Basalt teen Hanna Faulhaber ready to ‘go big’ in halfpipe in her 1st Olympics |

Basalt teen Hanna Faulhaber ready to ‘go big’ in halfpipe in her 1st Olympics

17-year-old qualifies through to Thursday finals

Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times
Hanna Faulhaber stands at the bottom of the X Games Aspen superpipe Jan. 18, 2022, on her first day of practice for the winter event at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen. She’s scheduled to compete Thursday, Feb. 17, in the women’s halfpipe ski finals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

ASPEN — Now that Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber has competed in her first Winter Olympics event, reality might have set in. But prior to getting on the plane to Beijing, she was still floating around in a dream world.

“That has definitely not set in,” she told The Aspen Times before heading to China. “I still just think of myself as Hanna Faulhaber. I don’t know if it will really ever set in that I am going to the Olympics or that I have been to the Olympics.”

The rise of the 17-year-old Basalt High School senior has been increasing in speed over the past year, as she’s quickly gone from being one of the top up-and-comers in the country to a consistent podium threat in women’s halfpipe skiing for the U.S. Team.

Faulhaber made the most of her Winter Olympic debut Wednesday night by qualifying through to the finals in the women’s halfpipe skiing contest, held in Zhangjiakou, just outside Beijing.

Ahead of the Olympics, Faulhaber’s fourth-place finish at the world championships in March 2021 in Aspen firmly put her on the international map. Then came a series of strong results in World Cup events this winter — including her first major podium when she finished third at Dew Tour in December at Copper Mountain Resort — that secured her spot on the U.S. team for Beijing.

“We didn’t anticipate this at all. Maybe in the future, something you obviously work toward,” Belinda Faulhaber, Hanna’s mother, said about her daughter getting to the Olympics so soon in her career. “We didn’t anticipate it this quick. Maybe after last year and the world champs, and we saw how she was skiing, but a lot of it is on Hanna and all her hard work and training and just persevering and trying to get the new tricks. It doesn’t come overnight. A lot of work goes into it.”

As excited as Hanna Faulhaber is about the Olympics, even she doesn’t know if the experience, regardless of her results in China, will be able to touch that of her time last month at X Games Aspen. Like all Aspen athletes, she grew up with X Games in her backyard and earned her first start in ESPN’s iconic event this year at Buttermilk Ski Area.

Getting to drop in was enough on its own for Faulhaber. But she did much more than simply compete, she won bronze behind American teammate Brita Sigourney and contest winner Kelly Sildaru of Estonia.

“It pretty much feels like a dream still and probably always will. That night was so special and unreal,” Hanna Faulhaber said. “It was super nice to have friends and family there to watch and support, along with people from throughout the valley. Getting the bronze was definitely the cherry on top, but I was just glad to finally compete in my first X Games. The whole night would have been special with or without the third medal.”

Hanna Faulhaber says a few words at the Olympic send-off event on Jan. 26 at the base of Aspen Mountain before heading to Beijing.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Now, she’ll see if she can add to her medal collection. Faulhaber will have her work cut out for her in China.

On top of Sigourney and Canada’s Cassie Sharpe looking to defend their podiums from 2018, there is a new crop of athletes hoping to steal the show, led by Sildaru and China’s Eileen Gu.

Sildaru, 19, is a first-time Olympian, having been injured in the 2018 cycle. She recently became the most decorated teenager in Winter X Games history with 10 medals.

The U.S.-born Gu, who competes for her mother’s homeland of China, is arguably the star of this Olympics. The 18-year-old from California broke out at X Games Aspen in 2021, when she won three medals, including two gold, in her debut. And only last week, Gu lived up to the massive hype by winning big air gold in her first competition at the Games.

Both Gu and Sildaru are front-runners for Olympic halfpipe gold.

“I definitely need to step up a few things for the Olympics, such as I need a little bit bigger of a switch trick and maybe just rearranging my run a little bit. But definitely still going to be going big,” Faulhaber said of her planned halfpipe run in China. “Definitely not going conservative. Definitely have the thought of ‘go big or go home’ and not leaving anything out on the table. We are going to send it as much as we can, and hopefully it all works out.”

Faulhaber’s biggest advantage is her amplitude, which easily ranks among the best in the women’s halfpipe skiing field. She got as much as 17 feet above the lip of the halfpipe at X Games, a number some of the men’s snowboarders don’t even reach on certain hits. That said, her technical skills still need some fine-tuning, and it was Sildaru’s precision that won her gold last month in Aspen.

Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber trains during Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s glacier camp June 11, 2021, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Faulhaber said when asked if she believes her planned Olympic run has podium potential. “Have to do it first.”

She’s hoping her amplitude impresses the Olympic judges more than it did at X Games. “You never know who is judging and what they will think of it. I definitely think there have been occasions where people have either liked it or people haven’t. I’m still going to do it, but we’ll see. Hopefully adding the new tricks will help out.”

In qualifiers Wednesday, she scored 84.25 on her first of two runs, good enough to finish ninth among the 20-women field. The top 12 advanced to finals

“I’m on an all-time high right now. I can’t believe I’m here and just can’t believe this is actually happening,” Faulhaber said on the NBC Olympics television broadcast. “The relief to land my first run, it took so much pressure off. Even just this whole morning of practice I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I was still in shock and still super, super happy and excited to go into finals.”

The women’s halfpipe skiing final will be televised live at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17.

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