Posts Tagged ‘Winter X Games’

To commemorate two decades of competition and innovation, X Games Austin compiled a series of milestones titled “20 Years 20 Firsts”.  Fans could vote on their favorite, and the winner was Elena Hight stomping the first ever double backside alley-oop rodeo.

The list inspired me to create one of my own.  Since this year’s X Games marks my fifteenth year of following the competition (I started watching in 1999), I decided to countdown my top fifteen firsts at X Games.

15. Jake Brown’s 720 in Skateboard Big Air (2007) – The subsequent fall overshadowed his history-making achievement, and while the horror will forever be etched in my mind, Jake’s daring trick deserves to be remembered as well.

14. TJ Schiller’s double cork 1620 in Ski Big Air (2011) – I used to be able to keep up with the math, but then TJ came along and made me wish I had a calculator.  Although he may have had to settle for second, he raised the bar for freeskiing.

13. Eito Yasutoko becomes the first Asian gold medalist in Men’s Vert Skating (2000) – He was the first Asian I saw win an X Games event (I missed seeing Ayumi Kawasaki the previous year).  It gave me something to relate to and proved that action sports is truly global.

12. Tucker Hibbert wins the first Snocross race at X (2000) – Never did I think I would be into snowmobiles, but watching 15-year-old Tucker become the youngest X Games gold medalist, beating out his father in the process, got me interested.
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Photo by Aaron Kores/ESPN.com

11. Ashley Fiolek becomes the first deaf X Games medalist in Women’s Moto X Super X (2009) – Ashley’s story is so inspiring and to see her win showed that with hard work, determination, and skill, you can overcome great odds.

10. Elena Hight’s double backside alley-oop rodeo in Women’s Snowboard Superpipe (2013) – Elena’s achievement proved that gender doesn’t matter, just innovation.  The fact that she won the vote is an encouraging step for female action sports athletes in overcoming the glass ceiling.

9. Zacky Warden’s bike flip backflip to late tailwhip in BMX Big Air (2013) – There are so many things going on in that trick combo that it’s hard to break it down without slow-mo.  The creativity and technicality is mind-blowing.

8. Torstein Horgmo’s triple flip in Snowboard Big Air (2011) – Although it may have been more flip than cork, no one thought a triple anything was possible.  Torstein took the chance and set in motion the events that would change snowboarding.

7. Fabiola da Silva and Ayumi Kawasaki compete in the Men’s Vert Skating (2001) – Thanks to the Fabiola Rule, both ladies’ scores were judged against the men.  Although neither qualified for the finals, it opened doors and foreshadowed Fabiola’s future boundary-shattering accomplishments.
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Ayumi Kawasaki in the prelims. Photo by Bakke/Shazamm/ESPN (from Skatelog)

6. Caleb Wyatt’s no-handed to no-footed backflip on snow in Moto X Best Trick (2004) – As backflips were starting to become the norm, Caleb took it to a whole new level while on tricky terrain.  He shut up all the haters, and heck the whole thing even inspired poetry.

5. Kevin Robinson’s double flair in BMX Vert Best Trick (2006) – Kevin is best known for his flair, and now he’ll be immortalized for doing the first double flair.  The highlight of watching it was telling my mom that this is where the rider we saw a few years back is and having her root for Kevin too.

4. Vicki Golden becomes the first female freestyle motocross competitor in Moto X Best Whip (2013) – When I got into action sports, I fantasized about being the first female FMX rider at the X Games.  People told me it wasn’t possible for any woman to ride with the boys, but Vicki proved them wrong.

3. Travis Pastrana’s double backflip in Moto X Best Trick (2006) – This was the first time I remember being completely unsure of the outcome because a double backflip on a dirt bike seemed so far-fetched.  The suspense, the glorious payout, and the mutual admiration of both fans and non-fans alike made this one of the best moments ever.
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Photo by Christian Pondella/Red Bull Photo Files (from Motorcycle-USA)

2. Travis Pastrana wins the first Moto X gold (1999) – I had to put Travis twice because if it weren’t for him, I would have never gotten into FMX and be where I’m at.  He was the perfect ambassador for this new sport, and the rest is history.

1. Tony Hawk’s 900 in Skateboard Best Trick (1999) – This was the other moment from X Games that changed my life forever.  The sheer determination, coupled with the support from his fellow skaters and the disregard for competition rules, summed up what action sports was all about and inspired me to never give up.

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)
XGAspen14-1 photo wxg14-2_zps7454d242.jpg
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)
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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

Usually thinking about the X Games a week later brings back fond memories and inspirational moments.  Although we still have that, the mood is clouded by sad news.  Snowmobile and ATV rider Caleb Moore has died.  The world of action sports will miss him, and the X Games may not be the same.

I debated whether I should continue with my usual wrap-up of the best moments.  The answer is yes.  Caleb was doing what he loved, and let’s celebrate his life and accomplishments, along with all the others at the X Games.

Best Female Athlete – Jamie Anderson (Snowboard)
This is her tenth X Games appearance, and look at how far she has come. From racing Boarder X with her sister to getting back-to-back golds in Slopestyle, Jamie is just unstoppable. Whatever sort of zen she reaches while hugging trees is evident on the course with her smooth riding and flawless tricks.

Best Male Athlete –Henrik Harlaut (Ski)

Henrik not only stomps his first triple cork, but he nose butters it. Those little touches of style is what makes a stand-out athlete and why he medaled in both Big Air and Slopestyle. Best of all though is his giant smile. This guys is out there having a good time, and that is how things should be.

Newcomer to Watch – Ayumu Hirano (Snowboard)
I’ve said a lot about him already, and the clip below does a good job of highlighting his amazing skills. If you didn’t know who he was at the beginning of the SuperPipe finals, you definitely knew him afterward.

Most Dramatic Finals – Snowboard Big Air
For the second year in a row, Snowboard Big Air made me want to run around and scream. Instead my facebook friends got a ramble of things that made no sense to them until I related it to watching a dramatic movie or TV show. The odds were against Torstein Horgmo and Mark McMorris, but when the time came to deliver or walk away empty-handed, they gave us new tricks. Which brings me to the next category…

Best Trick – Torstein Horgmo’s switch backside triple cork 1440 (Snowboard)
It’s easy to get tired of the spinning, but when you think about what switch means (the analogy X Games commentators love to use is throwing a fastball with your non-dominant hand), you have to be impressed by the skills and the balls it takes to pull a trick like Torstein’s.

Picture Perfect Moment – Ski Big Air podium is filled with friends.
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From Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool
This photo sums up the camaraderie that happens within action sports. When one person wins, everyone wins.

Best Moment Outside Competition – Tucker Hibbert gets his first professional haircut in 15 years
At first, I was wondering why was this even an article, but the story behind why he wound up at Uncle Jack’s Parlor is really amusing. His crew member’s buzzcut is too.

Most Educational Moment – How many rotations are in a 1980? (Ski)
Freeskiing has progressed so quickly that I had to start doing math again to keep up with the tricks. Alex Schlopy’s 1980 attempt required him to do a whopping five and a half rotations (which he completed but did not land).

Greatest Comeback – Levi LaVallee (Snowmobile)
For the past two years, we’ve seen (or rather heard) Levi in the booth, but he has returned to the sled in good form. He took home two golds (Freestyle and Speed and Style) and was going to enter the two more snowmobile events before tearing a muscle in his back. Nonetheless, he is back in action!

Most Inspirational – Elena Hight (Snowboard)
I’m a firm believer that girls can do anything the guys can, and Elena proved that to be true by stomping the trick that has eluded Shaun White, a double backside alley-oop rodeo. This wasn’t the first time she’s done something major: she was the first woman to do a 900 at just the age of 13. On top of going big, she promotes eco-friendly style with Repreve and is on the Boarding for Breast Cancer Team. She’s an excellent role model for both young women and men.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Caleb Moore (Snowmobile)
Even though this was only his third X Games, Caleb and his brother Colten have done so much for freestyle snowmobiling. No one thought these ATV riders from Texas would place very high, but they have proven to be both skilled and memorable. Caleb’s tricks were always impressive (check out his rock solid in the footage below), and he was working hard to get a gold. He embodied the determination and joy that is a part of the action sports lifestyle. Ride on, Caleb.
Caleb Moore photo calebmoore_zpsaca8a9ac.jpg
From Rockstar Energy Drink US facebook page

This X Games has been a test of priorities in my life. Showering and date night? Skip when there’s something cool. Motorcycle riding lessons and a photoshoot? I’ll catch the re-runs. No X Games on-line? I’ll find a TV (and I did). However, I still missed all of Ski Slopestyle, as well as the snowmobile racing events, so my last set of notes are a bit sparse. I tried to make up for it by being very thorough on the two events I did see. I would like to send my well wishes to Rose Battersby and Ashley Battersby, both of whom were injured in Slopestyle.

There hasn’t been any more news about Caleb Moore. His family has set up a fund to help with medical bills: click here if you’d like to donate.

Snowboard thoughts

  • Now that Shaun White has cut his hair, can he really be called “Animal” now?
  • All snowboard announcers need a lesson is pronouncing Japanese names. It’s Ayumu Hee-rah-no, not Hir-ann-no.
  • Poor Iouri Podladtchikov. He gets a stomach flu the day of finals.
  • That means, another showdown that never really was. However, we do get a glimpse of the new Shaun White versus Ayumu Hirano rivalry.
  • To put things into perspective, Shaun appeared in his first X Games when he was 13, and he got his first medal 15. He’s now the oldest competitor. Ayumu is the youngest at 14, which is the age of the students I taught in Japan. My how times have changed.
  • Scotty Lago definitely has the best style. He was the only one shown grabbing the board with both hands (100% committed).
  • Shaun broke the height record with a 24-foot method. He averaged around 17.5 feet. That’s about five feet higher than everyone else. He was also five points ahead. Coincidence? I think not. Shaun_White_zps7de8667b photo Shaun_White_zps7de8667b.jpg
    From Doug Pensinger/Getty Images (via Sports Illustrated)
  • A repeat of his perfect run from from last year got him a 98 even though it was bigger and cleaner. Snowboarding judges are going to have to turn into gymnastics judges and arbitrarily deduct points.
  • Louie Vito was having a rough night. His third run looked okay, but it wasn’t perfect.
  • Ayumu became the youngest medalist in X Games history. He definitely deserved it with his sick tricks and amplitude. I can’t wait to see more from this kid.
  • As the last rider to go before Shaun White, Scotty looked like he could set up a dramatic finale, but then he came in fast, put too much pressure on his toes, and didn’t even get to drop in.
  • Shaun was going to let Scotty take another run, but judges say no. Although that’s probably the fair things to do, it’s a MAJOR bummer.
  • I understand why Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe is the final event with all the star power, but it’s almost a given nowadays that Shaun White is going to win so it makes for an anticlimactic end to the X Games.

Snowmobile thoughts

  • Willie Elam needed to work on his flexibility, but he’s new to freestyle so the extension and confidence will come in time.
  • WTF was Jackson Strong doing there? He apparently had only been on a sled for four hours. I guess he really wanted to stake his claim on the Jack.
  • In an ironic twist, Jackson was okay from his fall (which looked really scary), but the runaway snowmobile claimed another victim.
  • The key to the underflip is to get sled perpendicular. Despite the his innovation and smooth landing, Heath Frisby scored lower than Daniel Bodin’s Indian air flip.
  • To be fair, Daniel did have crazy extension and went on the larger jump (which I guess counted for a lot). XGAspen13 - Day 4a photo bodin_zps17415ced.jpg
    From Joshua Duplechian / ESPN Images (via X Games official website)
  • Joe Parsons’ “gator hater”, which looked like an Indian air plus landing backwards on the bike, was insane! I would’ve given put him in first for the commitment, but maybe the judges docked points for how he barely hung on.
  • Heath and Joe were wearing Texas flags in support of Caleb Moore.
  • There was a reversal of luck from Day 1’s Freestyle contest to Day 4’s Best Trick. Levi LaVallee won Freestyle, and the last person who could’ve unseated him had snowmobile issues from a first run crash. On top of that, Daniel hurt his wrist. Later in the weekend, Levi got hurt and had to pull out of Snocross and Best Trick while Daniel ends up getting gold.

Special recognize goes out to the first ever six-peaters in Winter X history: Tucker Hibbert (Snocross) and Shaun White (Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe). Also congratulations to Nick Goepper (Men’s Ski Slopestyle), Mike Schultz (Snocross Adaptive), Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen (Women’s Ski Slopestyle),  Daniel Bodin (Snowmobile Best Trick), and Frank April (Real Snow Fan Favorite) on their wins!

Prediction Status: 5/10 – another improvement from last year even though there are less events
Quote of the Day: “Even though @scottylago fell before the first hit. It was still more stylish than 98% of pipe riding” – Todd Richards’ Tweet (It was technically the day after, but it was too good to not share. If you want snarky X Games commentary, follow btoddrichards.)
Trick of the Day: Joe Parsons’ gator hater
Inspiration of the Day: Ayumu Hirano – This kid has so much potential, and he’s now showing the world.
Question of the Day: What were you doing in the eighth grade?

Saturday was a very busy day, especially in snowboarding.  There was a lot of drama and sick tricks.  I’ve got a lot of notes so let’s not waste any time.

However, I do want to give an update on Caleb Moore, who crashed on Thursday.  He underwent surgery for a heart contusion and then suffered complications involving his brain.  Current updates say that he’s still in critical condition.  My heart goes to him and his family.  Let’s all hope for better news tomorrow.

Ski thoughts

  • Why is it called Round 1 when Round 2 is the finals?
  • Gus Kenworthy lands first triple rodeo Japan air in Round 1 of Big Air. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.
  • Triples are key again.
  • Henrik Harlaut’s style is giving him high scores.
  • 1980 is a year, not a trick (unless you’re Alex Schlopy). That’s the equivalent of five and half rotations by the way.
  • Everyone’s reaction to the 1980 attempt: O__O
  • Henrik is skiing with his goggles backwards and eyes closed. Is there a method to the madness?
  • Jossi Wells gave us sick style and a nice break from all that spinning.
  • A corked 540 looks really slow but still cool.
  • Going 100 feet downhill via the jump with GoPro looks like you’re flying.
  • There is such a thing as too much air. Ask Bobby Brown.
  • Gus changes his mind from doing a triple to a double cork mid-air. That’s some quick thinking.
  • The judges really liked Henrik’s nose-butter double cork 12.
  • Apparently the jump designers learned a few things from aerials.
  • Kai Mahler missed a few jumps due to a potential knee injury, but he came back to do a double Japan air and a switch double misty 1620.
  • Henrik nose-butters his triple. WTF.

Snowboard thoughts

  • Mark McMorris did 13 jumps in Big Air and remained in top condition for Men’s Slopestyle the next day.
  • Rookie Max Parrot threw down some triples, which he just learned recently. Forget the White versus McMorris showdown; it’s Parrot versus McMorris.
  • The Financial District elements crack me up. You’ve got the Deposit, the Down Payment, and the Money Booter. I suppose big investment = high pay off.
  • Lighting was starting to affect the snowboarders. Only two out of eight landed their second runs, and the highest score was 65. Also, I didn’t realize they had different lenses for different conditions.
  • Shaun White sketched in beginning of his last run on Cab 270 on rail, and that seemed to throw him off a little. He went down on a double cork.
  • “Perfect” was the word of the day. Jumps were packed so tightly that you needed to be flawless to complete your run.
  • Mark looked unfazed by everything.
  • Max couldn’t better his score, but hey, silver is definitely not bad for a rookie.
  • Peetu Piiroinen did well until a hand drag. He had a beautiful rodeo, but since he didn’t do a triple (the word of the weekend), it wasn’t enough.
  • Instead of cruising through his victory run, Mark does a full run that included a cab 1260 double cork and a backside triple cork 1440. He wound up improving his score to a record-breaking 98. He also looked really good on the rails.
    markmcmorri_zps12aad757 photo markmcmorri_zps12aad757.jpg
    By Brett Wilhelm /ESPN Images (via X Games official site)
  • Jamie Anderson was spotted hugging a tree in the beginning of Women’s Slopestyle. It’s her form of meditation apparently.
  • Enni Rukajärvi had first full run of the day, and she was grabbing with a broken wrist.
  • Rookie Aimee Fuller went for broke on backside 7 but wipes out.
  • You gotta spin both ways to get the points. Cab and frontside look too similar in Sina Candrian’s run
  • Enni was really good but reverbed at Money Booter, and the judges (along with the course) are just as hard on the ladies about little mistakes.
  • I wonder if more girls are going to meditate next year. It seemed to put Jamie in the zone. XG13Aspen3 photo jamie-anderson_zpsee8c0e77.jpeg
    By Matt Morning / ESPN Images (via
    The Ski Channel)
  • Later on in the evening, Elena Hight stomped the first ever backside double alley-oop rodeo in a contest! No one else has that trick except Shaun White, and he hasn’t landed it in contest. That ought to shut up the people who say women’s snowboarding is boring.
  • Kelly Clark answered the challenge with a frontside 1080.
  • Rookie and alternate Ariel Gold had a sick cab 900.
  • “The girls want to rip, and the girls are ripping.” – Gretchen Bleiler (who needs to be a commentator when she’s not competing)
  • Kaitlyn Farrington got points for committing on her grabs.
  • Gretchen was recovering from a shattered eye socket and concussion
  • Torah Bright’s strategy this year is “totally boarding”: doing all three snowboarding events. It’s really helping with her versatility and confidence.
  • Wax tech = god (according to Gretchen)
  • Not perfect conditions b/c pipe slopes
  • Kelly has more technical difficulty and high amplitude, as well as no set ups.
  • Great amplitude from Hannah Teter
  • Kelly’s 1080 was 14 feet high. It was really hard to determine whether hers or Elena’s was better, but in the end, technicality ruled over innovation.  Check out Kelly’s blog post about the finals.
  • People are using “double rodeo” and “double cork” interchangeably. I thought they were different?

Congratulations to Mark McMorris (Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle), Jamie Anderson (Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle), Henrik Harlaut (Ski Big Air), and Kelly Clark (Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe) on their victories!

Prediction Status: 3/6
Quote of the Day: “Wait, those are girls?!” – my mom, midway through Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle finals
Trick of the Day: Henrik Harlaut’s nose-butter double cork 12
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By Josh Duplechian/ESPN Images (via X Games official site)

Question of the Day:
What IS the difference between a double rodeo and a double cork?

The last two days have been a test of my determination to watch the X Games. I wound up missing Day 1 and part of Day 2 because of work and a photoshoot. On top of that, AT&T doesn’t have WatchESPN access so I had to go hunting for a TV with cable, dinner and Mountain Dew in tow. When I found one, I wound up losing my pen. It’s been a fight to see the action, but I’m glad I was able to catch what I did.

Ski thoughts

  • The TrickTrack on the X Games site is really cool, but it takes away part of the fun of my job.
  • Sarah Burke would’ve been proud of what went down in Women’s Ski SuperPipe. Everyone except Jen Hudak (who’s coming back from injury) did a 900.
  • Annalisa Drew, a rookie, tried to go for the 1260. That’s definitely a way to get noticed.
  • The walls are 22 feet. Roz Groenewoud soared 14+ feet over that.
  • The defending gold medalist goes last, which creates potential drama. In this case, we had Maddie Bowman snagging the top spot early on and Roz trying to knock her off.
  • In the Men’s SuperPipe final, Simon Dumont made a comeback. He gave quite an impressive performance considering it’s his first comp after his injury and he’s got pins in his wrist and no poles.
  • Newcomer Aaron Blunck showed a lot of potential. He goes fast and huge, but he’s gotta learn to not be so squirrelly.
  • Kevin Rolland had good run until he clipped his ribs on last trick. That looked like a painful way to go down.
  • I’ve heard a lot about the effectiveness of visualization, and maybe the claims are true. It seemed to have helped David Wise, who was shown spinning his helmet.
  • He did the first back-to-back double cork 1080, spinning in both directions.
  • Joffrey Pollet-Villard got so much amplitude, over 23 feet.
  • Torin Yater-Wallace put up a really awesome fight for gold, especially since he was coming off of an injury and doing tricks he hadn’t tried since summer.
  • David Wise got second highest score in Ski SuperPipe history. The highest belongs to Candide Thovex.davidwise_zps27b09eba photo davidwise_zps27b09eba.jpg (From Aspen/Snowmass Instagram)

Snowboard thoughts

  • Triples (corks and rodeos) are the trick to winning Snowboard Big Air. Because the standings are determined by your two highest scores, it’s good to have different variations in the bag.
  • I did wish the judges gave more style points though.
  • Halldor Helgason took a hard fall and wound up getting a concussion. Hope he gets well soon!
  • Ståle Sandbech got an early lead with the competition trailing behind by more than 20 points for much of the evening.
  • Backside triples are harder than Cab triples so Mark McMorris’ only got a 38. It’s unbelievable to consider that triple corks were the winning trick last year.
  • Also crazy is Ulrik Badertscher getting a low score for a 1620.
  • Guys were crashing all over the place trying their triple cork variation.
  • The Big Air finals really proved that you can’t be too comfy sitting up top, especially when you’re against a hot bed of talent. Ståle didn’t try to better his score (not that I blame him because the guys were getting really beat-up), and that wound up costing him.
  • There could not have been a more dramatic conclusion. Last two riders on their last jumps, both former gold medalists, do tricks that have never been stomped in competition (and in Mark’s case, never done period) after spending most of the contest wiping out. Both Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo made it count although they both seemed really surprised too.

Snowmobile thoughts

  • Even though I wasn’t present to see the contest, I did watch the video of Levi LaVallee’s run and he has definitely made a comeback.
  • I also want to send well wishes to the Moore brothers. Caleb Moore has had surgery for his heart contusion. Colton Moore has been treated for a dislocated pelvis.

Congratulations to our gold medalists: Levi LaValle (Snowmobile Freestyle), Louis-Felix Paradis (Snowboard Street and Real Street judges’ vote), Maddie Bowman (Women’s Ski SuperPipe), David Wise (Men’s Ski SuperPipe), and  Torstein Horgmo (Snowboard Big Air)!

Prediction Status: 2/3
Quote of the Day: “She would fall harder than any other girl, and she would get back up and do it again until she got it.” – Maddie Bowman, on Sarah Burke
Trick of the Day: Torstein Horgmo’s switch backside triple cork 1440, with Mark McMorris’ Cab triple underflip 1440 in a a close second
Inspiration of the Day: Simon Dumont – He came out for the fans despite having surgery last December. He couldn’t use poles and still got bronze.
Question of the Day: Do you think skiing is becoming more popular than snowboarding? (The New York Times thinks so.)

It’s that time of the year again. I would’ve been caught off-guard had the date for X Games Aspen been marked on my Fantasy Freeride League calendar (it’s been a busy month, and sadly, I’m missing all of Day One). Here are my predictions for some of the events.

Ski Big Air – Kai Mahler
Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Henrik Harlaut
Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Kaya Turski
Men’s Ski Superpipe – David Wise
Women’s Ski Superpipe – Maddie Bowman
Snowboard Big Air – Sebastien Toutant
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Mark McMorris
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Jamie Anderson
Men’s Snowboard Superpipe – Shaun White
Women’s Snowboard Superpipe – Torah Bright

Don’t forget to vote for the Real Snow winner. You have until Sunday.

Winter X had some scary wipe-outs, and updates on the athletes came sporadically following the Games.  I’ve decided to compile all the info I found on the injured athletes.

  • Lindsey Jacobellis (boardercross) – torn left ACL
  • Alex Schlopy (ski) – damage to meniscus
  • Wing Tai Barrymore (ski) – torn ACLs
  • Sammy Carlson (ski) – partially torn right ACL
  • Justin Dorey (ski) – partially dislocated left shoulder, contusions and bruising on right leg and both hips
  • Justin Hoyer (snowmobile) – broken right arm, broken left tibia and fibia

Caleb Moore (snowmobile) and Duncan Adams (ski) were also injured during practice.   If I remember the commentary, Caleb had a bruised tailbone.  There weren’t any specifics about Duncan’s crash other than that it led to him walking around on crutches during Winter X and sitting out on the last stop of the Dew Tour.

Speaking of the Dew Tour, the final contest in Snow Basin was last week.  Here are the winners of the Dew Cup, as well recipients of special awards.

  • Ski slopestyle – Kaya Turski and Tom Wallisch
  • Ski superpipe – Devin Logan and Kevin Rolland
  • Snowboard slopestyle – Spencer O’Brien and Sebastien Toutant
  • Snowboard superpipe – Kelly Clark and Louie Vito
  • Ballpark Rookie of the Year – Jake Aaronson (snowboard) and Alex Bellmare (ski)
  • Mitch Breakthrough Athlete of the Year – Devin Logan (ski) and Nick Goepper (ski)
  • Toyota Athlete of the Year – Kaya Turski, Tom Wallisch, Spencer O’Brien, and Kelly Clark

Even though the two biggest ski and snowboard events have wrapped up, there’s still plenty of action on the slopes.  Red Bull Supernatural will air March 31.  The invite-only contest devised by Travis Rice pit veterans like Terje Haakonsen against rising stars like Mark McMorris (and apparently makes ESPN reference Star Wars).

"Terje Haakonsen and Mark McMorris -- Obi-Wan and Luke. This is simultaneously the greatest example of the legend generation taking an interest in passing on knowledge to legends in the making, and just straight up adorable." - Danny Zapalac (ESPN)

The Legendary Mt. Baker Slalom also featured old school and new school competitors, as well as Kevin Pearce’s return to competition.  Freeskiiers will have their own back-country event with the Red Bull Cold Rush in a couple of weeks.

If you’ve felt left out when all your friends and co-workers talk fantasy football and basketball, come join me with a fantasy league that’s closer to our style: Fantasy Freeride League.  The site also gives you the latest news in freeskiing.

The X Games were over too quickly. My mind could barely process the amazing feats that happened in the course of four days. I was sad to not see Snocross on the schedule, but I was stoked that ABC picked up a portion of the broadcast (it’s tough to watch everything on a laptop screen). Anyway, here are my awards for stand-out performances and memorable moments. Everyone did so well that I struggled to narrow down my candidates for the best athlete categories.

Best Female Athlete – Kelly Clark (Snowboard)
Kelly Clark’s comp history is ridiculous, and now she has added a fourth Winter X gold and a thirteenth consecutive win. She also throws down the 1080 like it’s not big deal (when she’s the only woman doing them).

Best Male Athlete – Mark McMorris (Snowboard)
Although Mark McMorris’ double gold and triple cork was overshadowed by Shaun White’s perfect score, he established himself as one of the best slopestyle riders… in his second Winter X Games. Something else worth noting: Shaun was the last person to win two Winter X Games events in the same year (2009).

Newcomer to Watch – Nick Goepper (Ski)
Last year, Torin Yater-Wallace came out of nowhere to challenge the top competitors in Ski SuperPipe. Now it was Slopestyle’s turn to introduce a mega-talented rookie. Seventeen-year-old Nick Goepper unexpectedly took the top spot in qualifiers and held onto it in the finals until Tom Wallisch’s second run.

Most Dramatic Finals – Snowboard Big Air
Also known as the “Triple Party!!!” The question of who will attempt the triple cork first was answered by the first person to ever do one, Torstein Horgmo. Then Mark McMorris and Sebstain Toutant stepped up to the plate, and with each attempt, the riders got closer and closer to landing the elusive trick. Finally, as the clock wound down, Mark landed the first triple cork 1440 in competition, and on his last run, Torstein improved upon it and scored a perfect 50. Progression happened before our eyes.

Best Trick – front flip (Snowmobile)
Heath Frisby made the front flip look so easy that I had to take a second to think about what happened: a man made a 500-pound machine somersault forwards off a ramp. This kind of stuff only ought to happen in comic books, yet Heath proved that it was possible in real life.

Picture Perfect Moment – Dominique Maltais in Snowboarder X
WXG16-Dominique, Photo from official X Games facebook page
Photo from X Games facebook page
This shot reminds me of the phrase from ABC sports, “the thrill of victory”. Dominique’s silhouette is beautiful against the blue sky, and the shot embodies the moment of glory.

Best Moment Outside of Competition – Sarah Burke vigil
Although the vigil was a moment of sadness, it was also a moment of great beauty. It reminded us that that the X Games are not about who has the most gold medals or whether snowboarding or skiing is cooler; it’s about community and living life to the fullest.
WXG16-Burke Memorial, By AAron Ontiveroz of the Denver Post
Louie Vito hugs Sarah’s mother Jan Phelan. Photo by AAron Ontiveroz (The Denver Post)

Most Educational Moment – Keir Dillon explains double cork variations (Snowboard Big Air)
I’ve been told that snowboarding “looks like a bunch of spins”, and that’s not far from the truth. What determines the crème de la crème are the little details that go with the spins. Double corks are a big deal so I appreciate the fact that Keir Dillon mentioned frontsides and Cabs were more difficult than backsides. It’s nice to know what the judges are looking for.

Greatest Comeback – Shaun White (Snowboard)
After seeing Shaun’s SuperPipe runs, I have a hard time believing that he had a sprained ankle. To go from having to pull out of Slopestyle to getting a perfect score in a couple days must be the greatest comeback ever.

Most Inspirational – Sarah Burke (Ski)
The entire 4 days of competition was held in Sarah’s honor, as the Winter X Games would not be what it is today without her contributions. Several gold medalists dedicated their wins to her, and in the Women’s Ski SuperPipe, we saw the legacy she left behind. Though saddened by her untimely death, many competitors remembered her love of life and celebrated it through their sports.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Casey Puckett (Skier X)
This was Casey Puckett’s last professional race, and after ten X Games and five Olympics, it would be be an understatement to say that he has had an impressive 22-year career. After retiring from alpine skiing, he began a skicross career. He’s one of four individuals to have two golds in Men’s Skier X, and he finished fifth this year after only a “handful” of days skiing. While youth may reign at Winter X , we must never underestimate the power of the veterans or forget their achievements. Casey, it’s been a pleasure watching you race all these years.

If you missed any of this year’s big moments, you can catch them all in this highlight reel:

I’ve been ill the past couple of days so the last of my notes is coming to you rather late. As a result of the tardiness and prior commitments keeping me from watching half of the weekend action, I decided to combine my notes. A lot of exciting stuff happened so this is kind of a long one (the videos are worth it though).

Ski thoughts

  • The SuperPipe ladies definitely made Sarah Burke proud. Brita Sigourney nailed the first 1080, a trick first done by Sarah, in pipe competition on her last run. Sarah’s friend/teammate Roz Groenwoud captured the win with a record-breaking 93.66.
    WXG16-day3
    Roz soars to an emotional victory.  Photo by Kristin Braga Wright, special to The Denver Post
  • The men’s final was extra tense with a lot of the favorites off their game. The “unforgiving” pipe saw many hard slams: one slip-up and you were done.
  • Noah Bowman is a guy to watch for in the future. He was a second alternate who made it into the finals and was the only person doing a double flatspin alley-oop 900.
  • Torin Yater-Wallace does an alley-oop 360 to set up for a double cork.
  • David Wise was on fire during the entire X Games. He had the most technically difficult start with a switch double cork 1080.
  • Those who tuned in on ABC were met with the scary aftermath of Justin Dorey’s slam onto solid ice. He was able to walk off but wound up dislocating his shoulder.
  • Mike Riddle had an unfortunate accident: he grabbed too hard on his ski and pulled it right off as he was spinning.
  • Three was supposed to be Kevin Rolland’s lucky number, as he was looking for his three-peat. He also wore #333 and had three double corks in the bag. However, he wound up being about three inches off his line in his third run, which led to a crash and no medal.
  • The Sport Science feature on the properties of snow gave audiences an idea of how making Ski Superpipe in the daytime and Snowboard Slopestyle at night would affect athletes’ performances. 
  • There was apparently some controversy with Women’s Skier X. Langely McNeal got disqualified from the finals after the French team complained about the band and hair tie she wore around her right leg. The International Ski Federation has strict rules about aerodynamic clothing in skicross, but X Games isn’t governed by the FIS. What I find ironic is that the French were known for wearing tight ski suit-like outfits while the other skicross competitors wore baggier clothes.

Snowboard thoughts

  • Your vote did count for Real Snow Fan Favorite. Louis Paradis beat Halldór Helgason by just 32 votes (it was exactly 50-50 when I voted).
  • Dominique Maltais had been the one to watch during Women’s Boarder X qualifiers, and she came out on top.
  • Nate Holland said that there’s only a one-year lease on the gold.
  • Men’s Boarder X had a dramatic finish with leaders Stian Sivertzen and Pierre Vaultier crashing into each other on the second to last turn. This allowed the Americans (Nate, Nick Baumgartner, and Jayson Hale) to sweep the podium.
    WXG16-day4, from X Games facebook page Nate and Nick approach the finish line.  Photo from X Games facebook page
  • Shaun White dropped out of Slopestyle due to a sprained ankle, but nothing could stop him in SuperPipe.
  • One of the advantages Shaun has is his skateboarding background. Snowboarders have two edges to land on whereas skateboarders have to land exactly on their wheels. As a result, Shaun is able to stick his runs very smoothly. I still like to think that his pants were key.
    WXG16-Shaun White, By Aaron Ontiveroz of The Denver Post
    Shaun catches huge air on what’s probably a double cork.  Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz of the
    Denver Post
  • “Darn” – Luke Mitrani on his first run fall
  • The SuperPipe finalists had to take an all-or-nothing approach to their most difficult and unique tricks to even hope to win: Iouri Podladtchikov’s switch double McTwist 1260 – didn’t happen and settled for silver. Greg Bretz’s double Michaelchuk – crashed. Matt Ladley’s double McTwist 1260 – crashed. Ryo Aono’s backside 1080 – stomped and bumped him up to third.
  • Not to be outdone, Shaun had a trick of his own to go for: the frontside doublecork 1260. He landed it on this third run, which scored him a 100 and was also supposed to be his victory lap.

Snowmobile thoughts

  • I don’t think I’ve been so nervous watching the X Games since the 2006 Summer X Games where Travis Pastrana did the double back flip. It was rather apropos with Justin Hoyer attempting the double and Heath Frisby trying the front flip. I don’t know who’s crazier.
  • According to Levi Lavalle, who attempted the double back flip in 2009, you only have three seconds to spot the landing.
  • Justin under-rotated, and everyone’s worst nightmare came true. Luckily he was conscious and moving.
  • I really have to commend Heath’s nerves of steel because he was right after Justin, and he committed all the way. He made the front flip look easy, but when you think about what the sled is doing, it blows your mind.
  • The trick to landing a front flip is to go faster (40 mph vs. 35 mph) and make sure you don’t land on the tail of the snowmobile.
  • Joe Parsons was so stoked for his good buddy nailing the front flip that he almost forgot that he was up next.
  • When you can’t compete with a crazy trick, you can do one of two things: play to the crowd like the Moore brothers or kick it old school with a whip like Corey Davis.

I’ve got a huge list of winners to whom I’d like to extend my congrats:
From Saturday – Roz Groenwoud (Women’s Ski SuperPipe), David Wise (Men’s Ski SuperPipe), Dan Brise (Real Snow), Nate Holland (Men’s Boarder X), Dominique Maltais (Women’s Boarder X), Mark McMorris (Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle), and Bobby Brown (Ski Big Air)
From Sunday – Chris del Bosco (Men’s Skier X), Marte Gjefsen (Women’s Skier X), Samson Danniels (Mono Skier X), Heath Frisby (Snowmobile Best Trick), and Shaun White (Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe)

Prediction Status: 7/16 – Much better than last year, and six of my incorrect predictions still made the podium
Quote of the Day: “[Sarah] rode with me on that run.” – Nate Holland
Trick of the Day: front flip on a snowmobile
Inspiration of the Day: Shaun White – Love him or hate him, he pushed a lot of snowboarders to give it their all and took the sport to a new level

Question of the Day: Had Justin landed the double back flip, who do you think would have won?