Blunck, Irving look to challenge Ferreira, Wise in men’s ski superpipe final
Birk Irving outdueled Aaron Blunck to win Friday’s qualifier. Now both will have to outduel Alex Ferreira, David Wise and Nico Porteous in Sunday’s men’s ski superpipe final to wrap up X Games Aspen.
“It’s definitely a little stressful having to do a qualifier, but honestly, once you get through that qualifier the stress is done, you are in finals,” Blunck said Friday. “The stress is off now I’ve made it. Now it’s time to go enjoy the weekend and have some fun.”
Blunck, 23 of Crested Butte, only has one X Games medal in his career that goes back to 2013 when he took seventh in the Buttermilk superpipe. Although, his lone medal was gold in 2017, arguably the biggest win of his career. He’s also the two-time reigning world champion.
Along with the rest of the eight-man field, Blunck will have to deal with the new format that is being used across most ski and snowboard events at X Games this year. Sunday’s 7 p.m. final will be a 30-minute jam session judged on overall impression opposed to a single run.
“The jam format is totally my kind of thing. I’m really into it. I think it makes you need to be versatile and show you can drop in on one wall and go switch and go forward off the other and change it up,” Blunck said. “We get so caught up with that one-run format, so everyone works for that one run. It’s really cool to be able to go into it all and do everything and change who you are as a skier and show who you are at the same time.”
Winter Park’s Irving, 20, has a couple of X Games appearances under his belt, finishing a career-best fourth in 2017. He is in the midst, however, of one of his best seasons, winning the season-opening World Cup in New Zealand back in September. He was fourth at the Copper Grand Prix and fourth again at a World Cup in China last month.
Irving also won the Mammoth Grand Prix to close the 2018-19 competition season.
He’s coming in with an open mind in regards to this year’s X Games format.
“It’s new and I really like it. It just promotes variety and shows how good everyone is good at skiing,” Irving said Friday. “Rather than trying to focus on doing one run the whole time, everyone is out there trying to put different runs down and showcasing the tricks they have. I think it’s really cool and I like it a lot.”
Irving and Blunck have a lot to overcome to get on the podium Sunday. New Zealand’s Porteous, only 18, is last year’s X Games bronze medalist and also has a bronze from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Nevada’s Wise, 29, has the best resume of everyone, one that includes four X Games gold medals and two Olympics golds.
Then, of course, there is Aspen’s Ferreira, the reigning X Games Aspen gold medalist and reigning Olympic silver medalist.
“Training has been going great,” Ferreira said Thursday. “We had an awesome training Monday and Tuesday night and I feel like I’m skiing well and I’m happy. When you are skiing well and you are happy, then usually good results come.”
Also competing in Sunday’s ski superpipe final are Canadians Noah Bowman, who won silver back in 2012, and Brendan MacKay, as well as Boulder’s Lyman Currier, a 2014 Olympian. Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell, 20, made his X Games debut Friday in the elimination, finishing sixth with only the top five advancing to finals.
Led by Ferreira, Wise and Blunck, all three men with X Games gold medals, Sunday’s show is set to be wild.
“It definitely helped me get into it a little bit more in the competition mindset and be able to go into finals just knowing what I need to do and what I can do better, so I’m really stoked about it,” Blunck said of the qualifier. “The pipe is really good this year. It’s actually probably the best it’s been in the last couple of years. It’s been really fun. The vibes are really high. Everyone’s been killing it, so it’s been a good time overall.”
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For Basalt, one of the preseason frontrunners in the Western Slope League, Friday’s loss puts its playoff hopes in jeopardy, while Aspen’s loss to the Bulldogs all but eliminates it from postseason contention.