The 22nd edition of ESPN’s annual winter sports competition, X Games Aspen 2018, kicked off on Thursday (January 25) with heated competitions in both Men’s and Women’s Ski SuperPipe, the always inspiring Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding, and the return of Snowmobile Speed & Style.
Fans gathered to the tune of 11,000 strong for the first of a four-day event that promises all the unparalleled action and excitement we’ve come to expect from the X Games.
With 13 inches of fresh snow falling over the past week, the venue at Buttermilk Mountain was in prime condition as athletes suited up for the first day of competition. With that, blue skies, fresh packed powder and mild temps greeted the first event of the day — the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding.
The feel-good competition of the X Games, in this unique race teams are composed of one X Games athlete and one Special Olympics athlete, with the pros racing head-to-head before the Special Olympic riders do the same.
Today, it was the combined score of 29.6 seconds belonging to the perpetually smiling Henry Meece and alpine racer Chris Klug that took the victory.
”This event really brings us all together and that’s what snowboarding has always been about,” Klug said after winning the gold medal with Meece. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you are wearing or what your background is — we’re all passionate about it and this is our common denominator.”
Hannah Teter and Diana Shilts snuck in a silver medal performance missing the mark by a mere two hundredths of a second, while Denisa Trmalova and Silje Norendal claimed bronze.
Elsewhere, 17-year-old Colorado native Red Gerard took the top spot in the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Qualifier.
As the sun set, skiing’s biggest stars came out as the Women’s Ski SuperPipe got underway to a wild crowd. South Lake Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman took a record fifth gold medal in the event. With a run that combined progressive tricks like a right side 720 into a switch left side 900, she held on to a second run score of 92.00 to take the win.
“I focused a lot on my mental game this year, something I was really lacking in 2017,” Bowman shared after winning first place. “I think we all go through that at some point, so it’s great to be back here like this.”
After missing the podium last year, the win placed Bowman as the all-time leader in the discipline surpassing the late and legendary Sarah Burke who previously held the record with four gold medals.
Brita Sigourney took her second silver in the event with a score of 90.33 while Canadian Cassie Sharpe grabbed bronze with an 88.66
Next up, the LifeProof Men’s Ski SuperPipe saw David Wise put together a never-before-seen run that the rest of the field could not match. Throwing four double corks in the pipe, including a switch right side double cork 1080 and a massive right side double cork 1260, Wise became the first person to spin double corks in all four directions in a single run.
“My goal was just to get those four doubles done tonight— after that it was in the judges hands,” Wises said after learning he won the gold medal. “The level of skiing is so high right now I really have to credit the other guys out here pushing me so hard.”
Earning a score of 94.00, it was just too much for Aspen’s own Alex Ferreira who came close but ultimately settled for silver with a 91.33 on his third and final run. No stranger to podiums, Torin Yater-Wallace snagged a bronze with a 86.66. For Wise, this marks his fourth X Games gold medal in Ski SuperPipe, a feat never accomplished before.
Finally, after a two year hiatus, the Snowmobile Speed & Style discipline made its return to X Games with Brett Turcotte and Levi LaVallee both battling their way through the heats to face off one-on-one in the finals.
After three hectic laps and some big tricks like a Kiss of Death flip, it was Turcotte who ultimately took the gold. With a combined speed and style score of 88.94 it was an extremely close race as he edged out LaVallee’s 88.67 by fractions of a point.
“I can’t even explain this feeling! I’m taking my kids to Disneyland for sure!” Turcotte said after he was named the winner of the competition.
Willie Elam took the win in the bronze medal race. For Turcotte, who competes in Snowmobile Freestyle and Snow Bike Best Trick this weekend, this marked his fist gold in the event.