I’ll go ahead and say it. I love X-Games! They’re like the Olympics for action sports but better because they happen every year. Last year, X-Games Aspen fans were treated to the first perfect score in the history of SuperPipe thanks to Shaun White, watched Mark McMorris put the cork in Big Air and witnessed Kelly Clark’s continued dominance in the pipe. Can 2013 top 2012?
Tons of snowmobile action this weekend. Not only is SnoCross returning to the event, but that means Levi LaVallee will also be back! While he is probably the most recognized snowmobile athletes in the field due to dominance in the past, this will be his first chance at a gold medal in SnoCross. He has a pretty busy weekend ahead of him though, competing in all four snowmobile disciplines this weekend. Snocross will definitely be no easy win with a beast like Tucker Hibbert in the field. The five-time gold medalist is definitely pumped on the return of his favorite discipline. Can Levi get it done? We’ll see! Snowmobile Speed and Style, Freestyle, and Best trick will also be featured this weekend. With LaVallee having been sidelined since 2010, Joe Parsons has go to be the favorite with his 2 gold medals.
Now personally, while it is fun to watch the guys race their snowmobiles, I’m more pumped for the tricks being thrown down. Snowmobile freestyle is always an awesome event. Last year Colten Moore won the gold medal with only a mere 32 days experience on his snowmobile. The Texas native has a lot of history going against him repeating though, for there has been a different gold medalist every year since this discipline began. But if anybody can repeat, it is definitely Moore.
And if you catch the snowmobile best trick event, you are in for a treat because Jackson “Jacko” strong will be competing.. wait, what? Yup, the freestyle motoX rider will be making is snowmobile debut with only a couple months experience. Do you know what happened the last time a guy only rode the snowmobile? Colton Moore won gold in freestyle. While Jacko was the first to drop a front flip in motocross competition, Heath Frisby’s already taken that feat. Expect Jacko to bring some of his summer style to the snow, including “The Jack.”
Ski Big Air
Progression is the name of the game, so expect to see some crazy things being thrown down. Bobby Brown, 2 time gold medalist, landed a switch double 1440 mute grab and a switch double cork 1260 mute grab. He just beat out Kai Mahler’s switch double misty 1440 double Japan grab. Craziness, right? So where do you go from there? Well if snowboarding is any sign of it, it will be all about the triple corks. While at competition, no skier has attempted a triple, but they definitely have them in the arsenal. Could this be the year? Seeing as though the rider that throws it will most definitely be a shoo-in for the gold medal, the motivation is there and it is more than likely that we will see at least one landed tripled this year!
This will probably be one of the closer disciplines of the weekend. Tom Wallisch is on the hunt to become the first repeat gold medalist since Tanner Hall back in 2002-2004. But if Russ Henshaw lays down the triple, I don’t know if that will be the case. Henshaw’s had a pretty great season thus far winning the Dew Tour stop at Breckenridge and coming in second at the Grand Prix. It should be good to see these two go at it for the top of the podium.
Defending gold medalist, Kaya Turski, will look to add to her list of impressive performances at the X-games. She’s won it 4 times in the contests short history. Will she continue her dominance, or will we see someone else take the title? Well with a switch 1080 in her arsenal and this being the year of progression, doubtful.
While all eyes will most likely be on two-time champ Kevin Rolland, or last year’s gold medalist David Wise, I’ll be watching Mike Riddle. With teammate Justin Dorey out of the mix due to injury, Mike Riddle has shown this season that he is definitely here to compete. With a third place at Dew Tour Breckenridge and the win at the Grand Prix, he has shown that he may be ready to just dominate 2013. Can he keep the impressive competition performances going? Well if coach Trennon Paynter has anything to say about it, the answer is obviously yes.
Last year the ladies in the pipe treated us to some history making stuff. Brita Sigourney landed the first 1080 in a women’s ski pipe competition and Megan Gunning landed the first back-to-back 900s. While history was made, Roz Groenewoud took the gold medal. Much like most of the disciplines featured in this years Winter X-Games, the gold medal this year is definitely up for grabs.
Snowboard Big Air
At the 2012 Dew Tour in December, McMorris landed a triple cork three times to take the Big Air title. The defending Winter X Big Air champ is the hands-down favorite in the event.
But he’s not the only athlete who owns the triple, nor will he be the only athlete to throw a new triple variation in Aspen. Although the competition is always stiff with athletes like Torstein Horgmo in the mix, McMorris has definitely been the man of the hour in this event and all eyes will be on him to defend his title.
The triple cork is becoming a must in the arsenal in any snowboarding competition. White, who is serious about training for Slopestyle for the Winter Olympics next year, might have landed the triple in Slopestyle practice (revealed with some grainy video taken last week in Breckenridge, CO). While he may have landed it, he, among some of the other riders competing, had hoped that that the triple cork wouldn’t be needed to win Slopestyle. Mark McMorris is not one of those riders. Having landed it in Big Air, he hopes to become the first rider to stick it in Slopestyle. Due to the smaller jumps, the triple cork becomes a more massive trick and greater risk. Don’t feel too bad for them though, whoever lands it will most likely come away with a gold medal, and that makes it all worth it.
In the women’s competition, Jamie Anderson has dominated Slopestyle contests this season and is seemingly unbeatable. Last year the conditions were less than ideal and she managed to throw a 95.33 scoring run, which is the highest run in women’s X-Slopestyle history. With a fair weather forecast and only some wind, imagine what she can throw down.
People always give action sports athletes the reputation of being so chill and laid back. A lot of times that is definitely true, but last year was not one of those times. And although none of the them will probably ever admit to you that they were nervous, the start of the final runs of the were definitely tense. The one rider who seemed calm despite the chaos was White, who scored the first perfect 100 in the event’s history. So where does he go from here?. While at Dew Tour we were treated to vintage Shaun White, he’s stacking his arsenal with a ton of new stuff getting prepped for the Olympics. Now more motivated than ever, expect him to throw pretty major tricks and a lot of massive air. We may even see some new stuff depending on how his runs go. Scotty Lago qualified first at Dew Tour, but he couldn’t seem to get a clean run down in the finals. If he can lay down what he wants, expect Lago to challenge for the top of the podium. Coupled with Lago, a fully stacked, talent filled field will also be gunning for White. A good mix of some pipe vets, some young talent and you’ve got the men’s Pipe competition. This is one of my favorite events at Winter X, for sure.
As for the women, Kelly Clark is the woman to beat at the X-Games. This repeat gold medalist has dominated the pipe just about every year since she’s started competing. While she couldn’t get it done at the Grand Prix, she always knows how to step it up when it counts, especially at X-Games. While she is a beast on a snowboard, the field will surely not make it easy on her. Kaitlyn Farrington and Queralt Castellet proved that they could hang with the best. Kelly Clark is one of two women who can consistently land 1080s. And the other woman? Queralt Castellet. Torah Bright will also prove to be some stiff competition as she seemed to return to her 2010 Winter Olympic gold medalist form at the Grand Prix. And after suffering a nearly career ending eye injury, could we witness the return of Gretchen Bleiler? I sure hope so!
A little more than a week after the death of four-time Winter X champ Sarah Burke, every athlete in Aspen last year rode with a heavy heart. They allowed her to inspire them to send it at Aspen last year, and they will definitely be riding with her in mind this year. One of the best qualities about Burke from a freeskiing fan standpoint was that you never really knew what she was going to throw down on her final run. She helped progress the sport to a whole new level, and that is what these athletes will be doing in Aspen this weekend. Progression will surely get these athletes to the top of the podium. While it hasn’t even been a month into 2013, X-Games always brings out history making stuff. I’m sure that this year will be no different, and I, for one, can’t wait!
(Photo Credit: Instagram)