Aspen halfpipe skier Cassidy Jarrell named X Games alternate for the first time
With a somewhat disappointing three competitions all to show for his season so far, Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell didn’t believe he would get that first X Games invite. But, while he still has no guarantee he’ll get to drop in, the halfpipe skier was recently named an alternate for next month’s showcase event at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
“This is what I’ve worked for my entire life,” Jarrell told The Aspen Times on Friday. “I didn’t think I was going to make it because I fell in New Zealand. I didn’t make finals in Copper and I didn’t make finals in China. And we were like, ‘Well, my shot is pretty busted.’ Then I got an email.”
Jarrell, 20, is trying to become the next to join a list of Roaring Fork Valley halfpipe skiers to make the big stage, a list that includes reigning X Games gold medalist Alex Ferreira and two-time Olympian Torin Yater-Wallace, who is not competing this season. Being an alternate means Jarrell likely won’t get to compete unless someone else drops out between now and the Jan. 24 qualifier, but simply being an alternate is still a big step for the rising star.
“I’m very excited to have this opportunity, even as an alternate,” Jarrell said. “If things fall in place, they fall in place. It’s a hard position to be in because all my friends are skiing and someone has to get hurt in order for me to go in, or pull out, so I hope that no one gets hurt but if someone gets hurt, I get to go in. It’s a tough spot.”
Still, it’s a spot Jarrell wasn’t sure he’d get to be in. He entered the season as one of many on the X Games radar, but thought he needed at least one strong result to push him firmly into the picture. His first major competition was a September World Cup in New Zealand, where he was 18th and didn’t make finals.
Then came the Copper Mountain Grand Prix earlier in December, where a tame and regrettable qualifying run again kept him out of finals. His latest competition was the Dec. 19 World Cup in Secret Garden, China — host of the 2022 Winter Olympics — where he was 16th and, again, missed finals.
“I did one of my best runs in China, but I missed my grab on my right dub 12 (double cork 1260),” Jarrell said, “and I just learned it so it’s definitely new. And missed it. They crushed me for it.”
Part of the reason Jarrell was named an alternate was because X Games is bringing back eliminations — or qualifying — to the event this winter in Aspen. In recent years its been a straight-to-final competition with a much smaller field, but with qualifying back the door is open for more up-and-comers like Jarrell to sneak into the mix.
“It made it nearly impossible for the underdog to get into X Games,” Jarrell said of the competition without qualifiers. “Skiing in the competition is a very high level, but the amount of landed runs are so small that it’s never really a good battle between everyone.”
Even with local star Yater-Wallace out of the mix, the men’s ski superpipe contest is loaded per usual, with Ferreira, two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist David Wise and two-time reigning world champion Aaron Blunck all set to compete.
Jarrell won’t hold his breath on getting the final nod to drop in for the actual competition, but he’s as close as he’s ever been to realizing his goal of competing at X Games in what is essentially his backyard.
“Getting closer and closer to the Olympics, my mind has changed a little bit. But it was always more important to me than the Olympics,” Jarrell said of X Games. “To be in front of your hometown in what people call the ‘Superbowl of skiing’ and have literally every single person you know at the bottom of the halfpipe is one of the greatest feelings.”
X Games Aspen 2020 is scheduled for Jan. 23 to 26 at Buttermilk. The men’s ski superpipe eliminations are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, while the finals are two days later in the Sunday night finale.
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