The X Games

This year I went to the X-Games at Mt. Snow, Vermont to do a little commentating for ESPN and also to cover them for TransWorld’s Internet site. Others were also employed by ESPN to do the same commentating–I guess I didn’t cut the mustard because I was never on the air, and I never got paid. Others were also employed by the TransWorld Internet site to cover the same games, so if you’re like ESPN and don’t particularly like my work, you can still read all those other stories at www.transworldsnowboarding.com/competition/

Slopestyle

Lucky for me, the talent pass for ESPN allowed me access into all areas. I watched the Women’s Slopestyle Finals in the production van. There were about ten people working in what was basically a semi-trailer with thousands of wires running in and out. They were staring at 30 monitors, wearing headsets, and shouting orders to others who may or may not have been in the van. I just sat down and stared at the monitors, too. “Cut to seventeen in three, two, one, cut to 21 in three, two, one.” I finally found out who’s responsible for telling the people at the start gates to tell the athletes when to go in “three, two, one.” I felt like I was hanging out with the Wizard in the land of Oz.

By my estimation, Barrett Christy had the most solid run. But Tara Dakides did 50-50 the big rail that none of other girls even attempted. The judges called it: Tara Dakides first, Jamie MacLeod second, and Barrett Christy third.

In the afternoon, I went over to the three-story scaffolding tower at the end of the course. Kris Lameson and Steve Ruff were doing their play-by-play from there. They were wearing headsets connected to the production van, and from there they received additional instructions. It’s quite an involved process.

The Men’s Slopestyle Finals were fun to watch. The dudes were definitely making more of the course–which I thought was well laid out–than the chicks had. Jussi Oksanen was the hero of the day, taking a line no one else did. He passed all the little jumps and rails and just bombed from one jump to the next, including a monstrous gap. The contest format was the best run of three, and Kevin Jones dominated every run he took. He’d 270 to frontside boardslide rails, spin like a top, and stomp everything like Old Man Smithers stomping out a burning bag of poo. Kevin won, and there was no doubt about it. Not unlike Kevin, Todd Richards also took full advantage of every jib, jump, rail, hip, and transition on each of his runs. Todd got second, and he fully earned it. Completely unlike Kevin and Todd, Peter Line couldn’t get it going on his first two runs, but pulled it together for his last, and landed clean in third.

Skier-X

Shaun Palmer won the Skier-X, but I didn’t see that event.

Boarder-X

The day of the boardercross event I was sent to the top of the course with instructions to find the audio lady and Chevy the cameraman. I was wired up and standing around with a microphone in my hand, an earpiece in my ear, and a bewildered look on my face. Jeff Heir Director of the X-Games was soon talking to me through the earpiece, explaining to me what he was looking for and when I was to go get it. I had never been as stoked to be friends with so many snowboarders as I was when asking them kind of dumb stock questions. It really helped me in not feeling as a word censored by TransWorld as I was. Chevy was also a big help, giving me tips on body position, question phrasing, and more.

After I finished the first mini-interviews during qualifiers, I was sent to the bigger gap in the course to give a commentary about it. I named it the Jussi gap (Jussi was spinning huge backside 720s over it during the Slopestyle), and had to explain were it was on the course and what advantages and/or disadvantages it held. I stumbled through my on-camera X-planations a doz times. After each try Jeff just laughed and encouraged me to try to get it the next time. Boy, that was fun. I’m really glad I didn’t have to see it on TV.

I was back at the top for the Men’s and Women’s semi and final heats. I asked a few more questions to a couple people Jeff thought would be good to hear from, and then I basically stood around with my thumb up my you guessed it, censored. Selema Masekela did all the work at the bottom of the course, so there wasn’t much need for me. I remarked to Chevy how it didn’t matter: “As long as I got some beer, and I get paid, they can make me do anything. I’m professional!” Then I said, “Jimmy Carl Black, the Indian of the group, had said that.” This set us off into a discussion about 200 motels, seeing the Mothers in concert, and Frank Zappa in general. It was the highlight of my day.

I missed most of the actual race; being at the starting gate did not provide the best view of the course. I suppose you could get a better explanation from someone else’s account, or by watching it on TV. I did watch the tapes in the van after we were done and thought that the Women’s Final was a prime example that a race is never won ’til you cross the finish line. Leslee Olson was out in front doing grabs off of the last two hips when Line Oestvold and Carlee Baker came from behind, almost stealing the gold from her. As for the Men’s Final, after re-reviewing the tapes, I concluded it was “racing.” Race leader Shaun Palmer was speed-checking so Drew Nielson went for the pass. Shaun went down and Drew won. Was it a good idea? Was it clean contact? Was it fair? After a NASCAR race there are a lot of the same kinds of questions. Is Jeff Gordan dirty? Is Dale Earnhardt? It’s just the nature of racing.

Halfpipe

The sun burst through my window, waking me before my alarm clock. The crisp cold air greeted me as I opened the door to leave. There was also an excitement in the air, one that was evermore present as I crossed the parking lot. Thousands of people had already arrived, and there were rumors of a twenty-mile traffic jam. I walked up the hill to the pipe and noticed the decks were already jammed with bodies. A smile came across my face. I had my talent pass that let me through all checkpoints, so I simply climbed to the first level of the tower at the bottom of the pipe, sat down next to the heater, said hello to Morgan LaFonte, Gunny, and Jennifer the stage manager, then grinned. I had a great view.

The women’s qualifier was in progress when I arrived. It was a beautiful day and all the women were ripping. Stine Brun-Kjeldaas qualified first. The finals were a best-of-three-run format, also. In the first round Natasza Zurek killed it, Aurelie Sayres did some impressive moves, and Kim Stacey went huge out of the pipe. Round two saw Barrett Christy steal the show with a flawless run, which included a backside 360 and a frontside Cab–two tricks you don’t often see girls try. Kelly Clark kept the heat on with huge airs, and Cara-Beth Burnside showed her skills in a most impressive run. The last run was exciting as the competitors let it all hang out. Stine was the last girl to go and at the start of her run, Barrett Christy was sitting in first, followed by Natasza and Kim. After Stine’s run, Barrett got the silver and Natasza received the bronze.

The men’s qualifier immediately followed the women’s finals, with Todd Richards qualifying first. Keir Dillion was riding with absolute reckless abandon on the first hit–actually, he never rode away, but he definitely was going for it. Another notable rider was Shaun White; he rode really well, going as big as the rest of the field. The clouds rolled in for the finals, and it even started to snow a little. The finals could’ve been renamed the Todd Richards/Ross Powers show–all the dudes had unbelievable runs, but it was these two who dominated. Again, it was a best-of-three final with the last-place qualifier going first. On his second run, Todd took the lead with a barrage of tricks too intense to describe. That meant everybody would simply have to put it all on the line in their last run. Ross did just that; he definitely did the biggest backside air of the day, and even threw in an inverted 900 for good measure. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t enough to topple Todd’s previous score, so Ross finished in second. Tommy Czechin, who’d qualified in second, ended up third.

If you love halfpipe riding at its best, I strongly urge you to watch the rerun of this event on ESPN– it will blow your mind.

Best Trick

There were rumors that the big-air event would be canceled due to high winds. However, instead of canceling the event, they moved the jump to a more sheltered spot. The event was also renamed the Best Trick contest. It was warm in the sun, and the wind wasn’t blowing very hard, except for the occasional cold gusts. I climbed to the top of the judge’s tower, found a comfortable spot next to a cameraman, and like most washed-up shredders often do, pulled out my camera.

The contest was a best-of-two format, and Tara Dakides came out of the gates hot, landing a perfect backflip. A lot of the girls were really pushing it: Leslee Olson was attempting frontside rodeos, Barrett Christy with her switch barrel-roll five, Kim Bohnsack was doing backside 180s, and there were a whole host of back- and frontflips being performed. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort, but none of the women could outdo Tara’s first jump.

In anticipation of high wind, the jump was built a little smaller than most riders would’ve liked. The 900 was the trick of the contest. I guess Jason Borgstede pulled off a 900 on his second jump, I think it might’ve been backside. But to tell the truth, I was changing rolls of film during his jump. Whatever it was, the judges felt it was enough to edge out Kevin Jones (who stomped a frontside 900) the leader at the time, to put him into first place on his second run. Peter Line was the last one to go. He’d crashed on most of his practice jumps, and ate it on his first attempt. For the finale, Peter threw the trick switch and corked. Peter’s Cab nine was incredibly stylish, and the moment his board stomped down on the snow, everyone knew he’d won. The crowd was ecstatic.

Wrap-Up

The Best Trick would’ve been the perfect drama for ESPN to end the snowboarding aspect of X-Games, except there’d been a skier/snowboarder team boardercross. Of course I missed it and don’t have any details. Chris Gunnerson and crew should be commended for all the work they did making the pipe, jumps, and courses so a new word censored by TransWorld.

Slopestyle

Men

1. Kevin Jones

2. Todd Richards

3. Peter Line

Women

1. Tara Dakides

2. Jaime Macleod

3. Barrett Christy

Boarder-X

Men

1. Drew Neilson

2. Scott Gaffney

3. Jason Ford

Women

1. Leslee Olson

2. Carlee Baker

3. Line Oestvold

Halfpipe

Men

1. Todd Richards

2. Ross Powers

3. Tommy Czechin

Women

1. Stine Brun-Kjeldaas

2. Barrett Christy

3. Natasza Zurek

Best Trick

Men

1. Peter Line

2. Jason Borgstede

3. Kevin Jones

Women

1. Tara Dakides

2. Leah Wagner

3. Jessica Dalpiaz

 

 

 

 

 believable runs, but it was these two who dominated. Again, it was a best-of-three final with the last-place qualifier going first. On his second run, Todd took the lead with a barrage of tricks too intense to describe. That meant everybody would simply have to put it all on the line in their last run. Ross did just that; he definitely did the biggest backside air of the day, and even threw in an inverted 900 for good measure. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t enough to topple Todd’s previous score, so Ross finished in second. Tommy Czechin, who’d qualified in second, ended up third.

If you love halfpipe riding at its best, I strongly urge you to watch the rerun of this event on ESPN– it will blow your mind.

Best Trick

There were rumors that the big-air event would be canceled due to high winds. However, instead of canceling the event, they moved the jump to a more sheltered spot. The event was also renamed the Best Trick contest. It was warm in the sun, and the wind wasn’t blowing very hard, except for the occasional cold gusts. I climbed to the top of the judge’s tower, found a comfortable spot next to a cameraman, and like most washed-up shredders often do, pulled out my camera.

The contest was a best-of-two format, and Tara Dakides came out of the gates hot, landing a perfect backflip. A lot of the girls were really pushing it: Leslee Olson was attempting frontside rodeos, Barrett Christy with her switch barrel-roll five, Kim Bohnsack was doing backside 180s, and there were a whole host of back- and frontflips being performed. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort, but none of the women could outdo Tara’s first jump.

In anticipation of high wind, the jump was built a little smaller than most riders would’ve liked. The 900 was the trick of the contest. I guess Jason Borgstede pulled off a 900 on his second jump, I think it might’ve been backside. But to tell the truth, I was changing rolls of film during his jump. Whatever it was, the judges felt it was enough to edge out Kevin Jones (who stomped a frontside 900) the leader at the time, to put him into first place on his second run. Peter Line was the last one to go. He’d crashed on most of his practice jumps, and ate it on his first attempt. For the finale, Peter threw the trick switch and corked. Peter’s Cab nine was incredibly stylish, and the moment his board stomped down on the snow, everyone knew he’d won. The crowd was ecstatic.

Wrap-Up

The Best Trick would’ve been the perfect drama for ESPN to end the snowboarding aspect of X-Games, except there’d been a skier/snowboarder team boardercross. Of course I missed it and don’t have any details. Chris Gunnerson and crew should be commended for all the work they did making the pipe, jumps, and courses so a new word censored by TransWorld.

Slopestyle

Men

1. Kevin Jones

2. Todd Richards

3. Peter Line

Women

1. Tara Dakides

2. Jaime Macleod

3. Barrett Christy

Boarder-X

Men

1. Drew Neilson

2. Scott Gaffney

3. Jason Ford

Women

1. Leslee Olson

2. Carlee Baker

3. Line Oestvold

Halfpipe

Men

1. Todd Richards

2. Ross Powers

3. Tommy Czechin

Women

1. Stine Brun-Kjeldaas

2. Barrett Christy

3. Natasza Zurek

Best Trick

Men

1. Peter Line

2. Jason Borgstede

3. Kevin Jones

Women

1. Tara Dakides

2. Leah Wagner

3. Jessica Dalpiaz