Iouri Podladtchikov from Switzerland wins the silver in Snowboard Superpipe Men%uFFFDs Finals at X Games 14.Credit: Eric Lars Bakke/Shazamm/ESPN Images
All eyes were on pro snowboarder Shaun White to see what he would do in the Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe at the X Games January 28-31 in Aspen, CO, just before the Olympics. In front of 20,500 people, he won the gold medal yet again with a 23-foot air, 180 double cork, 540 stalefish, double McTwist, and an alley-oop rodeo. Both White and silver medalist Iouri Podladtchikov from Switzerland will represent their countries in the Olympics later this month.
But of course, it’s snowboarding at the X Games that really captured the attention of mainstream media back in the day, and then went on to capture the attention of the Olympics which needed a more youthful, popular sport to attract a younger demographic to their ancient Games. And so it comes as no surprise that thousands trek to Aspen each winter for the X Games (and LA for the Summer X Games) to watch a series of events, mostly not found in the Olympics, but massively popular among a growing fanbase.
January 29, 2010 Aspen, Colo. Buttermilk Mountain: Shaun White, first place, during the Men%uFFFDs Snowboard SuperPipe at Winter X Games 14.Credit: %uFFFD Nate Abbott/Shazamm/ESPN Images
For example, there’s Snowboarding Big Air. It’s not in the Olympics but a clear favorite at the X Games attracting some 34,500 fans onsite. The top 10 snowboarders launch off of an 85-foot step-up gap in a jam session format. This event was notable because Iceland’s Halldor Helgason won the gold -the first for Iceland and for Halldor in his very first X Games with two switch backside 1260’s -in front of a record-breaking crowd that was double the size of his hometown of Akureyri, Iceland.
For snowmobilers, there was a version of this event added to the X Games whereby snowmobilers take-off on a steel ramp over a 75-foot snow landing. Winner “Launchin” Levi La Vallee lived up to his name and jumped his snowmobile 166 feet for the win.
Levi LaVallee in Snowmobile Best Trick where he also did well. Credit: Mike Roth/ESPN Images/Shazamm
Other notable moments included Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark putting on a show in front of a record-breaking crowd of 34,500 as the two Olympians battled through the women’s Snowboarding SuperPipe competition. Bleiler won with a frontside 900 to a backside 540, a Crippler 720 into a Cab 720, ending with a double-grab 540. Bleiler, Clark who won the silver, and bronze medalist Hannah Teter are all heading to the Olympics next week.
Buttermilk Mountain: Silver medalist Kelly Clark, gold winner Gretchen Bleiler and bronze finalist Hannah Teter saluted the fans during the awards ceremonies for the Snowboard Superpipe Women%uFFFDs final at X Games 14.Credit: Tomas Zuccareno/Shazamm/ESPN Images
Other relatively new and fun sports came from skiing moving into what were once snowboarding events, such as Skier Slopestyle and Skier X. Skier X is like Boardercross whereby a field of skiers race over tabletops, banked turns, rollers, and gaps on their race down the mountain, making it the most demanding ski racing competition in the world today (and making the World Cup and Olympic slalom, giant slalom, and even downhill look like tame comparisons).
Finally, one of the events that’s a true test of a riders ability overall has to be the Snowboarding Slopestyle (and relatively new Skier Slopestyle). Less boarderX or skier X, Snowboard Slopestyle tests a rider’s ability over a variety of terrain as they execute freestyle maneuvers down a course filled with gnarly features, including rails, hips, massive tabletops, and a variety of jumps. Each rider has to hit, and then perform over each, with tricks measured based on technique, big air, and a combination of grace and speed.
January 31, 2010-Aspen, Colorado-Buttermilk Mountain-Jenny Jones Gold-Women%uFFFDs Snowboard SlopeStyle Finals at Winter X Games 14–Credit: Tomas Zuccareno/Shazamm/ESPN
It’s at the X Games where you see athletes trying to pull off new tricks (something very rarely seen at the Olympics). And again it happened here when bronze medalist Janna Meyen-Weatherby tried in all 3 of her runs in Snowboarding Slopestyle to pull a cab 900, a feat never before done, but she didn’t quite make it. Still, the camaraderie found among X Games athletes was apparent when silver medalist Jamie Anderson said, “Jenny rode really well as did Jenna. To try the cab 900 is really impressive. No girl has ever done that trick, so definite respect to her.”
Overall, the 14th Winter X Games featured 250 men and women, including 39 Olympians, across the globe competing in Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snowmobile. ESPN collaborated this winter with Fuel TV to increase the coverage of action sports action at the X Games with a 6-month programming license agreement providing Fuel 2 and %uFFFD hours of exclusive Winter X Games Class iX video content.
Digitally, the Winter X Games featured a new SnoCross game app, and event coverage podcasts of X Games available on iTunes. 50 Cent started off the X Games performing at the Opening Night Bash.
January 30, 2010 Aspen, Colo. Buttermilk Mountain: Shaun White wins gold in Men%uFFFDs Snowboard Half Pipe at Winter X Games 14 Credit: Christian Pondella/Shazamm/ESPN Images