Aaron Blunck Talks Olympic Qualifying Pressure

Aaron Blunck

Aaron Blunck was on a tear in 2017. After winning gold medals in freeski halfpipe at X Games and the world championships, he ended the season as the top-ranked skier in the AFP’s halfpipe standings. In the months ahead, Blunck will try to parlay that momentum into a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. He previously competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where he placed seventh.

 We caught up with Blunck at The North Face’s Olympic uniform unveiling in New York City to find out what he’s been working on, how the U.S. team is handling the pressure of the Olympic season, and who he thinks is on the come-up.

What was your initial thought when you first saw the Olympic uniforms?
Right when I first saw the uniforms, I was astonished. The North Face put so much hard work into it. They were calling us constantly, trying to get everything dialed in. After the last Olympics, I think they learned a lot. [Freeskiing] is based so much off of style, they kind of took that and were like, okay, we want to make sure that they’re the steeziest-looking outfits that we can make. So it’s super cool, everything is super simple, yet the technology is there, and the look is the style that we’re all looking for, so it’s great.

You had a chance to give feedback during the process. What were you pushing for?
At the last Olympics, they did the multi-tone jacket and the bright red pants. My thing was, skiers and snowboarders are more into just one tone. So my input was, we still want the function and all the technical stuff that you guys provide, but at the same time, we also want it to work and look stylish. Just a more simple version of everything. So The North Face did a great job, and everything turned out great.

What have you been up to these last few months during the offseason training period?
We started off with a camp in the springtime, early summerish, out in Mammoth. From there, had about a month off in June, which was awesome. I got to go home, rest, recover. Then went to Mount Hood. I was out there for three weeks, most of the kids were out there for only a week. After that, we had a couple weeks off, and then we flew down to New Zealand. Did a 10-day camp before the [World Cup event at Cardrona], then all of us did the competition. Then after the competition, we ended up going back home for a couple weeks, and then we were in Switzerland.

What’s been your main focus in training so far?
My main focus has just been on changing up some grabs, going big and just flowing a little bit better. It’s something that I feel like I’ve lacked on in the past, so it’s nice to come back and work on those couple subjects.

With more competition experience under his belt, will Aaron be able to top his podium position at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics games? Photo: Stonehouse (click to enlarge)

It seemed like you figured out a run that was scoring really well last year, but I figure you’re going to want to change some things up here and there.
Yeah, totally. So I’ve been working on some things, but not necessarily tricks as much as changing up grabs, changing up rotations of the trick a little bit. Just to make it more unique so I’m not doing the same thing that multiple other dudes are doing as well.

With Olympic qualifiers coming up and the U.S. having such a deep team, how is everyone feeling right now? Are people feeling the pressure, or are they a little ambivalent about making the Olympic team?
I think a lot of people are definitely stressing out about it. For me, I’m just kind of thinking about it one day at a time. If I make the Olympic team, awesome, that’s the cherry on top of the cake. But to me, it’s not going to change me as a skier. I love just skiing in general, so if I make the team, awesome; if I don’t, I don’t. I’m still going to ski. So that’s kind of how I’m looking at it right now, and it definitely takes my mind off the whole Olympic process and just gets me stoked on skiing in general.

Are there any guys on the team who you think are flying a little under the radar right now?
Yeah, definitely. As you know, Torin Yater-Wallace, he’s a major threat always. David Wise, major threat. Gus Kenworthy, major threat. But one kid that’s really standing out to me would be Birk Irving. He’s a young gun, 18 years old, and he’s in a part of his life right now that we were at four years ago. He’s got nothing to lose from this. As he gets older, he’ll start becoming more and more of a well-known skier, but at the time right now, he’s just a young gun out there charging every day. He’s a great addition to the U.S. pro team, so I’m stoked to have him onboard and travel with him. He definitely adds some character to the team.

Between now and the Copper Grand Prix (the first halfpipe selection event of the season), what are your plans?
Between now and Copper, just go back home, hang out, get to the gym a little bit and just get ready for the season.

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