Snowmobile freestyle practice

January, 27, 2010
Jan 27
07:21
PM ET
Josh Duplechian/ESPN Action Sports
The first session of freestyle snowmobile practice just wrapped up, and if it's any indication of things to come, we're in for a showdown with more gunslingers than have ever been in the fight for a medal in freestyle.

While the course is similar to last year in that it contains four super kicker ramps and one BAR (Big-Ass Ramp), it is definitely an upgrade. The entire freestyle snowmobile area holds a lot more snow and the landings are quite big, allowing riders to focus more on their tricks rather than landing cleanly.

Levi LaVallee was the "test dummy" -- the first rider to hit the course. Predictably, he was able to hit all of the ramps cleanly after only a few attempts. Always one to start the excitement before anyone expects it, Heath Frisby flipped the BAR ramp at just over 100 feet after just a few jumps. Other riders to flip early were Daniel Bodin and Caleb Moore. The elder Moore brother stuck an impressive heelclicker flip off the BAR ramp and shed any doubts that he is not in medal contention.

Josh Duplechian/ESPN Action Sports
Last year Paul Thacker struggled with the course, but he came out this afternoon and looked like he had gained back a lot of confidence. Thacker did provide some carnage as he had the worst wreck of the session under rotating a flip and getting tossed face first into the landing. All indications are that Thax will be back out for the next practice round.

LaVallee busted out a series of no less than four flips in a later practice run, and defending gold medalist Joe Parsons threw down a couple nac nac flips. Other riders who looked good with their upright tricks were Isaac Sherbine, Jeff Mullin, and alternate Cody Borchers whose lanky stature makes for some huge extension.

Freestyle practice round 2 is coming up in a couple hours, we'll keep you updated as to how the boys do under the lights and after some course adjustments.

Sled training goes OFF

January, 27, 2010
Jan 27
01:01
PM ET
Snowmobile training officially starts today at the X Games venue, but it's been going on for several days off-site.

Daniel Bodin, for one, arrived in Colorado over two weeks ago. He's been spending the bulk of his time hitting ramps at the Colorado Sledstyle training facility at Electric Mountain Lodge, located on the Grand Mesa about 2 hours from Aspen. With the goal of taking a medal back to Sweden this year, Bodin has been steadily working on adding more flip variations to his bag of tricks.

Cory TomeshSweet Swede.
About a week after Bodin landed stateside, Bomb Squad ATV riders Caleb and Colten Moore arrived at Electric Mountain Lodge as well. The Brothers Moore are familiar faces in Quad Freestyle, but are very new to freestyle snowmobiling, with their first ride EVER aboard sleds taking place mid-December. After jumping the sleds into their foam pit in Texas, the duo traveled north to Evolution Sled Park in Bessemer, MI, where they both landed the backflip within the first few days either had ever rode a snowmobile on snow. Impressive!

As if that weren't impressive enough, both brothers started throwing flip variations that many of the top freestyle sledders have yet to perfect. The ruler flip, heelclicker flip, double can flip, and seat grab flip are all tricks that would appear to be a typo on the resume of someone who has been riding for barely a month. Impressive Indeed!

Cory TomeshPeaks and LaVallee.
Levi LaVallee left the ISOC Canterbury National in Shakopee, MN, immediately following the race this past Saturday night. Through windy plains and treacherous blizzard conditions in the mountains of Colorado, Team LaVallee finally arrived in the Aspen area Monday morning.

LaVallee found his way to Electric Mountain Lodge in time for a Monday evening ramp session, and got about 20 minutes of practice in before dark. Tuesday morning Levi overshot the landing and hit hard, cracking a couple of his teeth! A winner never quits, and it was right back to riding for Levi, despite a tooth that he described as "feeling like a serrated knife."

The first practice session at Buttermilk for WX14 fires up early this afternoon, we'll be sure to let you know how all of the riders, rookies and veterans, look on the newly designed course.

Better Off Sled: WX14 Snowmobile Preview

January, 26, 2010
Jan 26
09:19
PM ET
Ready for another Winter X Games, snowmobile fans? This is going to be an interesting one: New events, new riders and all-new tricks are all about to be unleashed here in Aspen. It's sure to be another boundary-pushing year for the sport. Before we get going with Wednesday's practice, I wanted to give you a quick preview of each discipline.

Mike Roth/ShazammThe one, the only: Tucker Hibbert.
Snocross
Tucker Hibbert is on the verge of making snowmobile racing history yet again this year. Coming into WX14, Hibbert is the first athlete with a chance to four-peat in a snowmobile discipline ... and if he does, it will tie Blair Morgan's record of five golds total. Tucker is the odds-on favorite here. Of course, there's a pack of hungry rookies and seasoned veterans out there looking to break his win streak. Could this be the year that history becomes, well, history?

Best Trick
The Best Trick competition has created more buzz among sledheads in the weeks leading up to WX14 than any of the other snowmobile disciplines. Rumors abound of flip variations, underflips, decade airs, body varials, and even remote-control assisted backflips (seriously!). One thing we know for sure is that no one - not even Levi LeVallee himself - is claiming a double backflip this year.

Freestyle
Joe Parsons showed up very well prepared for X last year, and it paid off in the form of two gold medals. Parsons will return to WX14 ready to battle, but the question is: How prepared will the rest of the field be?

Corey TomeshCaleb Moore is a quad rider who literally just started riding snowmobiles.
Last year's silver medalist, Justin Hoyer, has been practicing for nearly two months and is feeling very confident with an arsenal of huge tricks. Heath Frisby recently landed the ruler flip, which had eluded him for a couple of years and would certainly add some points to his score here if landed cleanly. Swedish rider Daniel Bodin is determined to break out of his annual fourth-place finish and claim a medal. And as if having the top riders from WX13 pushing harder than ever isn't enough, quad freestyle crossover riders (and brothers) Caleb and Colten Moore are already riding at or near medal-earning level. What!

Add it all up and you'll soon realize that this will be the most stacked field ever for Snowmobile Freestyle ever.

Knock Out
Debuting at WX14, the Knock Out event promises to be unlike any previous snowmobile competition. Riders will line up in front of a steel ramp set for distance and in line with a huge step-up like landing. The idea is really quite simple: To see who can jump the furthest.

Paul Thacker set a record for jumping a sled and broke the 300-foot mark last spring, which has to make him a favorite for any event where flying a sled as far as possible is the goal. Hibbert and LaVallee may also have an advantage in Knock Out as well, since snocross often requires precise pre-loading of the suspension and higher speeds than freestylers typically ride at.

Adaptive Snocross
Make no mistake, these guys are here to race. Whatever disability a rider pulls up to the line with doesn't matter when the green flag drops, because from that point on it's all about winning. Guys like Mike Schultz and Doug Henry are fierce competitors. Mix in a handful of other racers with equally compelling stories and you've got an event full of heart and inspiration.

Mike Roth/ShazammCan Levi win four medals yet again at WX14?
Levi LeVallee
Sure, Levi LeVallee isn't an event at WX14, but he's a force of nature here for sure. While his plans for completing the double backflip are temporarily on hold, LaVallee will be doing the opposite of slacking. In fact, he'll be going for gold in four different snowmobile events -- again. Even if he just makes it to the start of each event, that will mean that LaVallee has competed in every single snowmobile discipline in X games history (aside from adaptive snocross). That's 7 events total.

Winter X 14: Warm Up Laps

January, 26, 2010
Jan 26
04:27
PM ET
By Liam Gallagher
Liam GallagherThe pipe at Buttermilk is the picture of perfection yet again.

It's on in Aspen. Winter X 14 is underway.

There are still a couple days until the judges start handing out scores, but the riders are already out on hill, warming it up. Last night was the first round of Superpipe practice and today the Slopestyle course was open and ready to rip.

A couple dozen shreds showed up for pipe practice under the lights and most kept it pretty safe. There was the occasional 720, the odd 900 and maybe even a 1080, but the double cork was nowhere to be seen. That's sure to change when everyone is watching. But will the looming Olympics keep riders from really putting it down? Will they sit on their hammers or can we expect to see everything they've got? Swiss pipe slayer Iouri Podladtchikok, aka I-Pod, is predicting "lots of double flips."

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Shaun White opens up

January, 24, 2010
Jan 24
01:52
PM ET
By Michelle Hurni
Christian Pondella/Shazamm/ESPN ImagesWhite with his ninth gold medal after his WX13 SuperPipe win.
Winter X Games producer Steve Lawrence has known Shaun White since the superstar was an 11-year-old skating at the famed Encinitas YMCA. Tony Hawk introduced the two, and their relationship has grown. So when the pair sat down together in November for an ESPN feature, an honest conversation ensued. The interview was later animated by animation company Titmouse Inc., but it was White who really brought it to life.

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Gavaggio set for record-breaking start

January, 20, 2010
Jan 20
08:15
PM ET
By Nicole Dreon
Sarah GineGavaggio is the most decorated Skier X athlete in history.
Winter X 2010 marks the 12th year that France's Enak Gavaggio has competed at WX -- the most WX appearances of any skier. With six Skier X medals, Enak is also the most decorated athlete in the discipline. He won his only Skier X gold during his rookie year in 1999. Back then, Gavaggio shared the podium with two of freeskiing's biggest stars, late legend Shane McConkey (silver) and Jeremy Nobis (bronze).

While he is one of the smallest competitors on the Skier X roster (5'7, 160 lbs), he is also one of the most intimidating -- hence his nickname, "The Dark Lord." Pushy and relentless, he maneuvers the course like a race car driver and always finds his way to the front no matter where he is when the gate drops.

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Martin resurgent after hip injury

January, 20, 2010
Jan 20
06:09
PM ET
By Eric Skogman
Michael Roth/Shazamm/ESPNImagesMartin was unable to compete at WX13 after fracturing his pelvis socket in practice.
At Winter X13, snocross racer Ross Martin thought he "just" dislocated his right hip when he crashed in practice. After all, he had dislocated joints in the past, and this felt the same. On the ground pounding the snow in anger as course officials attended to him, he certainly wasn't expecting to miss WX13 and more than half of the '08-'09 National snocross season and spend more than six months recuperating.

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Puckett eyes Olympic and X history

January, 20, 2010
Jan 20
07:07
PM ET
By Nicole Dreon
(Editor's Note: Casey Puckett injured a shoulder in a World Cup race on January 9. US Team doctor on site evaluated his left shoulder and concluded a 4th or 5th degree AC separation. He had surgery on the Jan. 13th. As of January 21, he remains on the Winter X roster.)
Eric Lars Bakke/Shazamm/ESPN ImagesPuckett could make his fifth Olympic appearance is Vancouver.
No skier has made a more successful transition from alpine racing to skiercross than Aspen local Casey Puckett. "Casey has always been intense," says teammate Daron Rahlves, who has been racing with and against Puckett for roughly 20 years. "Skiercross suits him."

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Tyler Flanagan is coming in hot

January, 20, 2010
Jan 20
03:33
PM ET
Ryan BoyesAt 16, Flanagan has the snowboarding prowess and the Dirty South roots to take on the heaviest slopestyle competition.
The pressure of competing can cause some to crack. For others, though, it's no big deal.

Take 16-year-old Winter X '10 Slopestyle rookie Tyler Flanagan, the winner of the season-opening Winter Dew Tour Slopestyle event in December 2009. Flanagan persevered despite opposing guys he's always admired—men's snowboarding heavy-hitters like Winter X '08 Big Air gold medalist Torstein Horgmo and Winter X '09 Slopestyle bronze medalist Mikkel Bang. After laying down the top score, Flanagan calmly waited in the corral while the rest of the field tried to top him. The laidback teen's heart-rate never appeared to rise a beat.

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Andreas Steffen builds momentum

January, 21, 2010
Jan 21
11:14
AM ET
By Lynn Keillor
Flip McCririck/Shazamm/ESPN ImagesSteffen counts WX bronze as a carrer highlight and hangs his WX medal on the wall where he can see it everyday.
After five mediocre (or worse) appearances in Winter X Skier X, Switzerland's Andreas Steffen got his due in 2009. Steffen's previous WX Skier X best was an eighth in 2005, and his other three appearances ended with finishes in the low teens. His 2009 finish, though, was worth the wait: he ended the race with a bronze medal.

He says that it takes a combination of, "A good base, good skis and some luck," to get on the podium in Skier X. "You need to be fast, too, especially in the gliding sections," he adds.

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