We heard rumors of the cancellation of all forms of snowmobile freestyle earlier this summer when our pal Heath Frisby, an X Game medalist in those tricky sports, was hell bent and disappointed that Winter X was walking away from the freestyle scene. We tried to calm the savage beast and even put in a call to X Games organizer Joe Duncan in attempt to squash the rumor. Duncan said “there would be tricks and jumps” at X Games, which turned out to be true, but no longer will the ramp-to-ramp trickster have a showcase event at Winter X. We can’t say we didn’t see it coming after the tragic death of Caleb Moore two winters ago, but when ESPN decided to push on with the show last winter with freestyle (they did drop Best Trick, the event where Caleb was killed), we thought the bullet had been averted. But more sketchy tricks and more potential for disaster was on full display last year, and enough apparently was enough, as ESPN has pulled the plug on Freestyle for 2015. What’s left are mostly events where racing skill plays a more prominent role in the outcome, save Longest Jump, which could be next on the chopping block. Here is a portion of the official release from the Winter X crew:
When X Games Aspen returns for a 14th event in Aspen Snowmass, Colo., from January 22-25, the winteraction sports and youth lifestyle festival will descend upon Buttermilk Mountain with an expanded and fully-medaled adaptive sport lineup and the return of Snowmobile HillCross and Speed & Style, showcasing the talents of more than 200 world-class athletes from around the globe. X Games Aspen 2015 – with live coverage on ESPN and ABC and an extensive array of content across digital platforms –will also present a Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding dual slalom competition on Thursday, Jan. 22. Each team will consist of one Special Olympics athlete and one X Games athlete as they race down the X course. Athletes will include X Games and Olympic Snowboard SuperPipe gold medalist and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Hannah Teter.
Previously staged as a demonstration at X Games Aspen in 2011 and 2012, the world’s best adaptive snowboarders will race head-to-head in the Snowboarder X Adaptive discipline for the first time as a medaled event, joining Mono Skier X and SnoCross Adaptive in the competition lineup.
Snowmobile Speed & Style returns to X Games Aspen after taking a brief hiatus in 2014, while Snowmobile HillCross make its first appearance since 2004. Unlike other competitions staged on the X course, HillCross is an uphill race on a course filled with jumps, banks and rollers. Seven-time, multi-discipline snowmobile gold medalist Levi LaVallee will attempt to repeat his dominance in both competitions, where he took home the last Speed & Style gold in 2013 and HillCross gold more than a decade ago.
“We are proud to showcase 19 competitions at X Games Aspen, which will include more medaled adaptive disciplines than ever before,” said Tim Reed, ESPN X Games senior director, events & content. “We also look forward to the new, fresh look of Buttermilk Mountain, which will serve as the backdrop to not only our competitions but to our expanded music and festival areas, embodying the youth culture and lifestyle that exists at the core of the X Games.”