Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell ready for halfpipe skiing season, whenever that will be
Cassidy Jarrell doesn’t know all the benefits that come with being on the top tier of the U.S. ski team. He does know about the health insurance, which is a major plus in today’s landscape, and hopes the elevated status will make the sponsors happy.
Other than that? Well, he’s about to find out.
“The status is a cool thing. I’m on the U.S. freeski pro team. It’s a big thing to say and I’m excited for that,” Jarrell said. “They called me back in March and it was a lifelong dream. It’s what you work for. It’s a big stepping stone of this is what I do and this is who you are becoming.”
Aspen’s Jarrell, 21, is entering his second winter season on the U.S. freeski team, where he competes in halfpipe. Last year he was on the rookie team, but was promoted to the A team this season, joining the likes of fellow Aspen native Alex Ferreira, Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck and two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise, among others.
Results weren’t over the top for Jarrell last season, where he finished in the top 10 only once, a sixth-place finish at the World Cup season finale in Calgary back in February. But a newfound comfort level for big competitions is finally taking root, as is a love for the adrenaline that comes from being on the big stage.
“I don’t think I used to love competing, but now I actually like it,” Jarrell said. “Performing in front of people is always cool. But it’s the nerves and the feeling you get driving to the contest and you only get four runs before to warm up and then you’re in. I think why I like it so much is it’s your best level of skiing. It’s unexplainable the feeling you get after doing a run that you’ve worked so hard to try and learn and then actually put it down.”
Jarrell made his X Games debut a year ago. Originally just an alternate, he was added to the qualifier’s start list at the last second and put down a good run, but did not advance to finals. Ferreira held off Blunck a couple of days later to win his second straight X Games Aspen gold medal.
And the way the calendar currently sits, X Games Aspen in late January could be the first significant halfpipe contest of the season. The season had originally been scheduled to begin with the Copper Mountain Grand Prix in late December, but that event was canceled because of rising COVID-19 numbers in the state. And X Games itself is far from guaranteed, as ESPN, which runs the event, has yet to formally announce its plans.
This is fine with Jarrell, who is still overcoming a pretty serious leg injury from the spring that required surgery. He should be good to go whenever that first contest does come around, but also believes the rest of the athletes will be ready, as well.
“It’s going to be a pretty hard contest season, because everyone is going to be able to train so much and is going to be so hungry,” Jarrell said. “Every athlete loves competing, like every artist loves to perform. Whenever that first competition is, it’s going to be one hard contest, because everyone is so hungry to get back and compete.”
One of the youngest on the A team this season, if Jarrell continues to progress he should become a factor in the race for the few available Olympic team spots ahead of the 2022 Games in China. This year’s late-season World Cup at Mammoth, should it not be canceled because of COVID-19, will kickoff the Olympic qualifying process, one that extends into the 2021-22 season.
Jarrell was hardly a blip on the radar during the 2018 Olympic push, which ended with Nevada’s Wise winning his second gold medal and that silver medal from Ferreira.
“Why not push it, give it my all?” Jarrell asked of going for the Olympic team. “I could maybe get another one in, but this is prime time, so I’m going to push it super hard and it’s definitely on my mind. It would be a dream come true. It came up fast. I remember talking about this when the other Olympics was coming up when there was no chance at doing it.”
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Winter sports practices were officially allowed to begin last week, Jan. 18, after the Colorado High School Activities Association was given a variance from the state’s health officials. Games were allowed to be played starting this week.