Hanna Faulhaber’s dream season just got a little bit dreamier. The Basalt High School senior has received her first official invite to compete at X Games Aspen in January, a major step for the rising halfpipe skiing star.
The 17-year-old made the announcement Tuesday evening on Instagram, complete with pictures of herself as a young, brightly-clothed child hanging around the Buttermilk Ski Area halfpipe prior to a past X Games competition.
“As u may be able to tell X Games has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl in my purple onesie,” Faulhaber wrote on Instagram. “It is a big reason why I compete in the halfpipe. Thanks @xgames for making my dream come true.”
The invitation is hardly a surprise considering Faulhaber’s recent success. On Friday, she finished third at Copper Mountain’s Dew Tour for her first major podium, and a week earlier had finished fifth at the Copper Grand Prix. Both of those events were official U.S. Olympic team qualifiers, and the Dew Tour podium all but assures Faulhaber a bid to the 2022 Winter Olympics with only a single halfpipe qualifier remaining.
X Games is not a World Cup nor an Olympic qualifier and often includes a much more select field of athletes. With a month to go until the event’s return to Buttermilk, Faulhaber has been added to a list that currently includes seven others for the women’s halfpipe skiing contest, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, the first night of X Games.
The list also includes rising Chinese/American sensation Eileen Gu, Estonian superstar Kelly Sildaru and reigning Olympic champion Cassie Sharpe of Canada. Great Britain’s Zoe Atkin, Canada’s Rachael Karker, China’s Fenghui Li and California’s Brita Sigourney round out the current lineup.
The U.S. Olympic ski and snowboard teams will likely be announced sometime around or before X Games, with the Winter Games set to start Feb. 4 in Beijing. Based off the three qualifiers so far, Faulhaber and Sigourney look set to make the trek to China. After that, the roster remains relatively fluid with only the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix from Jan. 6-9 remaining to qualify.
Faulhaber’s recent run of strong performances goes back to last spring when she was a surprising fourth at the world championships, also held at Buttermilk back in March. A week later at the Aspen Grand Prix and first U.S. Olympic team qualifier, she had to withdraw after a hard crash during training, but has made up for it with her performances at Copper Mountain the past two weeks.
Faulhaber, who grew up skiing with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, is poised to add her name to a list of recent local athletes to have competed in both X Games and the Olympics. Alex Ferreira, the reigning Olympic silver medalist in men’s halfpipe skiing and a two-time X Games Aspen champion, tops that list. Fresh off back-to-back wins at both the Copper Grand Prix and Dew Tour, Ferreira is among the gold-medal frontrunners for X Games and the upcoming Olympics.
The Roaring Fork Valley’s Torin Yater-Wallace, who has since retired from competitive halfpipe skiing, is an X Games icon who competed in both the 2014 and 2018 Olympics. Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell, who remains in the thick of the Olympic team chase although will need a magical run or two at Mammoth to get to China, made his X Games Aspen debut as a halfpipe skier in 2020.
Halfpipe skiing has only been an Olympic sport since the 2014 Games — halfpipe snowboarding made its debut way back in 1998 — with Nevada’s David Wise having won both Olympic gold medals for the men. Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman won Olympic gold for the women in 2014, followed by Sharpe’s win in 2018. Bowman has since retired from the sport.
Next up for the halfpipe skiers is a World Cup event in Calgary held around the New Year. Faulhaber said she plans to compete; the Canadian contests are not official U.S. Olympic team qualifiers. After that, athletes will travel to Mammoth and then X Games, before the lucky few will make their way to China for the Olympics.