South Park native Piper Kunst earns crown at Jackson Hole freeride invitational
On Thursday, Feb. 17, former South Park resident and Colorado native Piper Kunst was crowned as the new queen — the queen of Jackson Hole’s Kings & Queens of Corbet’s freeride invitational that is.
Kunst competed against 22 other skiers and snowboarders Feb. 12-18 in Jackson Hole as they dropped into the event’s namesake Corbet’s Couloir.
Corbet’s features a steep cliff drop as well as some of the most challenging expert terrain in the nation.
Long before Kunst dropped into the couloir at one of the most coveted freeride competitions, she was growing up in nearby South Park and skiing at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Kunst learned to ski when she was just 2 years old and spent the majority of her adolescence skiing at Breckenridge, which she calls her home mountain.
“I skied around with my dad, my brother and my mom,” Kunst said. “My mom worked at the ticket sales office, so she always got us passes. My family wanted to be ski bums and move out there. I got the benefits of that.”
Kunst said she was also coached for around nine years by Tom Owens, at Breckenridge Ski Resort, who taught her some of the skills needed to carve a path toward competitive skiing.
After cutting her teeth at Breckenridge and graduating from South Park High School in 2018, Kunst deiced to attend the University of Utah. That’s where she recently attained her degree in psychology and is now working toward her minor in drawing, all while continuing to hone her skiing skills at her new mountain, Alta Ski Resort.
Kunst said she got into the invite only Kings & Queens of Corbet’s kind of on a whim.
The 21-year-old recounts being bored at work one day when she reached out to former Red Bull athlete Grete Eliassen to see if it was possible for her to get into the this year’s competition.
Eliassen put her in touch with the right people, and after submitting some skiing clips, Kunst was sent an invite to the fifth annual event.
As if the venue was not hazardous enough, this year’s Kings & Queens competition featured some of the most challenging weather conditions in the event’s history with wind, snow and ice blanketing the competition area.
“The whole week we were there it was kind of scary,” Kunst said. “(Corbet’s) was pure ice the whole week we were looking at it, so that was a little freaky.”
Kunst came into the competition as a young, undiscovered skier, but that did not stop her from making her mark at the event.
“I went expecting to meet some new people and have a good time,” Kunst said about her expectations prior to the competition. “I honestly did not expect to win it all, but here we are.”
Kunst said that in the month leading up to the competition, she was nervous. The anxiety subsided a little by the time she was surrounded by her fellow competitors, but Kunst said she was still scared.
It wasn’t until right before she was about to drop 10 to 15 feet into the couloir that she felt like she had all her bearings.
“Two minutes before I dropped, something clicked,” Kunst said. “I was like, ‘Dude, you can do this. It’s just skiing.’”
Kunst put together a run that featured an aggressive attack of the steep, icy, couloir with several powdery turns and a huge backflip off a jump.
Kunst reacted to the run in complete shock about what had just transpired as she was engulfed by her fellow competitors and new friends.
The performance was enough for her to earn the honor of queen — the winner of the women’s event. Along with the title, Kunst was awarded a $10,000 check for the accomplishment.
Going forward, Kunst ideally wants to make skiing a career and is hoping that performances like the one she had at Kings & Queens will start to pave the way for more sponsors and funding.
“I want to make this a career and want to encourage other people to go out there and ask for the things they want and put in the work to get there,” Kunst said. “I want to encourage that mindset but also continue to do that myself.”
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