Winter X Games 15 announces first confirmed athletes

Tucker Hibbert (left) will be going for the first Snowmobile five-peat in SnoCross at Winter X 15, while Bobby Brown (center) and Gretchen Bleiler (right) will both look to defend their gold medals from 2010's Winter X. Shazamm/ESPN Images

Winter X Games will celebrate its 15th anniversary in Aspen, Colo., Jan. 27-30, 2011 and 24 hours of programming will air live on ESPN and ESPN2, with the addition of nine hours of highlights on ESPN2 for a total of 33 hours. This year will mark the 10th consecutive year Winter X will be held in Aspen and will feature new events, 200-plus athletes and primetime coverage Sunday. Two new disciplines make their debuts and one discipline returns with a new format. In addition to 24 hours of live programming on ESPN, Winter X Games 15 will be offered on ESPN International, XGames.com, ESPN360.com, SportsCenter and ESPN2's X Center.

Snowboard Best Method will feature six snowboarders in a final-only 10-minute jam for best method. The final will be fan judged and voted on via text messaging and online. Following the success of Skateboard Real Street at X Games 16, Snowboard Real Snow, the first video-only contest at Winter X, will also debut. Look for more details and invited riders to drop later this month. Snowmobile Speed & Style made its Winter X debut in 2008 and will return this year with a format that proved to be successful at X Games 16 this summer for motocross. It will feature eight athletes competing in a single elimination format with two riders competing head-to-head. Both riders will receive a Freestyle "style" score. The first rider across the finish line receives "speed" margin of victory bonus points which will be added to the Freestyle score.

With the announcement of new events comes the first round of confirmed athletes in the skiing, snowboarding and snowmobile events. The second, third and final waves of confirmed athletes will be named on Nov. 17, Dec. 27 and Jan. 10, respectively.

Athlete selection committees are made up of professionals in the respective sports including media experts, X Games athletes and industry elite. They vote on invites based on competition results, media exposure and legendary status. Gold medal winners from 2010 Winter X 14 receive automatic invites to compete.

The first wave of confirmed invites include athletes from the following categories:

-- Big Air (Men)
-- Mono Skier X (Men and Women)
-- Slopestyle (Men and Women)
-- SuperPipe (Men and Women)

-Slopestyle (Men and Women)
-SuperPipe (Men and Women)
-Snowboarder X (Men and Women)
-Street (Men)

-Adaptive SnoCross
-Best Trick
-Speed & Style