Aspen skier Alex Ferreira enjoying his post-Olympic, no pressure lifestyle
When Alex Ferreira won Olympic silver in February, he gained a peace of mind he maybe didn’t expect. The pressure of living up to his sponsors, his fans, his friends — it all faded away.
“I’ve kind of proven myself, so I have a little leeway now,” Ferreira recently said. “I’m just so much more relaxed. I don’t have this deep pit of anxiety wondering what is going to happen.”
The 24-year-old halfpipe skier from Aspen is coming off his best season as a professional. The success opened doors to Oscar parties, bigger sponsorships and a general celebrity lifestyle. While he has embraced some of that, Ferreira remains the same friendly kid who grew up with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. If anything, his success has allowed him to return to his true self without the worry of winning competitions to drag him down.
“He skis with a little bit of joy, and I think people can sense that,” said Elana Chase, who has helped coach Ferreira since he was 9 and was by his side in South Korea at the 2018 Olympics. “If you are then able to pick your head up and enjoy the sport a little more often, instead of always having your head down for the grind, is a really good place to be.”
Last season was stressful for all athletes. It was an Olympic season, and the pressure to make the national team was inescapable. In 2014, Ferreira was the first person left off the four-man team for the Sochi Games, something he had to chew on for four years.
It all came together for him last winter. It started with Dew Tour, where he got his first major win. That was followed by a runner-up finish at the Snowmass Grand Prix, an Olympic qualifier, and his first silver medal at X Games Aspen. He easily made the 2018 U.S. Olympic team, where he finished second to close friend David Wise of Nevada.
“It’s been a lot, but as soon as July rolled around, that’s when I felt things start to calm down,” Ferreira said of the whirlwind that followed the Olympics. “Now that I’ve reached this level, I want to enjoy it, as most people don’t get that opportunity.”
He spent much of his summer here in Aspen, working out, mountain biking and taking part in his favorite pastime — hanging out on the trampoline in front of the AVSC clubhouse. When the 2018-19 season came around, the stress of past years didn’t return with it.
He opened his season earlier this month at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix, finishing eighth in the 10-man final. He rallied Sunday back at Dew Tour in Breckenridge, where he won the men’s ski superpipe competition for the second consecutive season, holding off Wise and runner-up finisher Aaron Blunck of Crested Butte.
“To be honest, I thought everybody else had really good runs from what I saw in training, and I thought they were going to blow me out of the water,” Ferreira said of Dew Tour. “Sure enough, I just landed my first run and that score stuck. And that never happens to me, either, so I’m truly blown away. I’m really grateful to be healthy and happy and the win is like a cherry on top.”
It wasn’t all fun and games for Ferreira at Dew Tour, as before he dropped in for his first run in the modified halfpipe — which proved to be the winning run of the competition — he watched close friend and competitor Torin Yater-Wallace crash on his first run. The Basalt resident and two-time Olympian is likely out for the season because of that crash.
“To have it all rattled in one second and see your bestie go down so hard is pretty gut-wrenching to witness,” said Chase, a former AVSC coach who now works for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and remains close with Yater-Wallace. “It’s truly extraordinary that he put down a run, to be honest. It’s hard when it’s your friend, when it’s your buddy you grew up with. So it’s a little harder for Alex.”
While Yater-Wallace, who had surgery Wednesday, will spend the next few months recovering, Ferreira will be able to move on with his season in whatever way he sees fit. He’ll certainly compete in January’s X Games Aspen — it’ll likely forever remain his favorite competition — and is in a good position to make the U.S. roster for the world championships, hosted by Park City, Utah, in February.
Other than that, Ferreira plans to take things easy. He wants to spend more time chasing powder here in Aspen and working on making ski films. He might even take a heli trip at some point. The pressure of X Games and maybe even world championships could eventually make a return appearance, but none of that is on his mind right now.
“If I love it enough, then I’ll do it forever. If I fall out of love, I will re-evaluate,” Ferreira said of competing. “As far as skiing goes, success is elusive. There are so many accomplishments I want to achieve, but it just depends on what is feeling right and what is not right.”
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After getting the go-ahead from state health officials, CHSAA has given four sports the thumbs-up to compete this fall: boys golf, boys tennis, softball and cross country.