Now a national champion, Faulhaber talks about surprise season in ski pipe
This was supposed to be a feeling out season for Hanna Faulhaber, not so much one to conquer the competition.
“Going into Rev Tour, me and my coaches were, ‘We’re going to go experience it, not really expect much.’ Then as the season progressed it got better and better,” Faulhaber said. “It all built up and made my confidence level go up.”
A freshman at Basalt High School, the 14-year-old Faulhaber recently completed her first season competing at the FIS level, where she predominantly is a halfpipe skier. Expectations were realistic, for lack of a better word, for Faulhaber entering the season. After all, there’s no reason to think a newbie to the FIS stage could compete with kids that have four or five years of experience already.
Then, she started winning. She won the women’s halfpipe contest on Feb. 12 at Copper Mountain, a Revolution Tour event, for her first major victory. Only a few days later, she finished third at the Aspen Freeskiing Open, a Nor-Am Cup event, which was arguably a more impressive result than her Rev Tour win.
On top of it all, she also competed in January’s FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Leysin, Switzerland, where she finished sixth in the finals.
To cap it off, Faulhaber competed in the USASA National Championships earlier this month at Copper Mountain, where she won the women’s halfpipe contest for her first national championship. She even took third in the slopestyle contest a day later.
While FIS requires athletes to be at least 14 to compete, USASA events, including nationals, do not have those age requirements, allowing Faulhaber to have competed at nationals last year.
“It meant a lot because last year it wasn’t as good,” Faulhaber said of winning this year. “I hit my head a little bit and then the ski patrollers grabbed me and said, ‘You have a concussion,’ and they would let me go in the pipe again but wouldn’t let me compete. It was quite a redemption this year.”
Faulhaber also battled with a concussion this year, hindering her learning the trick that set her apart at nationals, a flare, which is basically a backflip with a small rotation. She landed the trick for the first time in competition at nationals.
“There were a few girls that were doing a flare. But just a week prior to going to nationals I decked the halfpipe and fell back in and got a concussion doing a flare,” Faulhaber said. “I started doing it in the bag in December to get to snow in January. I would also slip out onto my hip so I gave it a big break and then came back to it and started landing it, then got concussed.”
Healthy at nationals, it all came together. Now she will look toward her second season at the FIS level with even more possibilities out there. She plans to compete in many of the same events, but could add something a bit bigger, such as the Copper Grand Prix, or other similar Nor-Am or World Cup events. She’ll also compete at the New Zealand Freeski Open. Faulhaber’s mother is from New Zealand, a place she has been many times, but this would be her first significant competition there.
Faulhaber said for her to compete at that higher level she will need to work on getting more air.
“Amplitude is a big one,” she said. “I have a problem with speed checking, because I’m a little nervous going into a trick. I speed check and then I lose amplitude as the run goes on.”
Just something else for the rising star to conquer.
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This past season brought with it Hailey Swirbul’s greatest individual result as a professional cross-country ski racer. But any real satisfaction she received always came when racing alongside her teammates, notably during world champs.