The best and worst of New Zealand, with young star Aaron Blunck
A Crested Butte, CO native, seventeen-year-old Aaron Blunck turned heads last season, bagging his first major-league podium (a 2nd place finish at the Copper stop of the Grand Prix) and making his debut appearance at X Games Aspen (7th place) and Tignes (11th place). With a handful of impressive finishes under his belt, Blunck skied his way to a 4th place AFP overall ranking for 2013, and 5th place in the year-end halfpipe standings.
Carrying momentum from his breakout year, Blunck kicked off the 2013/14 competition season with a 2nd place finish in halfpipe at the Winter Games NZ, on August 17, at Cardrona Resort. This week, we check in with Aaron to discuss his recent success, his stay in New Zealand and the road ahead.
Congrats on taking the silver at Winter Games NZ. The weather wasn’t optimal, of course, but all competitors must battle the same conditions. How does it feel to get on the podium at the first event of the season?
It feels amazing to make the podium for the first contest of the season. It is always great to start off the year with a big confidence booster, and to get stoked up for the rest of the season.
You were looking strong in the pipe. Had you been doing any training in the off-season?
I have been doing a lot of training, including on-snow and off. I have been going to the gym as much as possible. I also went to Mt. Bachelor and Whistler to do some skiing and training.
The Winter Games NZ mark the first contest in the season of freeskiing’s Olympic debut. How much discussion is there among the athletes about Sochi? Any more than usual?
There wasn’t much more talk about Sochi than normal. It, of course, is on everyone’s mind and we constantly think about it, but the amount of talk hasn’t changed.
How about among the coaches? They’re equally, if not more, vocal about what’s at stake this season.
The coaches are a little more vocal about the Olympics because they want what is best for us, so they are trying to get it more and more into our minds. They also want us to stay healthy, so they are helping us keep our heads on straight.
You mention Sochi is “on everyone’s mind.” Would you say a potential Olympic berth weighs heavy on your mind?
Having the potential of making the Olympics definitely sits in my mind, but I try not to think about it a lot, because I try and just think about skiing and having another fun, good year. I have changed my mindset a little bit because of the Olympics, more in the way of training harder and staying smarter.
Switching gears, had you been down to NZ before?
Yes, I have been down here once before, last year.
Who have you been hanging out with down there, off the hill?
I have been hanging with a variety of different people. Most of my time has been spent with the Vail Ski Team, who I am staying with, and I’ve also been hanging with a bunch of people from the US and BVI Ski Team.
What are three things you cannot travel without?
My wallet, cell phone and hat.
What are the best three things about NZ, in your opinion?
The meat pies, being on snow, and the Instagrams I have been getting!
The worst thing?
The fog and clouds.
Do you dig the ladies’ accents?
I can dig some of them!
Do the ladies dig American boys?
Well, there aren’t that many chicks in this town, at least that I have seen, [laughs] so I am not sure.
Why haven’t we seen any skiers produce a Lord of The Rings spoof edit from NZ?
[Laughs] I am not sure if any of us have ever thought about that. I may just have to start that up.
How long will you be Down Under? Are you going to compete in The North Face Freeski Open of New Zealand?
I am down in New Zealand until September 2. I unfortunately did not get a spot for the [Winter Games NZ] slopestyle, but I will be doing both pipe and slope in the Freeski Open.
Where to next?
Next, I am headed back to Colorado, moving out of my house in Crested Butte and over to Vail to finish my senior year of high school, which I cannot wait to [be done with.]
Do you plan to stop at any of the big film premieres this fall?
I would like to stop by and check out some of the new movies, because ever since I was younger I have always loved watching the new ski movies to get stoked for the winter.
What movies are you most looking forward to seeing?
I definitely can’t wait to see McConkey, because he still to this day is the best.