If you’re not familiar with the name Birk Irving by now, you should be. He just made his Olympic debut in Beijing and isn’t stopping anytime soon. He’s got a reputation for being one of the most talented halfpipe skiers today.
As a Colorado native, Irving has spent his entire life on the slopes—and has taken the freeskiing world by storm since the age of five. Born in Englewood and raised in Winter Park, where he started his unique slopestyle career and passion for competition, Irving keeps impressing judges and fans alike with his unique style and ease in his sport. He had a breakout year in 2021, winning bronze medals in the halfpipe at the world championships and in the superpipe at the X Games. In 2016, he won gold in the halfpipe at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and in 2017 claimed third in the Aspen X Games. Last month, he competed in the Winter Olympics in Beijing—qualifying for finals and placing 5th overall. “I love skiing because of the different methods of expression I can convey in my riding. Everyone has a unique approach to their runs and there are so many different disciplines and aspects of skiing. I represent only a small part of the sport and that’s what makes me love it so much,” he explains.
All in the Family
On the USA Team since the age of 14, Irving comes from an avid skiing family. His father Brendan Irving is the director of ski patrol in Winter Park, while his mother, Stephanie Irving, is a former alpine racing coach. His sister also competes in halfpipe and slopestyle. “My dad definitely influenced my ski career from day one. When I was younger, he would bring me to every single competition to watch; and eventually I started to enter them myself.” When he’s not hitting the slopes, he enjoys mountain biking and fishing around his hometown. “Colorado is such a great place for skiing because of the accessibility to such amazing, world-class terrain. With so many different resorts within driving distance of a town or city, alongside the backcountry getaways, it’s ideal for someone like me who loves calling the mountains my home.”
Tricks of the Trade
The halfpipe is a purpose-built, semi-circular ramp made of snow, with seven-metre-high walls. Competitors perform aerial tricks above the walls while sliding from one side to the other. “Birk has that ‘it’ factor—a style that you just can’t teach,” says Ben Verge, former head coach of the U.S. Ski Team. “The way he looks at [the various] tricks and the way he approaches the halfpipe or the jumps—he just figures it out. He’s a natural.”