There’s nothing quite like Winter X Games. Ever since it started back in 1997, it has been the greatest show on snow, and it just seems to get bigger and better every year. Whether it was a twist, a tweak, or a complete 360, every move made has been the right one and it was a streak that seemed like it would never end.
But unfortunately it has. Following 16 years of success, Winter X will take a slight step back this year. That’s because the best event ever was dropped from this year’s celebration of snow sports.
Much to my chagrin, ESPN announced this past August it was passing on three of Winter X’s oldest and most popular events: Snowboard X, Skier X and my favorite, Mono Skier X.
As insane and incredible as it is to watch snow machines flip through the air, or skiers and snowboarders spinning like cyclones out of the superpipe and busting big air, none of it compares to Mono Skier X.
For those who don’t know, Mono Skier X is a downhill race featuring athletes riding on sit-skis competing head to head in groups of four. It was on the same course as Skier X and Snowboard X, and sent racers hurtling downhill through high-banked turns, rollers and some big, bad jumps.
There were clashes between competitors, multiple lead changes, high-flying skiers and dramatic finishes. And of course there were crashes. Mono Skier X had some of the sickest crashes I’ve ever seen, and too often racers met the ground in an explosion of snow, bodies and broken gear. It was like watching NASCAR on skis.
Admittedly, I’m somewhat of a late-comer to the sport. Although Mono Ski X made its X Games debut back in 2005, I didn’t get on the bandwagon until I watched the races in 2009, during Winter X 13. That year there were a few factors, which made the race unlike most others.
First, there was the course. That year the course seemed to be relatively long and it had some fairly flat spots that were followed by steep slopes that led into some pretty big jumps. Under normal circumstances it would have made for another amazing race. But circumstances weren’t normal.
It was snowing on and off all day. The powder kept piling up and because of that, the flatter spots on the course became traps that slowed, sucked and swallowed racers like quicksand. Whether it was Skier X, Snowboard X or Mono Skier X, all racers were having the same problems.
I was particularly interested in that year’s Mono Skier X because I knew local athlete and mountain man extraordinaire, Sam Ferguson, was in the finals. I’ve known Sam for a long time and I always like to root for the hometown heroes, especially when it’s one I know.
Like many of my other favorite sports, I find the best place to really watch and see everything is from home. So, there I was on my couch watching and waiting for the beginning of the races.
Because of the snow and the slope, the mono skiers knew they were in trouble if they got slowed or stopped. In the flats they pushed and poled with all they had. It was gutsy and gritty.
With what can only be described as reckless abandon, they hurled and hurtled themselves downhill hitting every bump and jump at the highest speed possible so as not to be slowed or stuck, and across the finish line they flew.
Before I knew it I was up and screaming at the TV. To this day those races are still the best that I have ever seen during any of the Winter X Games and I’ve been watching them long before they came to Buttermilk. It was raw, unbridled competition. Even the dog was barking.
I understand ESPN likes to rotate its X Games events, and the logistics for maintaining and filming such a space are surely trying, but as a fan I am still not satisfied and I want more.
Bring back Mono Skier X.
Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.