2019-20 U.S. Freeski Team Season Highlights
Every winter ushers in new athletes, challenges and triumphs, and the 2019-20 competition season was no exception. The men and women of the U.S. Freeski Team found success across World Cup, Youth Olympic, and elite-level competition, once again solidifying the U.S. as a serious contender at the highest level of slopestyle, halfpipe, and big air freeskiing. The U.S. Freeski Team earned 20 FIS World Cup podiums, 12 podiums at X Games and Dew Tour, as well as five Youth Olympic Games medals.
Although 17 different athletes collected top-three finishes this season on the professional circuit, a few names rise to the top with consistently strong performances throughout the winter.
Following an impressive 2018-19 season, pro team member Alex Hall picked up right where he left off, immediately stringing together three-consecutive wins in big air at X Games Norway 2019; the Modena, Italy World Cup; and perhaps his pinnacle win of the season at the Visa Big Air presented by Land Rover in Atlanta, Ga. Alex executed a walk-off switch left double 1800 Buick to win the event and leave his legacy at SunTrust Park. He finished second overall in the FIS Big Air Cup Standings.
Alex was able to top three big air podiums before the New Year, prior to setting his sights on the slopestyle course. He went on to earn three more podiums at the debut of Dew Tour at Copper Mountain Colo. (slopestyle) as well as X Games Norway 2020 (knuckle huck and slopestyle) at Hafjell Resort. In addition, Alex also found the spotlight as the focal point of multiple film projects including Magma (filmed with teammate Hunter Hess) and Faction’s feature-length film The Collective. His well-rounded approach to freeskiing earned him the prestigious title of the 2020 Newschoolers Skier of the Year. Alex capitalized on every element of his craft including big air, slopestyle, rail-jams, film, and even the new X Games knuckle huck event.
Also excelling from the U.S. Freeski Slopestyle and Big Air Team was Colby Stevenson, who gained a new level of confidence in 2020, which materialized into numerous podiums. Colby collected top-three finishes across three different World Cup slopestyle events including Seiser Alm, Italy; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. With the final World Cup slopestyle of the season in Silvaplana, Switzerland canceled due to Covid-19 precautions, Colby ended his season in second-place overall, but the top American, in the FIS Slopestyle Cup Standings. Teammates Deven Fagan, Cody LaPlante, and Nick Goepper all joined Colby in the top-10 finishing second, seventh, ninth, and 10th respectively.
Outside of World Cup competition, Colby made history at X Games Aspen 2020 by becoming the first X Games rookie to win gold in freeski slopestyle. Not only did Colby earn gold as his first X Games medal, but he doubled up by winning the inaugural ski knuckle huck event to complete his rock star X Games debut.
Other notable performances from the men of the U.S. Freeski Slopestyle and Big Air Team included rookie team athletes Deven Fagan and Cody LaPlante, each earning their first-ever World Cup podiums. Deven took third-place on home soil at the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. stomping a 1440 with authority on the last jump. Cody thrived in Europe rounding out the podium in third-place in Font Romeu, France, where he beat out a slew of Olympians and World Champions. Not only did Cody hold his own against an incredibly strong field, but he also did it in his first slopestyle competition back from ACL and meniscus surgery.
Speaking of comebacks, Cody wasn’t the only one to work his way back from rehab. No one did it better than Whitefish, Mont. local Maggie Voisin. Maggie decided to make her comeback from ACL surgery at the biggest event of the year: X Games Aspen. As Maggie’s fan’s and teammates watched her drop into the slopestyle course at Buttermilk Mountain, any lingering doubt that she had fully recovered quickly dissipated and her streak began. She gradually improved in every X Games competition for the remainder of the season earning bronze in Aspen slopestyle, silver in Norway’s big air, and gold in Norway’s slopestyle. However, Maggie’s post-recovery accomplishments were not limited to X Games. She also collected podiums at the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix and Dew Tour. Her success was a direct result of her work ethic and drive to be back at the top of the sport. To close out the season in Norway, Maggie stomped a beautiful double cork 1260 safety as the perfect cherry on top of an amazing comeback contest season.
Also representing the women of the U.S. Freeski Slopestyle Team was Caroline Claire, who won the Seiser Alm, Italy, World Cup slopestyle. She stomped a switch double cork 900 and took home her third podium in three years at Seiser Alm. Caroline also earned the Newschoolers Breakthrough Award. The all-female segment in The Collective was named the "Ladies Choice Best Female Edit," in which Caroline had a significant part. In addition, although she did not reach the World Cup podium, rookie team member Marin Hamill finished second overall in the FIS Cup Standings, a remarkable accomplishment for the 18-year-old.
U.S. Freeski athletes continued to display their grit in the halfpipe with multiple athletes rebounding from injury. Both Olympic medalists David Wise and Brita Sigourney wasted no time finding their way back to the podium, each earning second-place at the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo. David was returning from a broken femur and Brita from a tibia and fibula spiral fracture. Although on a different recovery timeline, Lyman Currier found the podium again for the first time following an ACL injury in 2014. He earned two third-place finishes at the Secret Garden, China, and Mammoth Grand Prix World Cups.
However, throughout the entire season, it was veteran Aaron Blunck who took the reins. Aaron finished in the top-three at five of the seven events he entered, displaying pure dominance and poise. Although his season was full of highlights, none compared to his winning performance at the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., where all three of his runs would have won the event. Head freeski judge Steele Spence described Aaron's runs as, “three of the best pipe runs of all time. They were the hardest runs and he executed them perfectly.” Aaron’s consistency would earn him the FIS Halfpipe Crystal Globe and his second X Games Aspen medal.
Alex Ferreira would earn X Games Aspen gold and became the first Aspen local to ever win back-to-back gold medals in any X Games discipline. In addition, fellow Colorado local Birk Irving also continued to prove himself as a contender, claiming podiums at the first and last halfpipe World Cups of the season. To kick off the season, Birk won the Winter Games NZ landing a never-been-done double-cork-720 that defied gravity. Birk closed out the season at the Calgary Rodeo World Cup in Canada with a third-place.
Although the 2019-20 season was cut short, fans around the world had the chance to experience the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 in Switzerland, where young American freeskiers thrived and made their presence known. Combined, U.S. Freeski athletes earned five medals (two bronze, two silver, one gold). U.S. Rookie Team members Hunter Carey and Hanna Faulhaber earned second and third respectively in the halfpipe. Teammate Hunter Henderson took third in slopestyle, while pro team member Kiernan took home a gold in slopestyle and a silver in big air.
After strong performances by the rookies at the Youth Olympic Games, it’s no surprise that they also topped the NorAm Cup Standings. Hunter Henderson and Rell Harwood claimed the NorAm slopestyle and big air titles, while Hanna took home the halfpipe title.
The 2019-20 professional freeski competition season resulted in success at every level across all disciplines for U.S. athletes. There is no question as to the depth and breadth of the U.S. Freeski Team moving into the first of two Olympic selection years. The U.S. Freeski Team is primed and on track to set the tone as we take one step closer to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic season.