While all the ski news surrounds Sochi, whose competing and how secure our athletes will be within the 1,500-mile Ring of Steel for the Russian Olympics, there's another ski and snowboarding event going on at Aspen's Buttermilk. The Winter X Games is on now through Sunday, Jan 26. This is your chance to see some of the best US ski and snowboard athletes go big before their Sochi appearances, specifically in halfpipe and slopestyle since the X Games are all about these extreme snowsports disciplines - read: no traditional alpine gate chasing here.
Understandably, some of our top ski and snowboard athletes were torn as to whether to save their strength for the Sochi Olympics are go for broke at both venues. The Winter Olympics in Russia marks the first time that ski and snowboard slopestyle and skiing halfpipe, historically the most popular X Games events, are official Olympic medal sports. Our US freestyle and snowboard teams are expected to haul serious Gold in Sochi.
Although the X Games are noted for a vibrant party atmosphere and crazy unconventional tricks on snow, the X Games prizes and Gold medals are also big business, something young skiers and riders don't want to miss out on. ESPN pays out $3 million in prize money at the X Games and Gold grabs an estimated $50,000. Plus Aspen Colorado is an easier flight thanRussia.
On ESPN from Aspen Colorado this weekend, you can expect to see Olympic bound freeskiers Gus Kenworthy, Nick Goepper and snowboarders Kelly Clark and Hannah Teeter from Vermont and Maine's Seth Wescott to name just a few of our finest. As for who you won't see competing at Aspen's X Games, two big stars: Shaun White & Simon Dumont.
Shaun White has decided not to fly high for his Winter X-Games 7-peat Gold, his sights are set on training for Sochi instead. White will defend his two Olympics Golds in snowboard halfpipe and compete in his first ever Olympic snowboard slopestyle.
Simon Dumont, Sunday River Maine's superstar in X Games superpipe, big air and slopestyle, will miss out on both big competitions - he is sidelined with a torn ACL and will not compete in Aspen or Sochi unfortunately.
This is the 14th year Aspen has hosted the Winter X Games, and they have signed on through 2019 with ESPN. Here is the Aspen Winter X Games 2014 schedule of events if you want to watch our Is skiers and riders go big before going to Sochi.Photos courtsey of Aspen Winter X Games
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.