With an early season NorAm Cup win and a seventh-place finish during December in the halfpipe in China that will be part of the next Winter Olympics, Aspen freeskier Cassidy Jarrell said there was still something missing as he closed out the year: An invitation to Winter X Games Aspen 2019.
That’s despite Jarrell, 19, having his best-ever run, one that scored a 93.00 at Copper Mountain, his favorite halfpipe, leading to his Revolution Tour victory in December. Jarrell’s run featured a double cork 900, right 900 into left cork 1080, switch right cork 8 and a big finish with a left double cork 1260.
A product of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, he now trains with a team led by Peter Olenick, head coach of the Korean freeskiing team, and which includes two-time Olympian Aaron Blunck of Crested Butte and rising talent Tristan Feinberg of Aspen.
“It’ll be much more cost effective for Cassidy to ski with Pete [because of Olenick’s association with the Korean team] than pay for an AVSC coach to travel around the world. Peter is also a great coach, and they worked together for years through AVSC,” explained Eric Knight, director of freestyle for Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Olenick could not be reached for comment.
Jarrell said he came close to missing the competition in Secret Garden, China, because of a leg injury incurred during training.
“I almost wasn’t able to do the contest. They weren’t going to let me,” he said. “But I did a little physical therapy there and somehow managed to put a result in.”
His best run in the Olympic halfpipe was his last run and came after skiing through pain.
“This team is all about going for Beijing,” Jarrell said.
Knight is well familiar with the Aspen native’s skills and willingness to work hard.
“He’s the only two-time Andy Mill Award winner ever at AVSC, and that says a lot about what he’s accomplished over the last two years,” Knight said. The awards came in 2017 and 2018.
One factor that Jarrell said has helped of late is his ability to suppress pre-competition anxiety.
“I think it’s a little bit of getting less nervous in contests,” he said. “And actually being able to train all the time is helpful.”
He’s in the process of completing final online credits to graduate from Aspen High School.
Much work has been done this season on his amplitude.
“I think my average height [in the pipe] is around 13 feet if it’s sunny and icy and it’s a perfect day,” Jarrell said.
This next generation of Aspen freeskiers have plenty of elite role models, led recently by the 2018 Olympic silver medalist in men’s halfpipe, Alex Ferreira.
“Now watching Alex take off is absolutely insane,” Jarrell said.
While growing up in Aspen, Torin Yater-Wallace, the decorated X Games medalist and two-time Olympian, babysat Jarrell when he was about 8 years old. Jarrell remembers many a year “watching those guys,” and coach Olenick and his siblings Megan and Michael compete in the X Games.
Were it not for a fall in a December Grand Prix event that followed his best-ever result at Copper, Jarrell believes he may have received a Winter X Games invite.
There’s still plenty of time for that invite to come, Knight suggested.
“One of the most rewarding parts of working for the ski club for so long is to see young kids develop into young adults, knowing the role we played in their growth,” Knight said.
“It’s also very rewarding to witness the transformation for some into becoming professional athletes. I remember from a young age Cassidy had a distinct style and was always getting after it,” Knight said. “He’s worked hard for years to get to this level, and it’s great to see him continue.”