What to watch for at X Games Aspen
Returning champions and new faces could pepper the podiums at X Games Aspen this year. Here's your guide to tuning in. Snowmobile Freestyle Final: Thursday, Jan. 23, 9 p.m.-11 p.m., ESPN After defending gold medalist Levi LaVallee withdrew from Snowmobile Freestyle because of a nagging shoulder injury, the first medal event of X Games Aspen is wide open. Any of the competitors could take home gold, including Joe Parsons, Justin Hoyer, Daniel Bodin, Cory Davis and Colten Moore. Also watch for a tribute to Colten's brother Caleb, who died after injuries sustained in last year's event.
Put A Bow On It
Women's Ski SuperPipe Final: Friday, Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., ESPN3 Maddie Bowman was the first to secure a U.S. Olympic team spot for the debut of ski halfpipe in Sochi, but first she's making a trip to Aspen a priority, to defend her X Games Aspen 2013 gold medal. "It's my favorite event, and it's going to be the perfect place to perfect everything before Sochi," she said. Watch for the latest installment of her fierce but friendly rivalry with her U.S. Freeskiing teammate Brita Sigourney and Canadian competitor Roz Groenewoud, last year's silver medalist and the X Games Aspen 2012 gold medalist. X Games Tignes 2013 gold medalist Marie Martinod will also be in the mix.
Go Big Or Lose To Horgmo
Snowboard Big Air Final: Friday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET, ESPN3 Torstein Horgmo's switch backside triple cork 1440 at X Games Aspen 2013 gave him both a perfect 50-point run score and his third Snowboard Big Air gold. How do you outdo a perfect score? Leave it to Horgmo, the most heavily decorated Big Air competitor and the first to bring triple flips to competition, to have something even bigger up his sleeve. Prefer to root for an underdog? Try X Games rookie Sven Thorgren, the Swedish rider who won Air & Style Beijing in December with a backside triple cork 1440 and could also bring a Cab triple cork 1440 or Cab triple underflip to Aspen.
Men's Ski SuperPipe Final: Friday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET, ESPN3 "Our sport wouldn't be what it is without the X Games, so Olympics or not, I'll be there," said David Wise, who will be going for an X Games Aspen three-peat before his hop across the pond to Sochi as the top U.S. qualifier for freeskiing's Olympic debut. X Games Tignes 2013 gold medalist and hometown favorite Torin Yater-Wallace will be competing after a recent injury and watch for two-time gold medalist Kevin Rolland to give Wise a run for it.
McMorris vs. White
Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Final: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. ET, ESPN All the hype's been on Shaun White as the U.S. team selection process in the run-up to the Olympic debut of snowboard slopestyle in Sochi unfolded, but the fact remains that international riders now dominate the event White once ruled. Canadian rider Mark McMorris is the man to beat: He's going for an X Games Aspen three-peat. Two-time gold medalist Sebastien Toutant is another contender, as are previous X Games medalists Sage Kotsenburg, Stle Sandbech, Max Parrot, Chas Guldemond, and Seppe Smits, and reigning X Games Big Air champ Torstein Horgmo.
The Race Is (Back) On
Men's and Women's Boarder X Final: Saturday, Jan. 25 2 p.m.-4 p.m. ET, ESPN Snowboarder X returns to Aspen after a brief hiatus in 2013, and the top competitors are a familiar bunch, including defending Winter Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott and six-time X Games gold medalist Nate Holland. On the women's side, watch for Canadian rider Dominique Maltais, currently ranked first overall in the FIS Snowboard World Cup series, and American rider Lindsey Jacobellis, currently ranked second overall. Jacobellis won Snowboarder X in Aspen from 2008-11; Maltais won in 2012, with Jacobellis missing in action with an ACL injury.
Friends On The Slope
Women's Snowboard Slopestyle Final: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. ET, ESPN "Snowboarding and traveling with my friends is a bigger priority for me than winning," said Jamie Anderson. "We're all just out here having fun and going for it, and everybody's cheering for everybody else." Don't let her casual nature trip you out: She's been quietly adding to a stack of X Games medals -- one for each of her eight X Games appearances -- and is after an X Games three-peat this time around. Challengers include a deep international field of Anderson's globetrotting friends, such as Finnish rider Enni Rukajärvi, Canadian rider Spencer O'Brien, Norwegian riders Silje Norendal and Kjersti Buaas, Czech rider Sarka Pancochova and 16-year-old American X Games rookie Ty Walker, who will be joining Anderson on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi.
Going The Distance
Snowmobile Long Jump Final: Saturday, Jan. 25, 8:30 p.m.-9 p.m. ET, ESPN Snowmobile competitors looking to break the distance record during the return of Snowmobile Long Jump (previously called "Knock Out" when it ran in 2010) will have an awfully imposing mark in front of them: Levi LaVallee set it at 412 feet, 6 inches on his Red Bull New Year No Limits jump on New Year's Eve 2011, in San Diego of all places. Each competitor attempts jumps as the starting line is progressively moved farther and farther back from the landing ramp. LaVallee won the event in 2010 at the 166.75 mark and is poised to send it more than double that this time around if necessary. In a sport in which sled tuning and sheer nerve are primary criteria, Cory Davis, Chris Burandy, Colten Moore and Joe Parsons are all considered to be serious contenders.
Make Friends, But Keep The Gold
Women's Snowboard Superpipe Final: Saturday, Jan. 25, 8:30 p.m.-9 p.m. ET ESPN3 "Chloe Kim and some of these other young riders are the future, for sure, and I welcome the challenge," said Kelly Clark, even as she's going for an X Games Aspen four-peat in women's superpipe. Kim, 13, is an X Games rookie and was too young to make the Olympics team this time around, but her second-place finish at the Burton High Fives event in New Zealand in September and third-place finish at the Dew Tour in December, as well a first-place qualifying run at the U.S. Grand Prix event in Breckenridge, have served notice that the future is coming up fast. Clark will also have to contend with her U.S. Olympic teammates Kaitlyn Farrington and Arielle Gold, as well as double-cork spinner Elena Hight and Australian rider Torah Bright, the defending Olympic gold medalist who edged Clark out for the Dew Tour win in December, among others.
Pass The Butter
Ski Big Air Final: Saturday, Jan. 25, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET, ESPN Swedish skier Henrik Harlaut's game-changing nose butter triple cork 1620 at X Games Aspen 2013 won him his first gold medal, propelled him to No. 1 overall Big Air ranking on the 2013 AFP World Tour and helped him on his way to Freeskier Magazine's 2013 Skier of the Year honors. American skier Bobby Brown, the 2012 and 2010 gold medalist, will be another contender, as will 2011 gold medalist Alex Schlopy and a deep international field including Swiss skier Kai Mahler and Canadian Vincent Gagnier.
Men's Ski Slopestyle Final: Sunday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. ET, ESPN All of the X Games events are anyone's to win, obviously, but it's especially true for Men's Ski Slopestyle: No skier has grabbed gold in the event more than once since Tanner Hall's three-peat run from 2002-04. Still, the odds-on favorite will be Nick Goepper, who followed up on his X Games Aspen 2013 gold with a win at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge and a second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in December, securing the first of four berths to Sochi for his sport's Olympic debut alongside Bobby Brown, Gus Kenworthy and Joss Christensen. Look for new triple corks in the competition this year, and watch for previous gold medalists, including McRae Williams (X Games Tignes 2013), Tom Wallisch (X Games Aspen 2012), and Bobby Brown (X Games Aspen 2010), all vying to add another to their collection. An even better story will be if somebody else wins, making for 11 different gold medalists in 11 years; everybody loves a wide-open contest.
Four For Four?
Snowmobile Adaptive SnoCross Final: Sunday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. ET, ESPN Mike Schultz leads the field in the only adaptive action sport featured at X Games Aspen 2014 after winning Adaptive SnoCross every year it's been contended. He's after a four-peat this week, but first will have to get past paraplegic rider Doug Henry -- a former X Games Moto X Supermoto gold medalist and last year's Adaptive SnoCross silver medalist -- and his good friend Jim Wazny, who uses the Moto Knee that Schultz invented.
Women's Ski Slopestyle Final: Sunday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. ET, ESPN If Canadian skier Kaya Turski competes in Aspen, she'll aim to follow up on her X Games Tignes 2013 gold and an X Games Aspen streak that ran from 2010-12. With X Games Aspen 2013 gold medalist Tiril Sjastad Christiansen out with an ACL injury, Turski would presumably be the clear favorite, but she's not at 100 percent either after an ACL injury of her own and could opt out if she's not feeling it. Others to watch include Devin Logan, who is chasing her first X Games gold, and Canadian skier Dara Howell, the bronze medalist from both X Games Aspen 2013 and X Games Tignes 2013. Prefer rooting for a rookie? Allow us to suggest 15-year-old Maggie Voisin, who will be the youngest female skier ever to compete at X Games and could very well become the youngest athlete to win Winter X gold.
The Seven Samurai
Snowmobile SnoCross Final Sunday Jan. 26, 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. ET and Men's Snowboard Superpipe Final, 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. ET ESPN SnoCross racer Tucker Hibbert and Snowboard SuperPipe dominator Shaun White are currently tied at six for the most consecutive winter X Games wins record, in hot pursuit of BMX Vert ruler Jamie Bestwick's record run of eight summer X Games wins. Hibbert, who surpassed Blair Morgan's career SnoCross win record earlier this month and has not lost a snocross race this season, just might be unstoppable. White pulled out of X Games competition on Wednesday, so you won't be seeing the defending champ in Men's Snowboard SuperPipe. But look out for Danny Davis, Greg Bretz and X Games rookie Taylor Gold, all of whom have stood atop the podium in the recent Olympic qualification series.