It happens the same way every year. Anticipation … buildup … excitement … exhaustion. That is the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
This year, I worked on videos for X Center, a post-event, late-night edition of SportsCenter, with our TV production group and caught up with as many athletes, coaches and industry folks as time allowed. And, like every year, I spent most of my evenings dancing the night away with friends at the Target Chalet. Gotta exercise.
BCDC, AN AWESOME ACDC COVER BAND, PLAYED LATE NIGHT AT THE TARGET CHALET …
On Sunday, one of my friends who was watching at home on TV texted me to point out what he thinks is the coolest feature of the X Games. And I had to agree. Unlike the Olympics and other large, multi-sport events, there is no Para-X Games. Adaptive athletes compete the same weekend at the same event and on the same courses as able-bodied athletes. The monoski athletes race down the same dangerous cross course that took down Olympic skiercross racer Darren Rahlves–Heal up quickly!–and caused more accidents than Talledega. A new event, called adaptive snocross, or adaptive snowmobile racing, was one of the most exciting events of the weekend. It meant the return of motocross champ Doug Henry, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a practice accident in 2007, to competition. In the final race, former snowcross champ Mike Schultz, whose left leg was amputated above the knee after a racing accident in 2008, came around a turn and his prosthetic flew off. He drove to it, picked it up and rode with it to the start/finish, where he had help putting it back on. Then he won the dang race. Now, that’s something you don’t see every day.
In the halfpipe and on the slopestyle course, there was lots of fun competition to distract me from the pain in my frozen feet. Three Aspen locals–Gretchen Bleiler, Peter Olenick and Jen Hudak–won gold medals, which filled the friends & family sections and added to the festive atmosphere at women’s snowboard halfpipe, men’s ski high air and women’s ski halfpipe. The Bleiler-Kelly Clark showdown in women’s halfpipe was one of the most exciting and most progressive finals the sport has seen. Although Ellery Hollingsworth didn’t land her cab 1080 in competition, she nailed it in practice a few moments before the final. That made me wish she’d have a chance to land it in Vancouver.
WOMEN’S HALFPIPE FINALS SATURDAY NIGHT …
There were also tons of new faces at the event, which was super exciting for me, since I’m always looking for new stories. A few of the gold-medal winners, including Halldar Helgason of Iceland and Torstein Horgmo of Norway, were Winter X Games rookies. (You might remember them from my day at the DC Mountain Lab in Park City a couple weeks ago.) Stories like those two made up for the overabundance of four- and five-peats at the event. Man, there’s nothing less exciting to write about than the same person winning an event for half a decade. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be happening too much in the future.
SO HAPPY TO TRADE THE SNOW FOR A WEEK OF STORYBOOKLAND SUNSHINE …
After a fun, exhausting five days, I am excited to be home in Santa Monica for a full week. No Super Bowl this year. Instead, I am going to spend seven days defrosting, running on the beach and catching up with friends. Next Tuesday, I leave for the rest of the month to cover the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The week in Aspen was a nice warm-up and stretch session.