Aspen’s Ferreira repeats as X Games ski pipe champion in showdown with Blunck
Aspen’s love for Alex Ferreira doesn’t go unnoticed by the 25-year-old halfpipe skier. After all, he grew up in Aspen and never hesitates to talk about how much he loves his hometown.
And that is a big reason why he was so nervous to try to defend his X Games Aspen gold medal Sunday in the men’s ski superpipe final at Buttermilk.
“He was totally more nervous because he had to defend his title and he really wanted to be there for his fans and for Aspen. He wanted to be there for Aspen,” Ferreira’s mother, Colleen Delia, said after the competition. “This town is so good to me and to all of us. I’m just so blessed to live here. It’s the most amazing town and we do have a lot of family support. It’s wonderful.”
Ferreira achieved a lifelong dream last winter when he won his first X Games Aspen gold medal in front of his friends and family, beating two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise in the process. Sunday’s final was a duel between Ferreira and Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, and it came down to the final run of the 30-minute jam session.
The last to drop in and trailing Blunck, Ferreira could feel the weight on his shoulders.
“I was thinking, ‘This is a pretty big moment and there is a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. I got to compartmentalize that and do my best.’ And that’s what happened,” Ferreira said. “Absolutely a dream come true. Couldn’t have dreamt it better. I’m just so grateful and thankful everyone came down and we had such an awesome event.”
When the final standings were announced — there are no actual scores in the overall impression scoring system implemented at X Games this year — it was Ferreira back on top where he started, followed by Blunck and bronze medalist Brendan MacKay, an X Games rookie from Canada.
Blunck, 23, had only one previous X Games medal, a gold he won in 2017. He did enter as the two-time reigning world champion.
“He skied really well tonight and it was a good battle. I was just happy to have the opportunity to compete here at X Games,” Blunck said of Ferreira. “It feels amazing. I’m so stoked. Everyone out here killed it tonight and this new format, it’s so fun. It gives us an opportunity to be diverse, change things up and just go out and have some fun and just ski.”
MacKay, 22, was a surprise on the podium. Of the two Canadians in the eight-man final, X Games veteran Noah Bowman would have been the one most would expect to come away with a medal. After all, Bowman has twice been on the X Games podium, winning silver in 2012 and bronze in 2017. He was eighth Sunday.
Even MacKay had a hard time believing he was bringing an X Games bronze home with him.
“It’s kind of the dream. No other way to put it,” MacKay said. “I knew they were better than me. So I had my work cut out for me to keep up with them because they are so crazy good at skiing. Stoked I was able to land my runs.”
The athletes each got four runs in the jam session, and it was Ferreira leading most of the way. That is, until Blunck delivered on his final run, highlighted by a right side double-cork 1440 that jumped him ahead of Ferreira in the standings.
As the defending champion, Ferreira had the honors of being the last contestant to drop in. He had done little wrong over his previous three runs, but still trailed Blunck and needed one more good trip through the superpipe.
“He was solid all week. He worked out. He steamed. He ate super healthy and he meditated. He was just really chill,” Delia said. “I don’t know, he just got in the zone and did it. I was so proud. I knew he was going to do it. I just knew. But you always have that fear. I’ve been scared all week.”
Ferreira’s final run was nearly flawless and different from last year’s winning run, which included a pair of 1260s. Needing to keep up with Blunck, Ferreira pulled out his own version of the double-cork 1440, a trick he said he only recently learned. He paired that with a switch double-cork 1080 for his final two hits and apparently that’s exactly what he needed for gold.
“It hasn’t really been done that much and to be able to do it on the fourth and final run is a big deal,” said Ferreira, who also gushed about the fan support at the bottom of the superpipe. “It’s indescribable, because everybody wants me to win and wants me to do well and I can feel the energy, I can feel the aura and I can feel my mom and my friends and they just want me to do well and it rubs off, it really does. I’m just so grateful they came out.”
New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, last year’s bronze medalist as well as the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, was fourth Sunday. Winter Park’s Birk Irving, who edged out Blunck to win Friday’s elimination, was fifth, while Boulder’s Lyman Currier, a 2014 Olympian, was sixth. Wise, a four-time X Games Aspen gold medalist, was seventh, followed by Bowman.
Ferreira said the X Games repeat gold gives him fuel for the rest of the season. He hadn’t competed much this winter before Sunday, taking seventh at the Copper Grand Prix on Dec. 13 — won by Blunck — and 12th in a World Cup in China a week later, won by Bowman.
With the Mammoth Grand Prix scheduled for this week and Dew Tour, which is at Copper Mountain Resort this year, scheduled for early February, Ferreira has a renewed desire to compete.
“I gave it my whole heart and soul and I’m just grateful,” Ferreira said. “I didn’t do well in the first two events and quite frankly I didn’t really want to be at the last two events. It wasn’t that much fun. And this one I want to be at. And I’ve known from the past when I want to be at an event and I actually care about it, I typically tend to do pretty well.”
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In his bid to complete all 14 of the fourteeners that make up Nolan’s 14, Sean Van Horn climbed 43,225 feet over 92.8 miles in 45 hours, 57 minutes.