Winter X Games: A Brief History

Aspen Daily News Staff Report
1997
Snow Summit Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, Calif., hosts the inaugural Winter X Games.competitions in snowboarding, ice climbing, snow mountain bike racing, super-modified shovel racing and a crossover multi-sport event. Barrett Christy earned gold in both Slopestyle and Big Air Women’s, bad boy Shaun Palmer counted Snowboarder X among his two victories and Daniel Franck — Norway’s “Slippery Hotdog” — took gold in  Slopestyle and silver in Half Pipe. The record-setter was Sweden’s Jennie Waara who collected Snowboarder X gold, Half Pipe silver and Slopestyle bronze. She’s still the only athlete in Winter X Games history to win three medals in the same year.

1998
Approximately 25,000 spectators gathered over four days in January, at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colo., for Winter X Games Two. New sports included Freeskiing, Snowmobile SnoCross and Skiboarding. The new events proved popular, with Denis Rey besting Americans Kent Kreitler and Chris Davenport for Skier X gold and Toni “the Flying Finn” Haikonen claiming SnoCross gold. Shaun Palmer and current Winter X announcer Tina Dixon split the Snowboarder X titles, while Jennie Waara earned the last of her four Winter X medals with a Slopestyle victory. Cara-Beth Burnside — who would later collect three X Games Skateboard Vert gold medals — won  Snowboard Half Pipe Women’s. Ross Powers owned 1998, using frontside and backside 720s and a McTwist to take home gold medals in both Half Pipe and Slopestyle. He also scored Half Pipe bronze at the 1998 Winter Olympics, which was the discipline’s Olympic debut.

1999
Crested Butte was once again the site for Winter X Games Three. More than 30,000 attended the event in Jan., which featured more disciplines, including  Freeskiing Women’s. Shaun Palmer completed the first three-peat in Winter X history, sporting a sneer and gold suit atop the Snowboarder X podium. He also competed in four separate sports: Snowboard, Snowmobile, Skiing and Snow Mountain Biking. It was the only time that feat had been done at Winter X. J.F. Cusson edged 1998 Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley in Ski Big Air’s debut. Enak Gavaggio earned his only Skier X gold to date in his first attempt by beating late, legend Shane McConkey. Blair Morgan settled for SnoCross silver behind Chris Vincent; it was the first of Morgan’s eight straight SnoCross medals. Tara Dakides collected the first two of her seven Winter X medals by winning gold in Snowboard Slopestyle and the silver medal in Big Air.

2000
Winter X Games Four was held Feb. 3-6 in Mount Snow, Vt. The first Winter X of the millennium featured the largest crowds to date — 83,500 — and the debut of Winter X on the East Coast. The new Snowboard SuperPipe competition was added. Fifteen-year-old Winter X rookie Tucker Hibbert set a still-standing record for youngest Winter X gold medalist by besting Blair Morgan in SnoCross. Hibbert was hardly the only talented teen rookie: 13-year-old Shaun White and 16-year-old Kelly Clark also debuted at the Winter X Games that year. While Winter X got younger, the Half Pipe grew up.  Wall heights increased to 15 feet from 11 1/2 and the discipline’s name changed to SuperPipe. Todd Richards took advantage of the increased size, linking 900s for his second Winter X gold. Shaun Palmer won Skier X; it was the third Winter X sport in which he topped the podium. Tara Dakides repeated in Slopestyle on the strength of her signature grabbed backflip and added gold in Big Air.

2001
Winter X Games Five was held for the second straight year in Mount Snow. Moto X Big Air at the Winter X Games marked its debut. A pair of precocious teens burst onto the Winter X scene: 18-year-old rookie Danny Kass grabbed SuperPipe gold and Tanner Hall, 17, took Skiing Big Air. Blair Morgan captured his overdue first Winter X SnoCross gold. Kevin Jones successfully defended his Slopestyle title, killing the down-kink rail with a backside 450 to 270 out. Jones’ fourth Winter X medal highlighted the progressive rail moves that were brought to the park. Current Winter X announcer Zach Crist scored Skier X Men’s gold, while Canadian Aleisha Cline earned her second Winter X victory in the women’s event. Shaun Palmer claimed his sixth and final Winter X title in UltraCross. Mad Mike Jones threw a “Kiss of Death” to win the debut of Winter X Moto X Best Trick.

2002
Winter X Games Six was held in Aspen, Colo. Jan. 17-20 at the resort’s Buttermilk Mountain. Two new skiing disciplines were added: Slopestyle and SuperPipe. The event drew 36,300 spectators, as well as the entire 2002 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Freestyle team, all of whom competed in Winter X Snowboard SuperPipe just weeks prior to the Salt Lake City Olympics. Skiing SuperPipe and Slopestyle debuted, with Jon Olsson and Tanner Hall earning gold, respectively. Snowboard SuperPipe gold medalist J.J. Thomas’ McTwists topped out at about 15 feet above the deck, Travis Rice featured a rodeo 540 and 900 in his winning Slopestyle run, but it was 15-year-old Shaun White who captured imaginations by taking silver in both disciplines. Kelly Clark crushed women’s SuperPipe, airing 10 feet above the deck and finished first with an enormous 12-point margin over second place. She then went on to win the Winter Olympic gold medal that year as well. Reggie Crist took Skier X gold a year after brother Zach did. Soon after Winter X, Ross Powers, Danny Kass and JJ Thomas swept the Winter Olympics Half Pipe competition, the first all-American Winter Olympics podium since men’s figure skating in 1956.

2003
Winter X Games Seven was held in Aspen, Colo. for its second year featuring the sports of Moto X, Ski, Snowboard and Snowmobile. Attendance over the four-day event increased by more than 12,000 from 2002, with a total of 48,700 spectators. Average viewership for Winter X Games Seven across the three networks that carried coverage — ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports — set an all-time record for the signature winter action sports championship event. Shaun White linked a frontside 720 to a Cab 720 in SuperPipe and flashed a Cab 900 melon grab in Slopestyle to win the gold medal in both competitions. Hometown Aspen favorite Gretchen Bleiler rode her signature crippler 540 to her first SuperPipe title, while Blair Morgan (SnoCross) and Aleisha Cline (Skier X) both completed three-peats. Just 17, Lindsey Jacobellis nipped Tanja Frieden in a Snowboarder X photo finish for her first Winter X gold. After a disappointing debut in 2002, Skiing SuperPipe became a fan favorite as Candide Thovex used lofty 900s and an inverted 720 to best Tanner Hall.  Hall did go on to claim Slopestyle gold.

2004
Winter X Games Eight was held Jan. 24-27 for an unprecedented third year in Aspen/Snowmass, Colo. The on-site spectator total of 66,500 was the highest in the event’s three-year history. For the first time in X Games history, the event was telecast live on ESPN and ABC, and the average viewership for Winter X set an all-time record by exceeding the previous year’s household average by 30 percent. Additionally, ESPN’s flagship sports news show, SportsCenter, reported by Linda Cohn live from the event. With defending Snowboard SuperPipe champs Shaun White and Gretchen Bleiler out with injury, Steve Fisher and Hannah Teter took advantage. Fisher landed a 1080 for his win while Teter linked a McTwist to a 900 and then took a victory lap wearing a bib and sports bra. Ueli Kestenholz and Lindsey Jacobellis defended their Snowboarder X gold, while Karin Huttary blocked Aleisha Cline’s four-peat bid and Aspen hero Casey Puckett won in Skier X. Simon Dumont blasted 22 feet above the deck for Skiing SuperPipe gold while Tanner Hall three-peated in Slopestyle. Relatively unheralded Canadian Michael Island confidently predicted in practice that he would foil Blair Morgan’s bid for a SnoCross four-peat — and he did just that, besting Tucker Hibbert as well.

2005
Winter X Games Nine was held for its fourth consecutive year in Aspen/Snowmass, Colo. Jan. 29 — Feb. 1, and was aired live on ESPN and ABC. Mono Skier X is introduced as a demo event. ESPN’s four primetime telecasts earned a 0.8 average rating in 2005, up 33 percent from last year, and reached an average of 677,000 households.  On-site attendance also reached a record high with a total of 69,750. Three-peat was the theme, as Shaun White and Janna Meyen both turned the trick in Snowboard Slopestyle and Lindsey Jacobellis got it done in Snowboarder X. A four-peat was thwarted in Skiing Slopestyle when French-Canadian Charles Gagnier upset Tanner Hall, nipping Hall with the final run of the comp. Finland’s Antti Autti used back-to-back 1080s for Snowboard SuperPipe gold; he became the first non-American to take the discipline. Siblings finished 1-2 for the only time in Winter X history, when Reggie Crist claimed his second Skier X gold and Zach Crist won the silver medal.

2006
On Jan. 27, ESPN and the Aspen Skiing Company reach an agreement that would keep the Winter X Games in Aspen/Snowmass through Winter X Games 14 in 2010. Winter X Games 10 was held Jan. 28-31 in Aspen/Snowmass, Colo. The on-site spectator total of 69,650 was the second-highest in the event’s five-year history in Aspen and a 92 percent increase from 2002 (the first Winter X Games in Aspen). Average television viewership across the three networks that carried coverage — ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 — set an all-time record with 747,130 households.  

Janna Meyen made Winter X history, and became the first athlete to four-peat. Shaun White joined Meyen almost immediately when he also won Slopestyle gold. White used three 1080s to add another SuperPipe title and then exploded into superstar status weeks later when he won the Winter Olympic gold. Winter X legend Blair Morgan tallied his fifth gold and eighth overall SnoCross medal when upstart Levi LaVallee — who had an enormous lead — crashed at the start of the final lap. LaVallee recovered for silver, his second Winter X top-three. It was Morgan’s final Winter X podium. Tanner Hall gained his first Skiing SuperPipe gold and Grete Eliassen successfully defended her crown in the second year of the women’s event. When bad weather turned Skiing Slopestyle into Best Trick, TJ Schiller landed the best 1080 variation of the 15 competitors who attempted one.

2007
Winter X Games 11 returned to Aspen/Snowmass Jan. 25-28. The four-day event attracted 76,150 spectators, breaking the attendance record in the event’s six-year history in Aspen. ESPN averaged 734,000 households in prime time — its most-viewed Winter X average ever.

Lindsey Jacobellis crashed yards from the finish while leading Snowboarder X, just as she had done at the ‘06 Winter Olympics. Jacobellis’ crash allowed Joanie Anderson to take the win. Joanie’s sister, Jamie Anderson, won Slopestyle gold, making them the only siblings to win gold medals at the same Winter X Games. Torah Bright earned Australia’s first Winter X Snowboard gold medal after winning the SuperPipe competition. In Skiing SuperPipe, Tanner Hall again triumphed in his annual duel with Simon Dumont; Hall’s initial hit — a switch 1080 that was a first — topped Dumont’s 1260, another skiing SuperPipe first. Tucker Hibbert scored his first gold since his Winter X debut in 2000. The seven years between titles tied him for the longest stretch between gold with Maelle Ricker, who won the ‘99 and ‘06 Snowboarder X competitions. Ophelie David led a French podium sweep in Skier X Women’s, while Casey Puckett captured his second gold on the men’s side. Chris Burandt used a 92-foot backflip to win gold in the debut of Snowmobile Freestyle.

2008
Winter X Games 12 returned to Aspen, Colo., with 72,500 fans in attendance. The event was televised in high-definition for the first time on ESPN HD and ABC HD, and was ESPN’s most-watched in history with eight telecasts averaging 863,000 homes, up 17 percent from 2007. Six out of eight telecasts were among the top ten most-viewed in Winter X history. The telecast on the final night became the most-viewed Winter X telecast ever — Sunday night in 1,117,000 households.

Tanner Hall became the only person to three-peat in two Winter X disciplines, adding three straight Skiing SuperPipe wins to his Slopestyle victories. Shaun White reclaimed Snowboard SuperPipe supremacy, using a giant 1260 to tie Hall for the most gold medals in Winter X history (7). Gretchen Bleiler scored her third SuperPipe gold in what was likely the best women’s pipe comp ever. Bleiler threw a frontside 900 and a pair of tough 720 variations to top Torah Bright’s super tech switch backside 720 indy. Kelly Clark became the first woman to attempt a 1080 in a SuperPipe comp. Burying his shocking ‘06 crash in which he inexplicably fell off his sled with SnoCross gold in sight, Levi LaVallee cemented himself as a star with gold medal victories in Freestyle and Speed & Style. U.S. Alpine fixture Daron Rahlves came from behind in every Skier X heat to take his only skiercross win to date.

2009
Winter X Games 13 returned to Aspen, Colo., where ESPN and Aspen Skiing Company announced an agreement that will keep the Winter X Games in Aspen/Snowmass through Winter X Games 16 in 2012. The viewers at home and 68,100 spectators in attendance witnessed the world’s top winter action sports athletes compete in a new 22-foot SuperPipe, and the addition of two new disciplines making their debut —  Skiing Slopestyle Women’s and Snowmobile Next Trick.The Winter X Games 13 telecasts were ESPN’s highest-rated and most viewed Winter X Games in history.

Tucker Hibbert (SnoCross), Ophelie David (Skier X) and Sarah Burke (Skiing SuperPipe) all completed three-peats. It was Hibbert’s eighth medal, matching Blair Morgan for most in the Snowmobile disciplines. But Nate Holland stole the “peat” show when he became the third person in Winter X history to win four straight in a single discipline, doing so in Snowboarder X. Shaun White won the gold medal in both Snowboard SuperPipe and Slopestyle, giving him nine Winter X wins and 14 medals, both records in Winter X history. Torah Bright flashed the most technical riding ever witnessed in a women’s SuperPipe competition, beating Kelly Clark, for her second Winter X gold. Jenny Jones’ Snowboard Slopestyle win made her the first female Winter X medalist from Great Britain. Twenty-year-old Frenchman Xavier Bertoni surprised everyone by upsetting Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont for the Skiing SuperPipe title. While Joe Parsons collected gold medals in Freestyle and Speed & Style, Levi LaVallee provided the most memorable Snowmobile moment (and one of the top scenes in Winter X history), when he nearly landed a double backflip.

2010
Winter X Games 14 returned to Aspen, Colo. for the ninth consecutive year where a record number of fans experienced many record-breaking performances. For the third straight year, the Winter X Games was ESPN’s highest-rated and most-viewed Winter X Games, with over 43 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2. Winter X Games 14 debuted two new disciplines — Snowmobile Adaptive SnoCross and Ski SuperPipe High Air.  

In the year of the peat, five athletes earned record-breaking performances at Winter X Games 15. Taking home the first-ever five-peat in Winter X Games history, Nate Holland edged out soon-to-be Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott in the Men’s Snowboarder X final. Tucker Hibbert and Ophelie David earned four-peats and became the first athletes to four-peat in their respective sports (SMB SnoCross and Skier X Women’s). Lindsey Jacobellis defended her back-to-back gold medals in Snowboarder X Women’s, becoming the first athlete to three-peat twice in the same discipline. Not to be left out of the history books, Shaun White won his third straight Snowboard SuperPipe Men’s gold with the McTwist 1260 to become the first athlete to three-peat in Snowboard SuperPipe and the second person to thee-peat in two separate divisions. Bobby Brown surprised competitiors and spectators by winning gold in Ski Big Air and Ski Slopestyle Men’s in his first Winter X Games appearance. Not only did he win Big Air, he earned a perfect score on two of his runs, giving Brown an unprecedented perfect score of 100. The next evening, Halldor Helgason became the second athlete to recieve a perfect score on his way to winning Iceland’s first gold in Snowboard Big Air.  In the Men’s Skier X final, Chris Del Bosco headlined the Canadian podium sweep. In the inaugural Adaptive SnoCross event, Mike Schultz won the gold medal in his first appearance back at Winter X since having his leg amputated.

2011     
Winter X Games 15 eclipsed the previous attendance record, increasing by 36 percent from 2010. The 114,200 attendance is the highest Winter X Games attendance ever. Overall, 39.7 million people from the U.S. tuned in to the Winter X Games during the four-day event, which includes all live Winter X Games 15 telecasts.

With the youth leading the charge, Winter X Games 15 celebrated the 10th year in Aspen, Colo. with record-breaking performances. The youngest athlete competing at Winter X Games 15, 15-year-old Torin Yater-Wallace, became the youngest athlete in Winter X Games history to medal as he won Skiing SuperPipe silver. Two days later, Sebastien Toutant, Mark McMorris and Tyler Flanagan earned the first-ever 18-and-under sweep of the Snowboard Slopestyle podium. Teenagers Sebastien Toutant and Sage Kotsenburg finished second and third in the Snowboard Big Air competition, bringing the number of medalists under 18 years old to eight.  Torstein Horgmo stomped the first triple cork ever landed in competition, and representing the ladies, Kelly Clark landed the first female 1080 in Snowboard SuperPipe Women’s history on her way to the gold. Scotty Lago won the inagural Snowboard Best Method competition with 57% of the vote, and Nic Sauve won inaugural Snowboard Street Competition. With lots of peat potential at Winter X Games 15, Lindsey Jacobellis continued her streak, winning her fourth straight Snowboarder X gold. Tucker Hibbert added to his dominant record with his fifth straight Snowmobile gold — the most of any Snowmobile competitor. Competing in his first Snowboard SuperPipe event since the 2010 Winter Olympics, Shaun White scored a 97.33 en route to the first-ever Snowboard SuperPipe four peat, and Nick Baumgartner ended Nate Holland’s six-peat hopes in Snowboarder X Men’s.

2012
Returning to for the eleventh year, Winter X Games Aspen 2012 featured over 200 athletes competing in 19 disciplines. A record number of fans attended the event on Saturday, reaching the 45,600 mark and a new single-day attendance record for Winter X Games. The total on-site attendance for Winter X Games Aspen 2012 was 108,000 – the second highest in Winter X Games history and on day three of Winter X Games Aspen, the total attendance for all 16 Winter X Games events surpassed the one million mark.

The games started with a somber note, as freeskier Sarah Burke, 29, died on Jan. 19 from injuries sustained while training. Opening included a candlelight vigil at the top of the SuperPipe in her memory. On Friday, the first triple corks in the history of event were landed, with both Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo pulling them off — McMorris taking gold and Horgmo the silver. SuperPipe maven Kelly Clark turned in another dominating performance, including a frontside 1080, giving her a fourth gold and ninth medal in the event. In another Winter X Games first, Heath Frisby nailed a front flip in the Snowmobiling Best Trick and won the event. Proving he’s still on top of the sport, Shaun White made X Games history yet again. Despite an ankle injury, White became the first athlete to score a perfect 100 in the SuperPipe. The “perfect” run included a first-ever frontside double cork 1260. It won him his fifth consecutive gold in the pipe.