Freeskiing phenom Birk Irving, 15, medals in Italy
April 7, 2015
Birk Irving has a lot of the interests that you'd expect a 15-year-old boy from the Rocky Mountains to have.
He likes fly-fishing, downhill mountain biking, and of course, skiing.
But Irving isn't your typical 15-year-old.
On March 30, on a half-pipe in the Italian Alps, Irving won a bronze medal in the 2015 Junior World Freestyle Ski Championships.
“He was a shy little guy that just had exceptional skills jumping rails and super balance. Kind of a natural little gymnast.”Jeremie LivingstonCoach, Winter Park Competition Center
"The conditions weren't super great, and since I was smaller than most of the guys, it was hard for me to go big enough and do some of the tricks that I was trying to do, so that was kind of struggle," Irving said. "But luckily I was able to land a good run, technicality wise, so I ended up third."
Two days before, Irving placed eighth in the slopestyle competition.
Irving was one of four Americans invited for both disciplines.
Irving's outstanding performance in Valmalenco, Italy, is just the latest in a nascent but promising freestyle skiing career that's already seen the Winter Park native rub shoulders with some of the best skiers in the world.
Irving himself is ranked 20th in the world by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals, and he's years younger than every skier in front of him.
Irving has been skiing since age 2, and has been competing since he was 8. His first competition was a rail jam at Winter Park
"After I did the rail jam I think I did Vert Alert at Loveland and that was my first slopestyle ever," Irving said.
Jeremie Livingston is a coach with the Winter Park Competition Center. He recalled that Irving was "talented right off the bat.
"He was a shy little guy that just had exceptional skills jumping rails and super balance," Livingston said. "Kind of a natural little gymnast."
Livingston said Irving is quick to catch on to new tricks and concepts, and his fundamentals are superb.
"He has what we call air awareness, so when he's in the air he knows where he's at all times, whether he's spinning or he's flipping," Livingston said.
And those skills have paid off.
Since his first competition at age 8, Irving has competed in some of the biggest skiing events in the country including the Dew Tour Mountain Championships.
Irving reckons it was his biggest competition so far, but called the experience "kind of weird.
"I didn't feel like I was even really competing with them," he said.
Irving currently competes in both slopestyle and halfpipe.
He said slopestyle is appealing because of the variety of tricks at his fingertips.
"Every course is different," he said. "You never really end up with the same thing."
He's been skiing a lot more slopestyle this year, but right now, Irving's real bread and butter is the halfpipe.
AFP currently ranks him 17th in the world in the discipline.
Irving said he hopes the International Ski Federation points from his third place finish in Italy will help him get to the Lillehammer Youth Olympic Games next year.
He's also gunning for an invitation to the X Games.
"In the next couple years I'm hoping to do less competitions so I don't have to travel and compete as much," he said.
Irving has done 22 competitions this season.
He said he looks forward to getting out and doing some filming with his friends or his father, Brendan.
Irving said one of his favorite things about skiing is the people he skis with.
"And even when I'm by myself its still just fun to do," he said. "Until I fall."