Now that the Winter X Games are a wrap, the next and final stop on the #RidetoPyeongChang is South Korea, where the 2018 Olympic Winter Games commence on February 9. Anticipation is at a fever pitch, with six hometown heroes representing the Roaring Fork Valley (humble brag: our predictions from who would make the cut from our Holiday Issue were spot on).
To celebrate, Aspen Snowmass is playing host at an official send-off party at Gondola Plaza on Wednesday, January 31 (3:30 p.m.). So get crafty with your poster boards and don your best red, white, and blue apparel to pump up freesking athletes Torin Yater-Wallace and Alex Ferreira, alpine athletes Wiley Maple and Alice McKennis, and cross country athletes Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman before they take on the Taebaek Mountains.
Two Team USA members took the podium this past weekend in the LifeProof Men’s Ski SuperPipe. Alex Ferreira scored the silver with a 91.33 on his third and final run, while Torin Yater-Wallace snagged a bronze with a 86.66. It was the first time ever the best friends turned teammates have shared the X Games spotlight, a monumental moment to which Ferreira told the Aspen Times, "Those are my boys. Are you kidding? I'm on the podium with my best friends in Aspen. I've been waiting for this since, I don't know, I was 9 years old?"
Nevada's David Wise won the gold by throwing down four double corks in the pipe, including a switch right side double cork 1080 and a massive right side double cork 1260, becoming the first person to spin double corks in all four directions in a single run.
ICYMI in print, here's the rundown of our local competitors (all Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club alums) and where to follow them during their Olympic runs*:
Instagram Handle: @torinyw
The Aspen halfpipe skier won his first X Games gold at age 15 and has earned six more medals since. At Sochi in 2014, on the mend from two lung collapses and a pair of broken ribs, he fell on his qualifying run and missed the finals of his sport’s Olympic debut. More recently, on the heels of a life-threatening case of strep that required medical paralysis for 10 days and included two months of complications, Yater-Wallace won gold at X Games Oslo in 2016. The 22-year-old won the first Olympic qualifier in Mammoth last December and February’s Olympic test event in South Korea.
Instagram Handle: @alex_ferreira3
After starting out as a moguls skier, Ferreira found his true love, the halfpipe, and has racked up a slew of podium appearances since, including two X Games bronzes in Aspen and a silver at X Games Oslo last year. Now he’s started this year’s World Cup season the same way he ended last year’s: atop the podium. The 23-year-old won the men’s event in Cardrona, New Zealand, in September and last year’s season finale in Tignes, France.
Instagram Handle: @wcmaple
Though he has a top-20 World Cup finish under his belt, this ski racer’s career high has been his second consecutive national downhill title in Aspen in 2016. He’s also endured the lows—breaking his hands eight times, breaking his back, and tearing his ACL. Skiing is in his DNA, as Maple’s Canadian grandfather was one of North America’s first certified ski instructors and a manager at several resorts. The 27-year-old knows he has the speed and skills to qualify for PyeongChang (though he’ll likely need a couple of top-10 World Cup results to seal the deal), which would validate his unwavering dedication to a sport he still loves.
Instagram Handle: @thealigator
The ski racer and New Castle native had a good shot of qualifying for Sochi in 2014—which would have been her second Olympics—until she shattered her right tibial plateau into some 40 pieces the previous March. This season, McKennis will race in downhill and super-G, battling seven other speed skiers for four Olympic slots in each discipline. When the 28-year-old isn’t training during the summer at the Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, she loves exploring the outdoors on bike, foot, or raft. She credits her childhood at Glenwood Springs’s Sunlight Mountain Resort for giving her a lifelong sense of freedom and adventure.
Instagram Handle: @simihamilton
An Aspen native (and master of all mountain sports), Hamilton’s local roots go deep: his grandfather was president of the Aspen Skiing Company, and his grandmother, Ruthie, has a namesake run on Aspen Mountain. Hamilton, 30, has his sights set on the individual classic sprint and the freestyle (skate) team sprint at the Olympics, as well as a repeat World Cup sprint victory. His win at Switzerland’s Tour de Ski in 2013 was the first by an American cross-country skier since 1983 and PyeongChang will be his third Olympics.
Instagram Handle: @hoffnoah
Considered the country’s top distance Nordic skier, this 28-year-old Aspen High graduate placed 26th in the 50k cross-country race at the 2014 Olympics and eighth in a World Cup event in South Korea last February. He likens the Olympic venue’s wide-open, rolling courses to the Aspen High School trails he trained on (after skiing a Highland Bowl lap during first and second periods, then biking home), which he calls one of the best Nordic systems in the country. After moving to Aspen at age 7, Hoffman joined AVSC, which he credits with giving him the support necessary to make it to the Olympic level.
*Bios written by Tess Weaver Strokes