Entering 2022-23 Freeskiing Season, Accomplished Vets Are Set To Help Usher In The Next Generation
by Bob Reinert
Brita Sigourney competes during the women's freeski halfpipe final at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 18, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Just because she’s likely to retire at the end of the upcoming halfpipe skiing season, don’t expect Brita Sigourney to bring anything less than her best to the hill.
“I obviously still want to perform well, so I still want to be at the top of my game,” the 32-year-old three-time Olympian and 2018 bronze medalist said. “I don’t want to go out skiing like I shouldn’t be doing it anymore.”
At her third Olympic Winter Games earlier this year in Beijing, the Californian placed 10th in the women’s halfpipe event. The season immediately following an Olympics is often one of transition. Many veterans either retire or take some time off before another grueling quad, while their absences create opportunities for new athletes to step in.
For Sigourney, who knows she’s not doing another Olympic cycle, her perspective for 2022-23 is a little different than in past years.
“I’m really just going in with the mentality that I just want to enjoy it and have fun and ski because I love it, and really not worry so much about the results and the competitive aspect,” Sigourney said.
For freeskiers – a subset of freestyle skiing that includes big air, halfpipe and slopestyle – the world cup season opens Oct. 21 with a men’s and women’s big air contest in Chur, Switzerland. Slopestyle kicks off Nov. 18-19 in Stubai, Austria, while Sigourney and her fellow halfpipe skiers hit the snow for their first world cup on home soil at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix on Dec. 14-17 at Copper Mountain, Colorado. That event will also include big air.
The U.S. freeskiing teams are expected to hold a wide range of experience, from returning Olympic medalists to promising newcomers.
Last year saw Team USA win five Olympic medals in freeskiing.
Olympic veterans Alex Hall and Nick Goepper won gold and silver medals in men’s slopestyle. Colby Stevenson was a newcomer on the scene at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, and to the big air/slopestyle team. Yet, Stevenson impressed and brought home the big air silver medal. Meanwhile David Wise won a silver in men’s halfpipe to up his total to three, which is tied for the record among freestyle skiers. Teammate Alex Ferreira joined him on the podium, winning bronze.
(L-R) Nick Goepper and Alex Hall celebrate during the men's freeskiing slopestyle final at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 16, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Though no American women brought home freeskiing medals from Beijing, the team showed plenty of promise. Hanna Faulhaber made her Olympic debut at age 17 and finished sixth in the halfpipe.
“Obviously, Hanna Faulhaber is super young and very promising,” Sigourney said. “So, I’m really excited to see where her career goes.”
As usual, the top freeskiers will have plenty of opportunity to compete in 2022-23 on the world cup tour, with 10 stops between this month and March, including another U.S. Grand Prix for halfpipe and slopestyle skiers Feb. 1-4 in Mammoth Mountain, California.
The Winter X Games are slated for Jan. 27-29 in Aspen, Colorado.
Meanwhile, the world championships take place Feb. 19-Mar. 5, 2023, in Bakuriani, Georgia.
Sigourney said her role has changed in recent years as she’s become one of the veterans on the team.
“I’d say it’s definitely shifted, especially since my teammate (2014 Olympic silver medalist) Devin (Logan) retired,” Sigourney said. “I just did my first camp without her, and she was one of my best friends the last 12 years or however long we’ve been on the team together.”
Sigourney now finds herself mentoring the team’s younger skiers.
“I’m just trying to really instill in them the right qualities and humility and cheering them on at the same time,” she said. “Just trying to be a good team player and kind of lead them off in the right direction before I do depart the team.”
Sigourney, who has had nine surgeries over her career, said she’s healthy again and ready to go.
“I didn’t have any surgeries this year, which was a nice change of pace,” she said. “This time of year is always really exciting. You start getting the ‘winter jitters,’ and you’re just ready for it.”
She’s proud of how far her sport has come over the years. When Sigourney started there was no national team, just a traveling team of competitors interested in traveling the world. Now, there’s foundation to the sport ready for the next generation.
“The national team has progressed so much, and there’s so much more available to us, so many more resources and funding available to athletes,” she said. “The monetary aspect is just so much better now for the younger kids. I don’t know if they know how lucky they are, but it’s pretty awesome now.”
When she walks away from the halfpipe for the last time, she’ll do so knowing that the sport is in good hands.
“From what I’ve seen, it looks like everything’s going in a great direction,” Sigourney said. “I think the direction of U.S. Ski and Snowboard is going in the right path. I’m excited for the younger generation who really gets to take advantage of all that.”
Hanna Faulhaber competes during the women's freestyle freeski halfpipe final in the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 18, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
HALFPIPE PRO TEAMWomen
Brita Sigourney (Carmel, Calif.; Intermountain Series; 1/17/90)
Carly Margulies (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; Mammoth Mountain Freeski Team; Unbound Series; 12/24/97)
Hanna Faulhaber (Carbondale, Colo.; Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club; Rocky Mountain Series; 9/04/04)
Aaron Blunck (Crested Butte, Colo.; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail; Rocky Mountain Series; 4/12/96)
Alex Ferreira (Aspen, Colo.; Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club; Aspen/Snowmass Series; 8/14/94)
Birk Irving (Winter Park, Colo.; Winter Park Freeride Team; Rocky Mountain Series; 7/26/99)
David Wise (Reno, Nev.; 6/30/90)
Lyman Currier (Boulder, Colo.; Winter Park Freeski Team; Rocky Mountain Series; 8/28/94)
Dylan Ladd (Lakewood, Colo.; Winter Park Freeski Team; Rocky Mountain Series; 8/29/01)
Cassidy Jarrell (Aspen, Colo.; Rocky Mountain Series; 8/31/99)
Hunter Hess (Bend, Ore.; Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation; Central Oregon Series; 10/01/98)
Taylor Seaton (Avon, Colo.; 7/16/90)
HALFPIPE ROOKIE TEAM
Kate Gray (Crowley Lake, Calif.; Mammoth Mountain Freeski Team; Unbound Series, 06/29/2006)*
Svea Irving (Winter Park, Colo.; Winter Park Freeski Team; Rocky Mountain Series; 2/27/02)
Riley Jacobs (Oak Creek, Colo.; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club; Rocky Mountain Series; 8/14/2003)
Kai Morris (Aspen, Colo.; Pro Team Foundation; Rocky Mountain Series, 3/22/2004)*
Matt Labaugh (Avon, Colo.; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Rocky Mountain Series, 01/05/2004)*
Tristan Feinberg (Aspen, Colo.; Rocky Mountain Series; 4/23/2003)
Ben Fethke (Boise, Idaho; Big Mountain West Series; 04/14/2006)*
Connor Ladd (Lakewood, Colo.; Rocky Mountain Series; 9/26/03)
Hunter Carey (Winter Park, Colo.; Winter Park Competition Center; Rocky Mountain Series; 6/12/02)
SLOPESTYLE/BIG AIR PRO TEAM
Caroline Claire (Manchester Center, Vt.; Stratton Mountain School; Southern Vermont Series; 2/2/00)
Maggie Voisin (Whitefish, Mont.; Park City Ski & Snowboard; Big Mountain West Series; 12/14/98)
Marin Hamill (Park City, Utah; Park City Ski & Snowboard; Big Mountain West Series; 4/5/01)
Rell Harwood (Park City, Utah; Park City Ski & Snowboard; Big Mountain West Series; 6/1/01)
Grace Henderson (Madbury, N.H.; Waterville Valley BBTS; New Hampshire Series; 4/28/01)
Alex Hall (Salt Lake City, Utah; Park City Ski & Snowboard; Big Mountain West Series; 9/21/98)
Nick Goepper (Lawrenceburg, Ind.; Cork Technologies and Consulting; Rocky Mountain Series; 3/14/94)
Colby Stevenson (Park City, Utah; Park City Ski & Snowboard; Big Mountain West Series; 10/3/97)
Mac Forehand (Winhall, Vt.; Stratton Mountain School; Southern Vermont Series; 8/4/01)
Cody LaPlante (Truckee, Calif.; Olympic Valley Freestyle and Freeride Team; North Tahoe Series; 2/15/02)
Hunter Henderson (Madbury, N.H.; Waterville Valley BBTS; New Hampshire Series; 12/28/2002)
SLOPESTYLE/BIG AIR ROOKIE TEAM
Bella Bacon (Ellicottville, N.Y.; Agenda Freeski; Western New York Series; 1/29/04)
Jay Riccomini (He/Him) (Port Matilda, Penn.; Team Summit Colorado; Rocky Mountain Series; 3/12/2004)
Troy Podmilsak (Park City, Utah; Park City Ski & Snowboard; Big Mountain West Series; 8/23/2004)
Konnor Ralph (Helena, Mont.; Wy’East Mountain Academy; Mt. Hood Series; 1/27/2003)
Charlie Gnoza (South Londonderry, Vt.; Stratton Mountain School; Southern Vermont Series; 8/2/2003)
COACHES AND STAFF
Head Coach Halfpipe: Mike Riddle
Halfpipe Pro Team Coach: Matt Margetts
Halfpipe Rookie Team Coach: Ryan Carey
Head Coach Slopestyle/Big Air: Skogen Sprang
Slopestyle/Big Air Pro Team Coach: Dave Euler
Slopestyle/Big Air Rookie Team Coach: Ryan Wyble
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.