Winter X-Games Nine

The world’s most “X-treme” contest is decadent and depraved.

By Jennifer Sherowski

Snowboarding is many things. Snowboarding is a soft stealthy run through the trees-complete silence except for a crackle of Gore-Tex or a quick cough when a glob of powder gets in your windpipe. However, snowboarding is also a giant mass of people crowding onto a mountain to stare wide-eyed at circus-esque terrain-park features being shredded apart by famous people in front of a wall of cameras. It’s a strange duality, one we’ve pretty much come to expect out of our beloved sport. And like with any real relationship, you can’t just pick one or two things you want to love about it and chuck the rest. Nope, you gotta love the whole damn thing-good, bad, ugly, pretty … everything.

So it was that I found myself bound for the X-Games, cautiously creeping into the town of Aspen, Colorado late the night before the Slopestyle. Driving through the middle of a January snowstorm made it somewhat more difficult to avoid the hordes of people in the streets, everyone wearing beanies and mittens and in a festive mood-not paying one lick of attention to a Dodge Neon desperately trying to make it up to a hotel parking lot on the side of Aspen mountain by making several running starts.

With the car finally parked and my gear a big heap on the floor of my “chalet” (that’s Aspen for “motel room”), I immediately suited back up to go find “the party.” My press kit had come with a schedule dictating some sort of exclusive, credential-access-only festivity every night of the Games. This contest is all about credentials-you can’t go anywhere without them, and if there’s somewhere you can go with the ones you have and you’re not going, well, then yer blowin’ it. I didn’t have my credentials yet (had to wait ’til the next morning for that), but I still had what I considered “credential status” and was therefore determined not to miss a single chance to use it.

Now, outside the nightclub where, it turned out, the Roots were playing, I encountered a scene very familiar to the X-Games: a giant line. Turns out, a lot of people had credentials. I saw plenty of important team manager and agent types stuck waiting outside because the club was at capacity and the giant subhuman bouncer doesn’t care that you got Tara Dakides her Campbell’s Soup gig or what have you. Amazing! I loved every minute of it: How upset people were because their friends were inside and they weren’t. The ones who were trying to pull rank with lines like, “I work for a company that sponsors this event … ” The ones who were casting shifty glances and trying to sneak in when the bouncer was thus occupied.

The next day, I entered the tent encampment known as the “X-Village” at the base of Buttermilk to get credentialed-not as easy as it seems. Everywhere I could possibly imagine Media Registration to be was Credential Access Only, and upon trying to enter, I was swiftly barred by any number of X-volunteers. It was a seemingly endless maze of lose-lose options that begged one obvious question: which came first, the credential or the credential-only access? After too long at this game, I figured it out, and with a newly laminated X-Press Credential in my clutches at last, I went up to the Slopestyle course. Here I proceeded to get kicked out of a whole gamut of viewing points for not having a “Super Press Credential.” Outsmarted again!

Later that evening, one thing became clear: nighttime finals events are the perfect opportunity to enjoy one of many spirits that go perfectly with cold weather (vodka, gin, whiskey, spiced rum)-a fact not lost on Aspen’s population of X-inhabitants. It really warmed my heart on the bus ride over to Buttermilk for the women’s Superpipe finals to see college kids in town for the weekend from Fort Collins and Denver swilling Coke bottles containing stiff mixed drinks. It’s a long-standing tradition, and it’s definitely what II would do in their shoes. I did feel bad for that same crowd at the event’s conclusion when there was an hour wait to catch the bus back to town. I saw many a pained faced that spoke of bursting bladders, insane thirst, and swiftly approaching headaches. So it goes.

The X-Games is, of course, a really big deal to sponsors, and so huge team mansions throughout the town of Aspen were rented for the week by companies like Oakley and Target. Hot tubs, stocked fridges, PlayStations, big-screen TVs-this is the off-hill life of an X-competitor. I made my way over to the Oakley house one evening for a big dinner and was a little taken aback to see such absolute harmony between Oakley skiers and snowboarders-Travis Rice and Terje easily mingling with Kristi Leskinen and Tanner Hall. Weird! Well, maybe not that weird, I guess. Anyway, these team houses were so comfortable that, truth be told, I didn’t really see any industry faces at the actual snowboard events. Why? Because you can actually see the action better by watching the live TV coverage-so there I was, packed into wet snowboard boots and frozen solid, squirming to get a better glimpse of the action from behind a giant camera boom, while the staff of every other company was watching on couches in pajama bottoms with mugs of hot something or other. I’m a sucker.

And so ends a strange and wonderful X-Games experience. Here’s the thing, I may not have mentioned the actual riding that transpired that week (which you undoubtedly saw on television anyway if you happen to live in the world at all), but the reality is that all the above stuff is snowboarding, too. It’s lines outside of nightclubs in packed winter towns. It’s boozy bus rides. It’s big crowds cheering someone on out of sheer human goodwill and stoked-ness. Snowboarding is the act of snowboarding and all the crazy things that go along with that. If one of those crazy things happens to be the X-Games, well then so be it.

Official Results

Women’s Superpipe

1. Gretchen Bleiler

2. Doriane Vidal

3. Hannah Teter

4. Torah Bright

5. Kelly Clark

Men’s Superpipe

1. Antti Autti

2. Andy Finch

3. Shaun White

4. Tommy Czeschin

5. Mason Aguirre

Women’s Slopestyle

1. Janna Meyen

2. Silvia Mittermà…ller

3. Natasza Zurek

4. Erin Comstock

5. Emily Thomas

Men’s Slopestyle

1. Shaun White

2. Danny Kass

3. Travis Rice

4. Bjorn Leines

5. Todd Richards

Women’s Snowboard Cross

1. Lindsey Jacobellis

2. Erin Simmons

3. Karine Ruby

4. Joanie Anderson

5. Tanja Frieden

Men’s Snowboard Cross

1. Xavier de le Rue

2. Seth Wescott

3. Marco Huser

4. Jason Smith

5. Sylvain Duclos