Colbert: A hug, a gold medal and a very special day for Aspen’s Alex Ferreira |

Colbert: A hug, a gold medal and a very special day for Aspen’s Alex Ferreira

Aspen local Alex Ferreira holds his gold medal on the podium after taking first place in the men's ski superpipe X Games finals on Jan. 24, 2019.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Admittedly, I did a terrible thing Thursday night — something most would say crosses the line in terms of journalistic ethics.

After Aspen native Alex Ferreira won the men’s ski superpipe contest at X Games, and before I got my all-important interview with him, I put aside the reporter for two seconds and gave him a hug. As a human being, I was feeling some of that same joy Ferreira was feeling and let those emotions take hold.

Is this an apology for doing so? Not in the slightest. What Ferreira accomplished Thursday in the pipe should be celebrated by anyone who considers him or herself an Aspen local. It had been nine years, going back to halfpipe snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler in 2010, since one of our own won gold at X Games Aspen.

Ferreira’s fan base here at Buttermilk won’t be matched all weekend. The congratulatory posts seen on social media are endless. The joy felt by all of us at the base of that pipe Thursday after he won will never be forgotten.

Ferreira, now 24, won his first X Games Aspen silver medal in 2018. It was a big deal for the skier who grew up with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and still lives at the base of Aspen Highlands. He then went on to win silver at the Pyeongchang Games, his first Olympic appearance.

In short, last winter was dreamy for Ferreira. This winter seems to be going above and beyond that one. An Olympic medal is special, but for most of these athletes, winning X Games continues to be king. For an Aspen local, it’s everything.

I first met Ferreira in November 2016, only a few months after I had moved to Aspen. It was opening day at Snowmass, and he was up playing on the rails with Basalt’s Torin Yater-Wallace, who, like Ferreira, is an Olympic halfpipe skier and X Games star. I’ve gotten to know both very well over the past few years, and being honest, they are two of my favorite athletes to cover.

Mostly, I enjoy writing about them because they are such good humans. If you’re looking for a role model for your young ripper, you need look no further than those two. Unfortunately, Yater-Wallace is recovering from a serious injury suffered at Dew Tour in December and wasn’t able to compete Thursday. He’s twice won silver in Aspen, but never gold.

For Ferreira to break through and get the X Games win, he needed a nearly flawless run. He put down three of the best X runs of his life, finishing with scores of 90.33, 81.00 and 92.66. He needed that last one to hold off close friend David Wise of Nevada, who scored 90.33 on the final run of the contest to take silver.

As Wise and Ferreira waited, standing side by side, at the bottom of the pipe Thursday for the final results, it was difficult not to feel something. Either way, as a journalist, I was going to get a great story. But when it became official and that rush of joy overcame Ferreira, it overcame the rest of us who know Ferreira well and know what he’s put into getting here.

It was a special moment for a young man who loves his hometown. His mother doesn’t believe he’ll ever move out of the house because he loves it here so much. And Aspen would never want him to leave. He’s everything we could ever want out of one of our own and seeing him with that gold around his neck is a moment I’ll never forget.

Yes, I gave Alex Ferreira a hug after he won X Games. Because, how could I not?

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