Irving sets sights on Winter X Games
A year after coming up frustratingly short in his bid to secure an Olympic berth, Winter Park native Birk Irving is keeping his eyes on the prize, and trying to not sweat the small stuff.
“It was kind of annoying,” Irving said of his campaign for a spot on the US Olympic ski team last season. “The first competition of the season started off really well. But after that I just never had the speed I needed at the other competitions. The whole year I was doing my runs without the one trick I needed to get on the podium. There was more I could have done, but I couldn’t do it.”
Despite the disappointment of not making it to the Olympics last season the decidedly low-key Irving was more interested in focusing on the upcoming season and the closer-to-home competitions that are more in line with his easy-going style.
“The Olympics is a really big deal but it is also a lot of stress,” Irving said. “I try not to think about that. Personally I care more about going to X Games than the Olympics. I think X Games is cooler. It’s more laid back.”
With two major competitions already on the books so far this season, and the always-popular Winter X Games right around the corner, the elder Irving child is spending lots of time on the slopes where the focus is on fun as much as anything else. As the last day of 2018 got underway Irving said he has been spending his days in the terrain parks at Winter Park Resort.
“I have been skiing the park, but not super seriously,” Irving said of his recent days at home in Grand County. “I ski, try stuff when I want, and do whatever. It is more about having fun rather than having it be training.”
Keeping things fun while keeping stress low was a recurring theme for Irving who is no stranger to the stressful world of elite competitive skiing. At 19 years old he has already spent several years participating at the highest levels of the freeskiing world, has been a sponsored skier for almost a decade, and is considered one of the brightest lights in Grand County’s homegrown ski community.
The stress on Irving will soon be ratcheting up though as the young man prepares for the Winter X Games, to be held in Aspen in late January. To prepare for the event Irving is gearing up for a training camp at Copper Mountain that will be his springboard into the X Games. While Irving is a sponsored skier for Winter Park Resort and is a resident of Grand County he often trains at Copper Mountain because of the size of the half-pipes at the two resorts. According to Irving Winter Park’s half-pipe is 18 feet, while the half-pipe at Copper Mountain, as well as the half-pipes Irving and others ski in at competitions, measure out to 22 feet.
Irving will arrive in Aspen around Jan. 21 to begin pre-event training sessions. The actual Winter X Games event will be held from Jan. 24 – 27 and unlike many other winter sports competitions the action at the Winter X Games goes down under the lights at night.
“I have a run that I have been wanting to do for a long time,” Irving said, when referencing his impeding competition runs at the Winter X Games. “I finally have all the tricks to do it. I am really hoping that I am able to land it.”
After wrapping up Winter X Games in January Irving will turn his sights towards Utah and the Federation of International Skiing’s 2019 World Championships. The final roster of Americans who will compete at the World Championships is still being determined. According to Irving only a handful of male skiers from the US will get the opportunity to compete in the event.
“That would be a big one,” Irving said. “Hopefully I can go. They go off of a ranking list. Right now I am sitting pretty good. I am in the third or fourth spot.”
Irving said his performance at the Winter X Games would be a major factor in determining whether or not he makes the cut for the World Championships. Overall though Irving said his goal for this winter season is to secure a podium finish at one of his competitions. Irving has perennially nipped at the heels of his fellow competitors but has not quite managed to break through to a top three finish.
“It would be really nice to get on a podium,” Irving said. “I have been getting fourth and fifth a lot over the last three years or so. It would be nice to get a podium finish at a World Cup event or some other big event.”
His most recent competition, the Dew Tour at Breckenridge in mid-December, was a striking example of the way in which Irving has been on the cusp of a podium finish. The Dew Tour featured Irving and nine other skiers with each skier being scored on three separate runs. Irving said he landed his first run of the event but called his performance “a bit sloppy” adding, “I did not do all the tricks I planned”. His second run of the Dew Tour ended in a crash after he stumbled while attempting a switch double 1080.
Irving regained his composure and completed a successful third and final run.
“I landed everything and I did the run I wanted to do,” Irving said. “I was in third place until the last guy. He bumped me and I ended up in fourth.”
That skier, David Wise, was able to edge Irving out of a podium finish. The final tally showed Irving posting a score of 84.33 while Wise finished the competition with a score of 84.67.
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