Aspen comes together to celebrate with Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira | AspenTimes.com

Aspen comes together to celebrate with Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira

On the gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain on Friday, Alex Ferreira promised he was "still Alex."

Sure, an Olympic silver medal has changed a few things for the Aspen-raised halfpipe skier, but all in all, he remains the same good-natured kid who enjoys spending time on the trampoline at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club as much as anything.

"It's been so good being home. I love it here, obviously. It hasn't been normal, though," Ferreira said with a laugh. "Just being (at the Olympics) was an honor in itself. Representing America and representing Aspen in the best light possible was what my goal was."

When Ferreira hopped off the Silver Queen Gondola at the top of Ajax, he was instantly bombarded by dozens of his friends and fans. They were there to celebrate his recent accomplishment, which put him into rarified air in the Aspen community. While the ski town has produced its fair share of Olympians, very few came home with a medal.

This was reason enough for Aspen Skiing Co. to host a celebration Friday, complete with an autograph session and a "ski parade" led by Ferreira back to the bottom.

"There are a lot of cool things about being mayor of Aspen, but nothing more than the pride I felt watching Alex represent us on an international stage," Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said.

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On behalf of the City of Aspen, Skadron made a proclamation that Feb. 22, 2019, would be "Alex Ferreira Day." Feb. 22, 2018, was the day of the men's ski halfpipe finals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where Ferreira finished second to Nevada's David Wise, one of his close friends.

Skico's Rich Burkley also did Ferreira a solid, presenting him with a free lifetime ski pass. Skico's Tyler Lindsay, AVSC's Eric Knight and Ferreira's longtime coach, Elana Chase, all spoke during the short presentation as well.

"I've always known Alex would be a champion at the highest level. He always stood out," Knight said. "In over 20 years I have not seen an athlete who has embodied our core values more so than Alex. Alex will be a hero and an inspiration for years to come and a reminder to us all that obstacles, adversity and bad luck doesn't define us."

At 23, Ferreira is close to wrapping up what has easily been his best season as a professional skier. Four years ago he was the first person left off the U.S. Olympic men's ski halfpipe team ahead of the Sochi Games. He came close to calling it quits at the end of the 2016-17 winter season, with injuries and disappointing results mounting up.

Ferreira then re-discovered his love for skiing while touring through Europe last spring, and with that came a new level of professionalism that he said helped bring him to another level of skiing this winter. He won Dew Tour in December, took second in front of the hometown fans at the Snowmass Grand Prix in January, won silver at X Games Aspen two weeks later, and then took home Olympic silver in Pyeongchang. With that most recent medal, he's become somewhat of a hot commodity.

"To me it's just another contest, but there is so much more credential behind it where you can actually get a lot more things done," Ferreira said of his Olympic medal. "I've seriously never been this busy in my life. I didn't know it was possible to be this busy. But like I said, I kind of like that. It's kind of my style."

What's Ferreira been up to since the Olympics? Well, he got to be on "The Dr. Oz Show," attend a few Oscar parties and landed a few more key sponsorships that could help carry him through the rest of his skiing career.

Getting to celebrate with his hometown supporters wasn't really possible until Friday on Aspen Mountain. And he's getting back on a plane for Europe as soon as Saturday, where he's set to compete in the final World Cup competition of the season Wednesday and Thursday in Tignes, France. With 282 points, Ferreira leads the men's ski halfpipe standings on the World Cup and is one good run away from taking the season-long title, the cherry on top of a breakout season.

He plans to stay in Europe for the next couple of months where he hopes he can finally find time to reflect on his recent success. And while the 2022 Winter Olympics are a long way off, Ferreira said it's certainly a possibility if his heart is still in it.

"Last year I was going to find my love for skiing again in Europe for that two-month period, and now I'm already loving skiing so much I just think it's going to go up from there," Ferreira said. "If I keep loving skiing by 2022 and loving halfpipe skiing, then I will absolutely do it. If I don't love it, then I won't participate. It's as easy as that for me."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

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