SThe tempest that called cozy Mt. Crested Butte home for the duration of the X-Games couldn’t stop today’stop crop of riders from shining through. “The perfect storm” combined with a season plagued by what localsaffectionately term the “donut hole effect”-when it snows everywhere but on the mountain-made pulling offthe ultimate in event orchestration an unlikely task. But it happened. Actually, it went off. For the thirdseason in a row, Shaun Palmer, veteran of victory, rode away with the men’s boardercross title. He’s theonly rider to ever win that event at the X-Games. In a discipline full of variables and chance, 30-year-oldPalmer stomped the young guns into submission and proved that no amount of marketing can make them hisequals.

Shaun won every boardercross heat he was in while switching to ski boots between runs and scaringthe snowboard pants off big-name freeskiers in the skiercross (he finished fourth). To top it off, Palmer alsocompeted in the snowmobile and mountain-bike events. There’d hardly be anything “X” at the X-Games ifShaun weren’t there. Canada’s Maelle Ricker dominated the women’s field, being one of the few to negotiatethe course smoothly. Other female riders opted out of a step-up jump by taking a detour around it. All thewhile, the X-Games were a sensory overload. On the skyline, big-air ramp monoliths shot riders into thegray like Forum-green spit wads, the two-stroke whine of factory sleds never subsided, and skiers threw720s, taking off and landing backward.

Todd Richards and Terje chose not to ride the pipe because itwasn’t up to par, but Jimi Scott made the most of the small, kinky ditch. Solid riding carried him to the top ofa heap of hucking phenoms and one-hit wonders who barely grazed the pipe’s lip. Neat tidbit, Jimi is (likePalmer) 30 years old. And all this time they had us thinking snowboarding was ruled by fifteen-year-oldkids. Damn. Women’s pipe saw Shannon Dunn tossing some progressive upside-down moves, andCara-Beth Burnside using the wood-box extension to the delight of the skater-type announcers. MicheleTaggart took the gold medal, though, with reliable consistency. To see X-treme. If you’ve just got to seethe X-Games in person-meet your heroes, snowball the losers, or jeer the skiboarders-you’ll have to traveleast. The 2000 version is at Mount Snow, Vermont, February 3 through 6. Some Crested Butte localscalled the X-Games weekend “the best party of the year,” but don’t expect to be among throngs of crazy,half-naked (except for some guys) fans.

Because they’re made for TV, and lots of events happensimultaneously, the X-Games can be tough to take in firsthand. Mount Snow, however, claims to have “fargreater potential for spectators than the Winter X-Games have ever seen.” If that’s the case, and if theturnout is anything like the East’s other big-ticket event-Burton’s U.S. Open-expect to rage. There are noadmission fees, just buy a lift ticket if you also want to ride. For more info on the X-Games (1999, 1998,and 1997) check our Web site: snowboarding-online.com -K.H.

Final Results The North American sweep!For more info, check out espn.go.com/extreme/xgames on the Web. Men’s Boardercross 1. ShaunPalmer, USA

2. Drew Neilson, CAN

3. Scott Gafney, CAN

Women’s Boardercross

1. Maelle Ricker,CAN

2. Leslee Olson, USA

3. Candice Drouin, CAN

Men’s Halfpipe

1. Jimi Scott, USA

2. MikeMichalchuck, CAN

3. Luke Wynen, USA

Women’s Halfpipe

1. Michele Taggart, USA

2. ShannonDunn, USA

3. Cara-Beth Burnside, USA