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Aspen to the X Degree: Let the ESPN Winter X Games Begin

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

ESPN Winter X Games really likes Aspen. It’s Round 14 this year but they’ve been here Round 6, in 2002 and have made advanced reservations to own town, and Buttermilk, through Round 16 in 2012. It’s only Morning Two of the four-day affair and already, the energy around downtown is a little more amped, running a little hotter. As for Buttermilk itself, it’s never seen so much action.

X becomes synonymous with extreme this time of year, with last night’s snowmobile freestyle antics literally – and figuratively – over the top. Many of the competitors were in their early 20s yet have already become some of the sport’s most accomplished crazymen.

With hard-core names to match, Levi LaVallee, Heath Frisby and Caleb Moore all tried their hands and feet at backflips, no-handers and heel-kickers, all the while hanging off their sleds like some sort of circus seal balancing act. The goal is to strut some stuff and clear the jumps, before landing gracefully back on the sled to wave to the crowd.
Father and Son Watch the CarnageFather and Son Watch the Carnage
There was a fair amount of carnage.

A couple of riders didn’t quite conquer all and flew off the sled, tumbling across the ground. The 550 some-odd pound beast toppled over beside them, even making actual contact with a body part or two; way too close for comfort, each and every time. In the end, Justin Hoyer took his first gold with a Superman flip, a backflip hands free to a backflip heel-clicker (think Irish jig with a motor).

As parents and really little ones watched in awe, bundled up and cheering around the snow-filled course, fans hunkered down across the hill to wait for Shaun White to strut his stuff, high overhead the Snowboard SuperPipe. The Elimination Round found White at the top of his game, and the roster; the crowd went wild, secure in knowing they’d get to see the “Flying Tomato” compete in tonight’s Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe Final.

Colorado and local athletes are a mainstay of Winter X 14 and as always, psyched to showcase their talents with a home court advantage. Snowmass local heroine Gretchen Bleiler returns for the Women’s Snowboard Superpipe, while Warren Miller veteran and Aspen madman Sam Ferguson will test his mettle once again in Mono Skier X; Carbondale’s Peter Olenick looks to fly high in the sky in Skier’s SuperPipe and longtime extreme athlete Casey Puckett, of Aspen, heads out for Skiing Super X. It’s a big year for Winter Sports, with 39 Olympians set to compete before heading up north to the upcoming Winter Olympics.

In downtown Aspen this Saturday, at 5:30 p.m., be sure to catch the Bud-Lite Hi-Fi concert, featuring one of the more captivating, energetic and all-around sights and sounds to behold, Austin’s Ghostland Observatory. Like most X Games fun, the show is free. So are the bus rides to and from the event and admission to watch all the action, and the umpteen prizes you can win and register for. New this year, free hugs at the entrance; they’re trying to set the Guinness Book of World Records record for doling out the most free hugs. All things in excess; ESPN Winter X Games 14.
ESPN Winter X GamesESPN Winter X Games
For a complete guide to the extreme,