Gu rolls on, Ferreira and Feinberg to rep Aspen in halfpipe ski finals at Grand Prix
Like they’ve done for years now, the U.S. men’s halfpipe skiers represented well Friday on the big stage of the U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
And repping the hometown in a big way were Alex Ferreira — a name the locals know well — and Tristan Feinberg, someone still looking for that next-level of respect.
“Tristan has been hot on everybody’s heals for quite a number of years and his time is now, obviously,” Ferreira said. “He landed a fantastic run. I’m super proud of him. It’s just awesome to see another Aspenite crushing it.”
Ferreira, a savvy veteran of 26, and the 17-year-old Feinberg were among the 12 to advance out of Friday’s men’s freeski halfpipe qualifier and into Sunday’s finals at the Grand Prix, which is the first official Olympic qualifier for American athletes ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in China.
Of the 12 finalists, seven are from the United States, further proof of the country’s strong standing in the discipline.
“It’s so surreal. I have to pinch myself all the time,” Feinberg said of competing alongside many of his heroes. “I feel like I’ve been slept on in the Aspen community for a while. And I’m happy to show Aspen what I can do.”
Feinberg, who had never qualified for a final in his four prior World Cup starts, scored 84.75 on the first of his two qualifying runs in the second heat on Friday to finish fourth. Canada’s Brendan MacKay led that heat with 93, while Ferreira was second with 92 and Canada’s Noah Bowman third with 88.75. In fifth was New Zealand’s Miguel Porteous (84) and Boulder’s Lyman Currier was sixth with 83.25.
Ferreira, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, fell on his first run and could feel the heat prior to dropping into his second run, the weight of the Olympic qualifier becoming very real despite the Games being about a year away.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Ferreira said. “I fell on my first run and it’s our one and only Olympic qualifier for the year, so I had a lot of pressure on me going into that second run and I ended up landing it. I’m super proud and I’m super stoked and I’m super excited to put on a show Sunday for my hometown.”
Reigning X Games and worlds champ Nico Porteous continued his torrid run by scoring 93.25 on his first run to lead Heat 1. He opted out of the second run to stay off a still tender foot, which he broke skateboarding only days after X Games in January.
Nevada’s David Wise, the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist, was second in Heat 2 with 92.50, followed in third by Winter Park’s Birk Irving (91.75). Rounding out the qualifiers are Oregon’s Hunter Hess (89), Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck (87.50) and Switzerland’s Robin Briguet (86.50).
Avon’s Taylor Seaton was the first to miss the cut, finishing 13th with 86; the top six qualifiers per heat advanced. Colorado-born Gus Kenworthy was 15th (83.75), although his Olympic chances are good considering he’s representing Great Britain this time around.
Another local skier, Kai Morris, was 29th with 52.50. Finland’s Jon Sallinen, who previously trained with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, was 32nd with 42.
Photos: Women’s Halfpipe Skiing Qualifier
Gu once again leads the way in Grand Prix qualifier
China’s Eileen Gu led the women’s halfpipe skiing qualifier with 94.50. The 17-year-old has been untouchable in Aspen, with six medals in six events between X Games and world championships this year and has now led both the halfpipe and slopestyle qualifiers at the Grand Prix.
She’s still adding to her runs, which will make catching her in the finals this weekend incredibly difficult.
“I’m super stoked. I put two new grabs into my second run,” said Gu, who wouldn’t give any details on her plans for Sunday’s halfpipe final. “We’ll see. It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you.”
Canada’s Rachael Karker was second in qualifying Friday with 92.25 and Great Britain’s Zoe Atkin was third with 89. In fourth was Russia’s Valeriya Demidova (88.25) and in seventh was Japan’s Saori Suzuki (77).
The Americans filled the final spots, with Brita Sigourney (fifth, 87.50), Devin Logan (sixth, 84) and Abigale Hansen (eighth, 75.25) rounding out the qualifiers.
“I felt good. I’ve been hurting all week. I’ve had some knee issues, so I didn’t get much practice in,” the 31-year-old Sigourney said. She’s the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in women’s halfpipe skiing. “The two contests back-to-back have been an awakening, since we haven’t had much going on this season. So my body is definitely feeling it, but I’m just super happy to get these contests down. This is our Olympic qualifier, so it’s really exciting.”
Only 22 athletes started the qualifier, while Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber would have been the 23rd. The 16-year-old, who was the top American finisher at worlds, crashed hard in warm-ups on Friday and was taken away via sled in what appeared to be a lower-body injury and did not compete.
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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.