Could Winter X been any more dramatic this year? As the final ski and snowboard event before the Olympics, there was a lot of anticipating, predicting, and wondering. While the favorites tried to stake a claim on the gold, the underdogs and those who would have to wait another four years grabbed the opportunity to showcase their talent. There was Shaun White’s “will he or won’t he” question of attendance and an on-line debate over spins versus style. Above all, in a sport that probably will never see the Olympics, one man turned tragedy into triumph in a celebration of brotherly love, going big, and following your passion.
Best Female Athlete – Lindsey Jacobellis (Snowboard)
Although Kelly Clark deserves all the acclaim for being the winningest female athlete in the X Games, we cannot forget about Lindsey Jacobellis, who is now the female athlete with the most gold. Her smart riding and consistency allowed her to obtain her eighth one in the Snowboard X finals and dominate the field, Olympics be damned.
Best Male Athlete – Tucker Hibbert (Snowmobile)
Speaking of dominance, no man has seven-peated at X until Tucker Hibbert crossed the SnoCross finish line. He also has the most National wins so this really isn’t a surprise. His hard work and discipline is as much to credit as his talent.
Newcomer to Watch – Chloe Kim (Snowboard)
You know an athlete is awesome when the only thing keeping her from the Olympics is her age. Forget the Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano comparisons; Chloe Kim made a name for herself in the Women’s Superpipe with her high-flying, easy-going style. The future of women’s snowboarding has arrived!
Most Dramatic Finals – Men’s Ski Slopestyle
The Men’s Ski Slopestyle finals had so many moments to remember: Andreas Hatveit’s X Games swang song, the first triple cork in an X Games ski slopestyle contest, and the first repeat winner in ten years. On top of that, we had an excellent mix of style and spins, as well as proof by Nick Goepper that if at first you don’t succeed, do it better on your next run.
Best Trick – Danny Davis’s switch method (Snowboard)
From Chris Wellhausen / Transworld Snowboarding
In an era where most riders spin to win, Danny Davis aired out a a huge switch method in the Men’s Superpipe finals. While it might not look as fancy, the technical skill it required, along with the opportunity for self-expression, was exactly what propelled him to the top and what snowboarding needs to not forget.
Picture Perfect Moment – Mark McMorris receives his slopestyle silver medal from his mom.
Technically this is a video, and it’s not pro quality. However, the moment is too adorable to not recognize. Plus it’s nice to see Mark McMorris in good spirits after his gnarly crash.
Best Moment Outside Competition – the on-line Snowboard Big Air debate
Style versus math—what should count more? When Halldor Helgason threw down a sick method, he made a statement and got people talking. Add in some damning Tweets from pioneers like Pat Moore and Todd Richards, and it was clear that snowboarding is in need of some self-reflection and possibly a revolution (no pun intended).
Most Educational Moment – Jossi Wells show us how to land on your feet when things go awry. (Ski)
Big Air competitors are expected to wipe a lot. Jossi Wells seemed to be immune to that, thanks to quick thinking and physics. The minute he knew the trick wasn’t going to work, he stretched out his arms and legs to slow down. The increased air resistance bought him time to right himself and ski away.
Greatest Comeback – Kaya Turski (Ski)
Just four months after ACL surgery that involved a new technique, Kaya Turski came back to show why she is the top Women’s Ski Slopestyle competitor. Her competitors, Maggie Voisin in particular, did not make it easy, but her mastery of the rails put her ahead of the back and on the road to Sochi gold.
Most Inspirational – Colten Moore (Snowmobile)
There was no a dry eye watching the Freestyle Snowmobile finals. Colten Moore didn’t just come back from separating his pelvis; he returned after losing his brother in the same contest last year. Some would walk away or at least take more time to recuperate physically and mentally, but Colten gave the ride of his life. Regardless of your personal faith, it was obvious that Caleb was right there by his side.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Gretchen Bleiler (Snowboard)
From Mahala Gaylord / The Denver Post
Gretchen Bleiler has been one of the most influential female snowboarders. She’s the first woman to land a Crippler 540 and the first female action sports athlete to appear on the cover of the ESPN the Magazine. Her visibility and enthusiasm helped the ladies of Superpipe get noticed, and her comeback from a horrifying eye injury is nothing short of miraculous. Even though she won’t be on the X Games leaderboard, Gretchen’s influence will undoubtedly still be felt.
I’d like to conclude this wrap-up with my predictions for the Olympics, which has continued to change with the onslaught of injuries:
Snowboard Slopestyle – Max Parrot and Jamie Anderson
Snowboard Halfpipe – Iouri Podladtchikov and Kelly Clark
Ski Slopestyle – Nick Goepper and Kaya Turski
Ski Halfpipe – David Wise and Maddie Bowman