Under the bright lights of the Buttermilk “superpipe” this week, X Games Aspen athletes made the most of their two-hour practice blocks to dial in the nuances of the towering 22-foot-high feature.
Each evening after the lights went up and the temperatures went down, one of the last people to exit the pipe was skier Maddie Bowman of Lake Tahoe, the four-time X Games Aspen winner and reigning Olympic champion. Bowman, 24, was among the stable of skiers and snowboarders showcased during Wednesday’s opening X Games press conference who enthused about the overall venue and especially the halfpipe, which is rechristened the “superpipe” for this event.
“This is the pipe where I feel the flow, the excitement, the love. This pipe really brings it out in me,” Bowman said, having earlier noted: “I love coming to the X Games. This is where our sport was born and came into its own.”
X Games competitions begin today with men’s snowboard slopestyle and run through Jan. 28.
Snowboarder Chloe Kim, who won her first X Games in Aspen at the tender age of 13, could potentially take home a fourth gold medal this weekend.
“I’m always so excited to come back here. The halfpipe is always perfect. It’s an awesome place. I think I’m going to go in, full force, and try to stomp the best run I’ve ever done in my life and see what happens,” Kim said.
The halfpipe’s condition allows skiers like David Wise some comfort when trying to complete a difficult run of double inversions that go both directions, he said.
“There’s a certain level of autopilot I need to be able to enable in order to pull that off,” said Wise, who will face local favorites Torin Yater-Wallace and Alex Ferreira this evening in the halfpipe.
When a competition halfpipe isn’t in good shape, “Then I have to think about those easy tricks. That makes it that much more challenging to pull off those difficult runs,” he said.
Said Scotty James, “Every time we come here we know it’s going to be good.” A favorite in the snowboard pipe event that goes down on Sunday night, James, who is from Australia, won gold here last year, appropriately, on Australia Day.
“That allows us to put on a good show for everyone who comes to watch us,” he added.
Some of that good show will unfold for audiences on the slopestyle course.
Norway’s Oystein Braaten, who has won the past two X Games ski slopestyle events, said since last summer he’s been working on maneuvers for this X Games and Olympics.
“I feel like I have some new tricks that hopefully can help me to get high on the list again.” Braaten said.
During the 17th appearance of the X Games in Aspen, new events have been introduced, according to Brandon Graham, who is a snowboard announcer and was master of ceremonies for the press event. Those include Snowbike Best Trick and the Harley-Davidson Snow Hill Climb, which takes place up the superpipe and closes this year’s X Games at 8:15 p.m. on Sunday.
This year also sees the return of the Snowmobile Speed and Style event.
X Games Aspen
Thursday, Jan. 25
Noon: Jeep Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Qualifying
2:15: Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding
5:30 p.m.: Women’s Ski Superpipe
6:30 p.m.: Snowboard Speed and Style
8 p.m.: Lifeproof Men’s Ski Superpipe