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Young skiers and snowboarders find role models at the Winter X Games in Aspen

Girl Scouts watch the Winter X Games in the crowd at Buttermilk Mountain on Jan. 28.
Jamie Schwaberow
Courtesy of X Games
Girl Scouts watch the Winter X Games in the crowd at Buttermilk Mountain on Jan. 28. Some young local athletes say they see the extreme skiers and snowboarders competing in the event as role models.

Perched on the sidelines of the SuperPipe at this weekend’s Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain, 9-year-old freestyle skier Soren Elisha already has a pretty good idea of who he’d like to be when he grows up.

“I want to be like Alex Ferreira,” Soren said. He considers Ferreira, Aspen’s hometown six-time X Games medalist, his “idol.”

Bundled up in his Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club jacket, Soren isn’t the only one who looks up to the extreme skiers and snowboarders of the X Games.

But one young local skier probably has a closer view of action than most. Lucy Faulhaber is the younger sister of Basalt’s two-time X Games competitor and last year’s ski SuperPipe bronze medalist Hanna Faulhaber.

“I thought that was really cool, having an older sister in it to look up at, and see the opportunity of doing that when I'm older,” 12-year-old Lucy said. “And just watching it in general is so cool because it’s at a home mountain that we grew up at.”

Lucy isn’t sure she’ll be competing in the X Games anytime soon. She’s a ski racer, not a freestyle skier, with AVSC.

But she still sees these athletes as role models, she said at the base of Buttermilk after Sunday’s competition-viewing. Having the X Games in Aspen gives this event a special feel.

“It’s not like a normal competition, when you have the nerves in you,” she said. “It’s just so calm and so energetic at the same time, and it’s just like one of the best events out there.”

Harvie and Daxon Berger, who also participate in AVSC programming, agree.

“It’s just the different tricks and how amazing the people are that live here,” 11-year-old Harvie said.

“It’s awesome how our home, or our town, holds the best skiers in the world,” Daxon added.

Hanna Faulhaber, now 18, recognizes the position she’s in after so many years spent looking up and slipping down the pipe herself as an AVSC athlete.

“Especially for the sport that I do, there's not many girls coming up, so it's important for me to kind of be there for the young ones and try and bring more into the sport,” she said at an X Games press conference on Jan. 26.

She helped coach younger athletes over the summer at AVSC, and said she makes a point to greet the kids who help “slip” the SuperPipe at the X Games to create a smoother surface for competitors.

“Just kind of saying hi and trying to make their day is important to me,” she said.

Faulhaber ultimately finished fifth in this year’s women’s ski SuperPipe on Jan. 28.

And one athlete with local ties ended up on the men’s ski SuperPipe podium Sunday, though not the one many might have predicted. Finnish skier Jon Sallinen, who graduated from Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School and has also participated in AVSC programs, finished third.

Alex Ferreira opted out of the competition halfway through, after crashing on both his first and second runs Sunday night. He finished eighth but still elicited rallying cries of support and encouragement from his fellow competitors and from the crowds.

At the press conference last week, Australian snowboarder Scotty James had suggested that the gravity-defying, gasp-inducing individual feats of action sports almost require that camaraderie among athletes in order to succeed.

“It's no walk in the park out there,” James said. “It's dangerous. It's technical. It's hard. It's scary. … Everyone just respects each other, and, again, at the end of the day, there's a line between being competitors, but also making sure that we all understand each other.”

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.