Cassidy Jarrell is tightening up his DJ skills and rehabbing an ankle from a March injury. Alex Ferreira is studying for his business degree and training dryland.
Aspen freeskiers, including the aforementioned U.S. pro team members, aren’t sitting around waiting to hear details of how the 2010-21 competition season, including the X Games, will look.
Because the organizers still don’t know how or if the 2021 X Games Aspen, scheduled for Jan. 28-31, will fly this year.
“We think it would be powerful to pull off an event of this caliber in this, our 20th year, but only if it can be done safely and thoughtfully,” said John Rigney, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president, on Wednesday.
“Right now we are focused on putting together the essentials of an incredible athletic event, and we’ll address other potential additions as the situation evolves,” he said. Those additions could include the concerts that have grown in popularity over the years, sometimes overshadowing the athletics.
Would organizers consider a spectator-less X Games, as it’s often been called the perfect made-for-TV event anyway? Rigney didn’t say.
“We are working with ESPN and Pitkin County, looking into options to provide a safe event that provides elite winter sports athletes the typical world-class competition venues at Buttermilk and gives skiing and snowboarding fans worldwide an amazing viewing experience. We will be flexible and fluid with our new reality as the safety of the athletes, staff, spectators and the community will remain our top priority,” he said.
Asked if the organizers considered outright canceling X Games this year amid all of the COVID-19 restrictions, Rigney said, “We’ve been lucky, as for two decades X Games has played a pivotal role in globally marketing Aspen Snowmass to a highly sought-after younger demographic. X is an integral part of our brand, fills the resort each January and always provides tons of vitality and excitement in the sports we love.”
World Cup halfpipe and park
More clarity for the FIS World Cup freeskiing season is expected to come into focus later in September when the ski federation convenes Sept. 30 — Oct. 2. for its fall meetings.
“That will determine much of the World Cup season,” said Andrew Gauthier, the U.S. Team’s marketing and communications director for freeski and snowboard.
“As a national governing body we are looking to FIS for guidance,” he said.
Currently, World Cup freeski events in the U.S., at Copper Mountain, Colorado, and Mammoth Mountain, California, remain on the schedule.
The ski federation’s decisions won’t directly impact how the X Games operates.
“As an independent event, we have no affiliation with FIS,” said Danny Chi, ESPN spokesman.
Chi said, “We continue to closely monitor COVID-19 developments as we evaluate the upcoming event season. The safety of the athletes, staff and spectators remain our top priority.”
The Dew Tour’s Summit County stop this season is also unconfirmed. The tour event for skiers and riders stopped at Copper Mountain Feb. 6-9, but has not decided what a return to snow during the pandemic would look like .
“In partnership with Copper and POWDR, we are in ongoing discussions to bring Dew Tour back to Copper in 2021,” said vice president and general manager Courtney Gresik.
Staying on the continent
Last month, FIS announced that all alpine World Cup races in North America — Killington, Vermont, Beaver Creek, Colorado and Lake Louise, Alberta — would be canceled for this season and the alpine ski tour concentrated in Europe to reduce travel during the pandemic.
That kind of a decision is not anticipated to happen to the freeskiing/riding tour, as many of the sports top athletes and venues are in the Western U.S., including the popular Buttermilk superpipe.
“We do feel there is an opportunity to feature freeski and snowboard World Cup events in North America this season,” said U.S. Skiing’s Andrew Gauthier.
“There could be efficiencies as it relates to the presence of non-FIS sanctioned, elite-level events that may be held in North America, resulting in a cluster of competitions that reduces travel and caters to the bubble concept,” he said.
Gauthier reiterated, “U.S. Ski & Snowboard is working closely with the International Ski Federation [FIS] and our domestic freeski and snowboard World Cup venues to determine what the 2020-21 competition season could look like.
Cassidy Jarrell’s best run last year was under the lights at X Games, having received a last-minute invitation as an alternate, a dream for anyone but especially for Aspen’s hometown boy.
While recovering from injury, Jarrell missed a U.S. Ski Team summer camp at Timberline, Mt. Hood, and will also not travel to Switzerland, beginning Sept. 19 for the next on-snow camp at the Saas-Fee Stomping Grounds Park.
The 20-year-old athlete and Aspen native said he’s had time to think about tricks he wants to work on this season and “getting my run back.”
Tuesday’s snow fired up Jarrell for the season and if he had been 100% health-wise, would have likely joined friends making some September turns.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty but I’m doing my best to prepare for a full competitive season,” Jarrell said.
He will continue to work with Peter Olenick, 2010 X Games gold medalist and coach/director of the P.R.O. team and foundation. Olenick suffered a blow through the pandemic, losing the Korean athletes he has been coaching because of travel restrictions. This season Olenick will continue to work with skier Tristan Feinberg of Aspen.
Alex Ferreira, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist in halfpipe, was unavailable for an interview Wednesday, “as he is focusing all of his time and energy into training and school,” according to the U.S. Team’s Gauthier. Ferreira is bound for the training trip to Switzerland, which includes a quarantine period in Austria.
Younger athletes down the pipeline, including those with Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, will need to wait a little while longer to see what their winter holds.
“As with much of the world, we are unsure of what the next few months will bring,” said Katie Houser, AVSC’s director of communications and marketing.
“We will make the most of the direction we receive from Aspen Skiing Co. and our sports’ governing bodies in regards to both hosting and traveling to events.
“As always, our priority is the health and safety of our athletes. We feel incredibly fortunate to have the resources that we do right here at home to provide world-class training regardless of potential travel limitations,” she said.
Courtesy of Madeleine Osberger
She is interim editor of the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Madski99