Faulhaber moves up to national pro team, earns AVSC’s top award for second time
Not long ago — as recently as the 2018 Olympic cycle — Hanna Faulhaber couldn’t help but go full-on stalker, chasing down the country’s best freeskiers during competitions. Now, as the next Olympic cycle arrives, the 16-year-old finds herself as a peer to those same women.
“When Aspen Snowmass held the World Cup here in Snowmass, I obviously went to that and followed the girls competing and looked up to them,” Faulhaber recalled Tuesday of the 2018 Olympic qualifying event hosted by Snowmass Ski Area. “I would try and find my way to be able to ride up the chairlift with them. Just to be on the team with them now is such a crazy thought to think of how far I’ve come.”
The main piece of that group, Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman, has since retired. But veterans such as California’s Brita Sigourney and Vermont’s Devin Logan are still around, and Faulhaber is among a small group vying for a 2022 U.S. Olympic team spot in halfpipe skiing.
Faulhaber, who attends Basalt High School and still trains with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, spent the past two seasons on the U.S. rookie team. But she was recently given the nod to move up to the pro team for this coming winter, a list that includes Abigale Hansen, Annalisa Drew and Carly Margulies. Roaring Fork Valley locals on the men’s pro halfpipe ski team are Alex Ferreira and Cassidy Jarrell.
“It’s definitely going to be crazy,” Faulhaber said of the upcoming Olympic season. “I’m a little scared and nervous. But I’m going to be training a lot this summer and fall. It’s crazy to think that goal of mine is actually in reach.”
Faulhaber only has three World Cup starts to her name, the most recent a Feb. 1, 2020, competition at Mammoth, where she finished seventh.
But she was named to the national team for the world championships this past season, which Aspen’s Buttermilk Ski Area hosted, and surprised even herself by finishing only one off the podium in fourth place, which was the best among American women that day. Sigourney was fifth and Logan sixth, an event won by China’s Eileen Gu, the year’s breakthrough star.
Unfortunately, Faulhaber did not compete in the Olympic qualifier a handful of days later at Buttermilk after crashing hard during a warm-up run. She suffered a pretty bad concussion, but otherwise walked away relatively unscathed.
“I did all the right things to make sure my head was OK before getting back on snow,” Faulhaber said.
One thing that makes Faulhaber stand out is the fact she still actively trains with the local ski club. AVSC’s Greg Ruppel remains her primary coach, and the club recently named Faulhaber its Andy Mill Award winner for the second straight year, which goes to the club’s top performing athlete from that past winter.
She also won the club’s Pursuit of Excellence Award for freestyle, with Ben Oldham winning for Nordic, Sean Connelly for snowboard and Chase Kelly for Alpine. The Andy Mill Award winner is chosen from the Pursuit of Excellence winners.
“It’s hard to really describe how thankful I am for all of their help throughout the years and everything they have done for me,” Faulhaber said of AVSC. “The main reason is definitely Greg. He’s been such a big part of my whole journey and I really wouldn’t be here without him. We just share a great bond and he knows what I need for training. It’s always nice to have him there.”
Faulhaber has a short break ahead of her before training will ramp up in a hurry. She’ll join her teammates at a camp at Oregon’s Mount Hood later this month before heading to New Zealand for training later in the summer. She holds dual citizenship through her mother, which allows her to visit the country even during the pandemic, albeit after a quarantine period.
On her to-do list this offseason is to figure out a 900, something that should be easy enough considering the massive airs she gets out of the halfpipe.
“I have great amplitude,” she said, “but I definitely lack some of the bigger tricks, which would really help me out.”
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Comedy, dog sculptures and pet-friendly happy hours come to Base Village. Plus, the Elk Camp gondola opens June 21.