with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club and currently works with Carbondale’s Peter Olenick, was 19th with 48.75.

Friday’s men’s and women’s finals are scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Olympic Channel and streamed on Peacock.


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