Over a million skiers and snowboarders were glued to their TVs this weekend, and 70,000 fans were on their feet witnessing the four days of live action at Aspen’s Buttermilk Jan 26-29. The Winter X Games are huge, certainly bigger than ski racing in the U.S. Launching huge tricks and flips in a halfpipe, and sliding down frozen staircases and rails, is apparently more entertaining than chasing sticks down a slippery ski slope.
If you missed the party on snow in Aspen, here are highlights. Shaun White made redheads (like me) and snowboarders everywhere proud when he five-peated his Gold medal performance in Snowboard Superpipe with a perfect score. He launched a double cork 1260 with an injured ankle, impressive or insane; this is why people watch these games.
Norwegian Torstein Horgmo who won Snowboard Big Air last year brought an even bigger triple cork 1440 to this year’s event to earn silver, but Canadian Mark McMorris’ backside triple cork mute 1440 earned Gold.
U.S. Tom Wallisch won the Men's Ski Slopestyle, and David Wise won Skiing Superpipe with a switch double flip, the first American to win this showcase event since Tanner Hall in 2008. Wallisch and Wise were referred to as the old men on the podium at age 24 and 21 respectively. Yes, the Winter X Games is a decidedly young fresh venue where skiers and riders launch crazy twisting inverted flips, with the occasional big crash. The snowmobile double backflip crash by Justin Hover (hover - ironic name) was particularly harrowing.
The most somber moment during this Winter X Games came during a Sarah Burke tribute, just a week after her tragic superpipe ski accident in Park City, Utah. Many of the 200 athletes at the X Games dedicated their performances to Sarah, who was favored to win Gold, with purple ribbons and “I ski for Sarah” stickers. Her Canadian teammate and friend, Roz Groenewoud won the Women’s Ski Superpipe event, and said after her emotional victory lap, “I definitely felt like I had Sarah with me.”
This was the 16th Winter X Games, and more gnarly events continue to be added, like street style inspired ski and snowboard events. Winter X Games first started in 1997 at Big Bear in California. The following two years were held at Crested Butte, Colorado. Then Winter X Games moved east to Mount Snow, Vermont for two seasons. Ever since 2002, the Winter X Games have been held at Buttermilk in Aspen, Colorado.
If you missed the mayhem, and death defying tricks in Aspen over the weekend, put the 4th Dumont Cup at Sunday River on your calendar March 23-24, 2012 to see top freeskiers compete.
Photo by Greg Burke