Minnesota’s Levi LaVallee took the top podium spot in Snowmobile Freestyle on Thursday night, in possibly the most wreckage-strewn competition in the sport’s history at Winter X Games.
LaVallee’s winning run included a no-hands backflip, a no-feet backflip and a final backflip, with his hands on the handlebars but feet off and fully extended to his back bumper with the biggest amplitude of the night — and going over a 120-foot gap.
It earned him a score of 89 and a gold medal.
LaVallee, 27, is returning after a two-year hiatus from X Games. He is best known for his attempted 2009 double backflip in the Next Trick comp and 2010 freestyle gold. Thursday’s win marked his fourth gold and sixth overall medal at X Games.
He is competing in all four snowmobile disciplines at X Games 17, held at Buttermilk through Sunday.
“It’s going to be a busy week,” LaVallee said. “I’m gonna be one tired dude.”
Washington’s Joe Parsons took second place with a hard-charging and crash-free run, including four backflips of different variation.
Riders took to the course as a light snow fell, waiting on their sleds with crew members holding umbrellas over their heads as they revved their engines. Towels were strewn over their handlebars to keep them dry.
In what was supposed to be a field of eight, only four riders took to the course in the competition’s second round. Three crashed and were knocked out in the first round — one did so in practice.
Heath Frisby, last year’s Best Trick winner, crashed twice on jumps in practice. The spills left him apparently unhurt, but wrecked both of the Idaho resident’s sleds.
Three more riders crashed and left the course in the first round. Two of them already were on their way to Aspen Valley Hospital as LaVallee took his gold.
The first rider, Caleb Moore of Texas, took a scary digger after a massive backflip, stabbing the skis of his sled into the ground and falling under the sled. He left the course walking, after several minutes on the ground, with medical staff holding his arms.
His brother, Colten, wrecked in nearly the same spot. Last year’s freestyle gold winner, Moore fell backward off of his sled in Thursday’s competition. Moore sat up and briefly flopped his injured right arm around, before being attended to by medical staff and leaving on a stretcher.
Daniel Bodin, of Sweden, took a ski-stab nosedive fall after a backflip. When he popped up after the nasty-looking fall after a 100-plus-foot jump and crashing with a 500-pound sled, a commentator gasped, “I can’t believe he got up from that.” Moments later he was working on his sled on the sideline, but he didn’t return for the second round.
The competition consisted of 75-second runs, in which athletes pull off as many tricks as they could on the course of kickers and jumps with gaps ranging from 70 to 120 feet.