FRISCO – Starting Wednesday, Copper Mountain Resort will host the 2021 Toyota United States Grand Prix. The four-day competition will bring competitive snowboarders and skiers from around the world to Copper as they try new tricks in the halfpipe competition.
This year, the Grand Prix is one of four Olympic snowboard qualifying events in the United States for the halfpipe and one of six freeski qualifying events in the United States for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games to Beijing.
In the Olympic qualifying event, athletes try to earn points in the FIS ranking system by finishing high in competitions. It is then up to the American Ski and Snowboard Association to determine whether someone should be named to the United States Olympic team.
The Grand Prix is open to the public and kicks off with freeskiing halfpipe qualifications on Wednesday.
Snowboarders will have the chance to compete on Thursday as they try to seal their place in the finals. The event will conclude with freeski halfpipe finals on Friday and snowboard finals on Saturday.
Some of the names slated to participate in the event include Olympians Maddie Mastro and Brita Sigourney. Freestyle skier Sigourney won bronze at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
Alex Ferreira, from Aspen, and Birk Irving, from Winter Park, will be two Coloradans who will seek to compete in the freeski competition.
In terms of Summit County talent, we can expect snowboarders Taylor Gold, Chase Blackwell and Chris Corning, as well as freeskier Jaxin Hoerter to try to shine in the halfpipe competition.
Chase Blackwell, originally from Longmont but now living and training in Dillon, will be looking to remove some rust. His last competition was the United States Grand Prix in March at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Blackwell has trained extensively since then at camps in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and Kitzsteinhorn, Austria.
“It went really well,” Blackwell said of the training. “I went to Austria for a week and after that I came home and waited for it to snow.”
It was at the United States Grand Prix last season that Blackwell finished fifth overall, one place behind Shaun White, who was the best American in fourth place.
Blackwell will be eager to challenge the competition again this week and hopefully reach the podium at the end of the event. It would give him a good shot at being named to his first Olympic team at the age of 22, which he says has been a lifelong goal. Despite this goal, Blackwell tries to focus on one competition at a time.
“I’m trying to take it slow and step by step,” Blackwell said. “The first step is to qualify for the Grand Prix finals. You have to do this before you can do anything else. This is kind of where I’m headed right now.
Blackwell is hoping to have a good pace once he starts training in the Copper Halfpipe so he can put in some good competitive runs and advance to the final.
“My longer term goal is to be named to the Olympic team and to continue to do so so that we hopefully get to two,” said Blackwell. “To make (the Olympic team) this year would be to participate in this competition in which I have never been able to participate. Doing it would allow me to reflect and realize that I have done all the competitions, which not everyone has the opportunity to do.
Blackwell will have the opportunity to compete for an Olympic team and a second straight national title in front of a proud Summit County crowd, and his girlfriend and family will watch as well.
“Everyone will be up for Copper, and a lot of my friends will be catching up on the Winter Dew Tour as well, so it’s sure to be a fun weekend,” said Blackwell.