In 10 days, the ski industry will descend upon Aspen, CO for ESPN’s Winter X Games 12. It is here that our sport’s largest stage will once again be set. The hype, the exposure, the event… everything at the X Games is bigger and bolder; including the prestige and accolades that athletes will garner. Last winter’s X Games played host to the ups and downs that accompany a competitive environment. We saw Tanner and Simon write another chapter in their rivalry, perennial favorites falling a little shorter than expected, unlikely (yet completely deserving) champions, and new talent start to carve out their piece of the pie. More than 40 of the best park and pipe skiers gun for the podium while the world watches and waits with bated breath to see who will emerge as this year’s X Games heroes.
As parks and pipes get bigger and better, so does the field of athletes. Every athlete is unique and diverse, bring their own style and competitive edge to the table. The invitees this year are no exception to the rule and anyone could bring home the coveted top spot. The following is a small X Games preview of what some of the athletes have been doing to up the ante this year.
With four X Games superpipe medals (nine overall), Tanner is the man to beat this year. With a huge switch hit to starting his run followed by a technical, yet lofty run, Tanner has his pipe game on lock. If you were lucky enough to catch Tanner in NZ this fall, or at Copper this winter, you’ll know how well he is riding pipe. Thankfully, no one is unbeatable all the time, and his two silver medals in pipe are a testament to that. With that said, Tanner is still the favored athlete.
The Dumont, like Tanner, also has four X Games medals in superpipe, two of them gold. Huge amplitude and technical spins on both walls have catapulted Simon onto the podium more than any athlete last year. Aside from the Simon vs. Tanner debate, he almost never falters whether in the stunt ditch or the slopestyle course; and his nine top-5 finishes are a testament to that. With two consecutive years in fourth place slopestyle and four consecutive years on the pipe podium, Simon shouldn’t have any trouble finding his way to similar finishes this year.
Not to be left behind, Peter has three X Games medals, two in pipe and one in slopestyle. Peter’s patented Whiskey Flip and massive airs keep Peter in the running at every pipe event he visits. On the slopestyle course Peter is rumored to have some new tricks up his sleeve. Couple that with the fact he spins both ways with the best of them and you’ve got quite the contender. The only thing hindering Peter? History. He doesn’t have quite the track record that Simon and Tanner have, but hey, who does?
Sammy’s slopestyle success has overshadowed the fact that he will only be 19 at the X this year. On the same track as Simon and Tanner, Sammy’s unique style, and consistent performance placed Sammy in 2nd at last year’s slopestyle. Although not considered a pipe rider, Sammy has been included on the superpipe list, leading many to wonder why. Those questions are misplaced; Sammy is a natural athlete and a wonderful competitor, so don’t be surprised if you see Sammy turn some heads in the pipe this year.
Colby James West
Colby came into last year on a mission. With several key finishes, including 3rd at X Games slope, Colby transitioned from under the radar, to in your face. Equally as talented in the pipe and park, Colby has the ability and drive to podium at both events. Switch hits and big airs in the pipe perfectly juxtapose his double flip and solid rails skills in the park. Expect Colby to take last year’s momentum and build upon his success in this year’s X Games.
As the pioneer of double flips in slopestyle, Jon will no doubt bring his other two dubs to the table at this year’s slopestyle. Consistent to a T, Jon logs more practice hours than just about anyone. Last year’s falls in the finals were a fluke, so expect Jon to come out this year with his guns blazing.
With an unfortunate injury in last year’s X Games pipe practice, Jossi’s X Games career had to take a one year hiatus. But the young kiwi has been training loads up in Keystone’s massive A51 terrain park and Breck’s Freeway superpipe, getting ready for an assault on the podium. Smooth style, confidence and a new double flip, Jossi can take down anyone in slopestyle. And his massive air and technical tricks in the pipe helped him take down some of the best at pipe comps all last season.
This humble, lanky Canadian kid had some of the best results last year, except at X. Finishing 2nd overall at the Ski Tour and utterly owning the WSI are just a sampling of what Riddle accomplished last year. Don’t except Riddle to stumble at this year’s pipe. With another year of experience and training under his belt, don’t be surprised if Riddle walks away with his first Winter X medal.
Many were confused as to why PK was not included in last year’s slopestyle, but nevertheless, he was not. With podiums at the US Open and JOI, PK has shown that even at 17 he can compete with the best. PK has been spending a lot of time in Summit County this winter dialing his tricks, so he’ll be ready this time around.
Andreas has probably trained more than anyone this season. From hiking baby rails to lapping Keystone’s giant hits, Andreas is on a mission. With the biggest bag of tricks, slope and pipe, of any competitor, Andreas has the necessary ammunition to crush the competition. Unfortunately, the X games perennially rewards big hits in the pipe, something that escaped Andreas’ run last year.
As an X Games favorite for 2007, Jacob didn’t quite live up to the hype, but don’t let that fool you. Jacob wants to double flip his way onto the podium, in slope and big air. Consistency has been somewhat of an issue for Jacob over the years, but when Jacob is dialed in, he is tough to beat. Whether or not you think double flips are legit, Jacob is extremely talented in the air and should not be discounted.
Being one of the only riders in all three ski disciplines this year means that you have a track record of doing well, in all three disciplines. Charles bounces in and out of everyone’s radar, winning something here, winning something there, but never with the consistency that would truly make him a superstar on the competition circuit. Spinning more, grabbing weirder and tweaking harder than most, Charles could walk away with a medal… or three.
Young Matt Hayward is on the cusp of something big. With 1260s (and an attempted double in the pipe) Hawyward stunned crowds and turned heads within the industry. Recent winner of the a Halfpipe competition in France, Hayward has been gathering exposure and experience. Look for the young gun to throw down with the big guys at this year’s X.
Sarah won last year’s X Games pipe, and just about every other event she entered. Sarah has been pushing and progressing female skiing since the day she arrived on the scene. Roxy’s number one skier rarely disappoints, finding herself on the podium with consistency only matched on the mens side by Dumont. With how Sarah has been skiing, it would be a MAJOR surprise if she fails to make the top three.
Grete won the inaugural women’s superpipe at X Games and her career hasn’t slowed down since then. Grete and Sarah have been trading 1st and 2nd place at most events they visit, and X is no surprise. Big air and tricks only a few women can do are what keep Grete a step above the rest. Look for Grete to stand on that podium once again in 2008.