In an ever expanding effort to attract more viewers and appeal to different types of audiences, ESPN
was the brains that were/are behind the Winter X Games.
The Winter X (X being short for Extreme) Games were first held in Bear Lake, California in 1997. Since then they have spent two years in Crested Butte, Colorado before moving to Vermont in 2000. This years games, which coincidentally, start today, are being held at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado and will include more than 350 athletes from around the world.
The games attempt to incorporate four major winter sports disciplines for both men and women. You won't find these in the traditional Winter Olympic Games but might come across them on some of your recreational slopes. Here's a brief description of some of the goings on.
Snowboarding and Skiing: Slopestyle
In this event, men and women snowboarders and skiers compete separately on a snow packed obstacle course and are awarded points for their performance. The judges base their scores on the quality and quantity of jumps hit as well as the creativity the competitors display as they negotiate the man made obstacles in to their run. The obstacles usually consist of such things as handrails and picnic tables and are similar to those found on skateboarding
courses. The more difficult and creative the jump, the more points awarded by the judges.
Skier X and Snowboarder X
Both of these events have men and women compete separately in heats of six. The "X races" are based on speed. Scattered along winding downhill courses are high mounded curves of berm
s and sets of moguls
(called whoop-de-dos or whoops) that are designed to add more of a challenge for the racers. Contrary to other races of this type, the participants are allowed "limited" contact with each other they go down the hills.
Snowboarding and Skiing: SuperPipe
This event has men and women competing separately in a U-shaped ramp that's carved into the snow. The ramp is 14 feet tall on either side, that's 2-3 feet larger than past "halfpipe" ramps. Both snowboarders and skiers are judged on the tricks they perform in, on and above the pipe.
Ok, this one pits the fastest 16 skiers and snowboarders at the games in a team relay style event. The pairs are chosen at random but one must be a skier and one a snowboarder. The snowboarder starts the race and as they cross the finish line, a computer chip timing device triggers the gate for their skiing partner. the fastest combined time wins the race. This event was added in 2000 to help ease the rift between skiers and snowboarders.
The first of the two snowmobiling events is called SnoCross. It's been described as NASCAR
on snow. The course is not an oval but a winding snow covered trail that goes both up and down varying degree's of hills.
The second of the snowmobiling events is called HillCross. Instead of racing downhill, the snowmobilers power the machines uphill. First one to the top wins.
This one sums up the X Games. It bring together motorcycle
s and ski jumping - two thing that seem to have no business being combined. The participants speed off a 15 foot ramp and perform tricks over a 70 foot gap in the hills. The object of course, is to impress the judges. The more impressed the judges, the more points they are awarded. Not to mention, a spectator favorite.