Three U.S. Olympic qualifiers announced for freeski, snowboard ahead of Games |

Three U.S. Olympic qualifiers announced for freeski, snowboard ahead of Games

Aspen's Alex Ferreira competes in the men's freeski halfpipe final at the U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup on Sunday, March 21, 2021, at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen. It was the first of the Olympic qualifiers ahead of the 2022 Winter Games.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Monday announced three freeski and snowboard Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the February Winter Games in Beijing.

Steamboat Springs will kick off the season with the Visa Big Air at Steamboat Resort from Dec. 2-4. This will include snowboard big air qualifying on Dec. 2, freeski big air qualifying on Dec. 3, and finals for both events on Dec. 4. It will be the first and only big air qualifying event ahead of the Olympics; snowboard big air is making only its second appearance at the Games, while freeski big air will be new to this year’s Olympics.

“Steamboat’s Olympic heritage runs deep and we’re excited to honor our longstanding partnership with U.S. Ski & Snowboard in hosting the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota event leading up to the 2022 Olympics,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski Resort, in a news release. “Producing Olympians is part of who we are, so this was a natural fit for Steamboat to kick off the qualifying event calendar ahead of the Winter Games.”

The U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain will return from Dec. 8-11 with the first halfpipe competitions. Freeski halfpipe qualifications are Dec. 8 and the finals are Dec. 10. Snowboard halfpipe qualifications are Dec. 9 and the finals are Dec. 11. Copper Mountain also is scheduled to host Dew Tour from Dec. 16-19, although that contest hasn’t been announced as an Olympic qualifier, as it was ahead of the 2018 Games.

Finally, the U.S. Grand Prix will return to Mammoth Mountain in California from Jan. 6-8, with both halfpipe and slopestyle Olympic qualifiers. Mammoth had been scheduled to host the first Olympic qualifying events last season, but those contests were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s when Aspen stepped in to host the first Olympic slopestyle and halfpipe qualifiers last March at Buttermilk Ski Area, right after it hosted the world championships.

“The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix has been the beacon of Olympic qualification fervor for more than two decades, and we are thrilled to bring this series back to Copper and Mammoth’s amazing terrain,” U.S. Ski & Snowboard Freeski and Snowboard Director Jeremy Forster said in a news release. “Those two resorts combined with the Olympic history and top-notch facilities at Steamboat Ski Resort for the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota will make for an outstanding Olympic qualifying process. We can’t wait to announce the athletes who will represent Team USA in Beijing this winter.”

All events are contingent on local and state health guidelines surrounding the pandemic. No information has yet been announced on whether or not fans will be able to attend in person.

Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck competes in the men's freeski halfpipe finals of the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday, March 21, 2021, at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are scheduled to begin Feb. 4. According to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release, “additional Olympic selection events will be announced prior to the start of the 2021-22 season.”

Snowmass Ski Area had been one of the Grand Prix and Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the 2018 Winter Games. Buttermilk remains scheduled to host ESPN’s annual X Games from Jan. 21-23; X Games is not an Olympic qualifier.

Among Aspen’s top Olympic hopefuls is 2018 Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira. The halfpipe skier finished sixth in the first qualifying event hosted by Aspen last spring, where he was fourth among Americans. Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck won that event, while Nevada’s David Wise — the two time reigning Olympic gold medalist — was fourth and Winter Park’s Birk Irving was fifth.

Last spring’s world championships in Aspen were not directly part of the U.S. Olympic qualifying process.

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