Clubhouse Chronicles: Chatting with local pro halfpipe skier Hanna Faulhaber

By the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club
Hanna Faulhaber trains during AVSC’s glacier camp on Friday, June 11, 2021, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Hanna Faulhaber, 16, is working toward finishing up her high school education (early) through Basalt High School and is traveling the world as a professional halfpipe skier.

On the heels of her most successful season, culminating in her nomination to the U.S. pro halfpipe ski team (moving up from the U.S. rookie team), the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club sat down to talk about skiing, role models and travel with the rising star and current AVSC athlete.

Q: How did you get into skiing?

Hanna Faulhaber: I started skiing when I was 2 – my parents put me into programs at Snowmass very early on. I joined Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club when I was 4 and just kept progressing program by program.

Q: How old were you when you realized you wanted to commit to skiing?

HF: Nine or 10 — that’s when I realized it was really for me. I’d always wanted to be in the halfpipe — even when I was a tiny kid — then of course seeing X Games only made me want to spend more time there.

Q: What impact did having events like X Games at your home mountain have on your development as a young skier?

HF: Without X Games being here, I wouldn’t have understood as much of the sport as I did at such an early age. I eventually got to slip the halfpipe, which was a whole new experience! We were able to go into the athlete area. I remember seeing Gus Kenworthy and Alex (Ferreira) and Torin (Yater-Wallace). I didn’t see a lot of the girls at the time and wish that I had seen more of them. Now that I am a high-level athlete, that representation is important to me. I want to make myself accessible to younger athletes.

Q: Who were your role models when you were younger?

HF: My role models when I was younger were definitely Torin and Alex — hometown heroes! I also looked up to Sarah Burke and Brita Sigourney. I remember when Snowmass World Cup was here in 2018, I was 12, and I saw Brita (Sigourney) and Maddie (Bowman) skiing around. I really wanted to talk to them. I ended up riding up the lift with Maddie, Brita and Cassie (Sharpe) and they encouraged me to stick with the sport and keep doing it. That memory recently resurfaced, and I realized how far I have come … farther than I would have thought possible.

A 4-year-old Hanna Faulhaber makes a run through the halfpipe. Courtesy photo.

Q: Who do you look up to now?

HF: When an athlete joins the United States rookie team, the team assigns you a mentor from the pro team. Brita was actually assigned as my mentor, which was amazing as I’ve obviously looked up to her since I was little. When you first get on the team you don’t really know what to expect. When I first met her — as teammates, after the Snowmass chairlift ride — she gave me the full rundown of how the team works, what to expect in terms of travel, personal sacrifices, the sponsorship and financial aspects of sport, and more. She was a great help and introduced me to all of the big things that I definitely wouldn’t have known to ask about.

Q: What has been your proudest moment to date?

HF: World champs at Buttermilk this season will probably be a highlight of mine for ages. We had really challenging weather during qualifiers — it snowed a lot and it was really hard to get speed. One of my strengths in halfpipe is my amplitude, and it’s hard to go big without speed. I am working on bringing more difficult tricks into my run. To not be able to rely on my strength was tricky, but I was still able to come out strong and qualified fifth for finals. I went into finals feeling confident … and then my boot buckle broke at training that morning. My coach, Greg, helped me swap it out and refocus. I ended up getting fourth, and was the top American, which was amazing. I could not believe it. It was nice because the older girls, now my teammates, came up to me and said they were really impressed with my skiing. It was so nice as obviously I once looked up to them — I still do. Shortly after, I was pulled for my first drug test.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of competing at a higher level?

HF: Balancing school with all the travel and competition is hard. I’m on the verge of being done with high school, which is great. A lot of my teammates have already graduated. I work really hard on my school work during the summer. I know I could be at the pool or hanging out with friends, but knowing I will have less schoolwork during the competition season motivates me to focus and get it done. I am enrolled at Basalt High School, I take one class there to stay connected to the school, my teachers, and my peers. The rest is online, which is nice because I can do it on my own schedule. I only have my capstone project and a civics class left.

Q: What are you doing for your capstone project?

HF: I am volunteering at AVSC! Right now, I am helping out at our summer camps at Buttermilk Glacier and on the trampolines giving the kids tips, helping them progress and building their confidence. I am always trying to be there for the younger kids coming up in the freestyle/freeski program, to be someone they can look up to and ask questions. I never really had that connection with an older athlete in the club growing up. Being able to form a bond with these younger kids and be a good role model for them is important to me.

Hanna Faulhaber trains on the trampoline on Friday, June 11, 2021, at the AVSC clubhouse in Aspen.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Q: What are you most looking forward to this season?

HF: My main goal is to go to the Olympics. I am looking forward to the journey to get there. I know it will be busy, but I am excited for the ride. I feel more prepared now. We have a lot of training camps, I’m on snow right now at Buttermilk and will head to Mt. Hood soon before training trips to New Zealand and Europe prior to competition season. I have a while to prepare, work on my halfpipe run, and hopefully go into this competition season feeling confident and ready.

Q: Off the hill, what have you learned through your experiences as a high-level skier?

HF: Being able to travel and learn about the individual culture of each place is such a cool thing to experience. Even understanding the difference between Switzerland and Austria — I used to think all European countries were similar. I think that will help me develop good perspective — seeing how things are done differently in other parts of the world and learning new things while traveling that I can incorporate in my life at home.

Q: Finally, say you end up on a chairlift with a younger athlete. What would you tell her?

HF: I would tell her pretty much exactly what Brita, Maddie and Cassie told me! I would tell her to stick with it, keep going and believe that she could get to where I am today. It’s worth adding that I’d tell her obviously if you don’t feel like it’s right for you anymore then find something that you love because you want to be happy doing whatever you do — that’s important!

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors and Sports sections.