- Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine senior writer
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The Winter X Games packs a ton of competition into four days, and even we admit it's tough to catch it all. So we've made your decision-making simple with a day-by-day breakdown of the major storylines to follow from Thursday to Sunday. Tune in when you want, where you want. But we'll warn you now: Once you read this, you won't want to miss a minute.
9-11 p.m. ET, ESPN: Snowmobile Freestyle
The first final of the 2011 Winter X Games promises to be the most exciting snowmobile contest of the entire four-day event. Last year's winner, Justin Hoyer, has the biggest tricks in the sport, and was the first rider to flip both a sled and a dirt bike in competition. Last year's Freestyle silver medalist, Joe Parsons, brings experience: He is the most decorated freestyle rider in the field. Heath Frisby, who has three bronze medals in this event, took the Best Trick gold last year with two versions of his Tsunami backflip. If he can work a couple of solid backflip combos into his freestyle run this year, he could give Hoyer a run for the top spot. And Daniel Bodin of Sweden, who finished fourth for the fourth time last year, is tired of being the first man out. He says he's learned new tricks and is keeping them under wraps until Freestyle finals, where they could finally jump him onto the podium. One snowmobile staple will be missing from the contest: Levi LaVallee, who competed in four snowmobile events last year, was injured while practicing for a New Year's Eve distance jump and will not compete this year.
12-3 p.m., ESPN2: Women's Ski SuperPipe
Last year, SuperPipe queen Sarah Burke says she spread herself too thin, competing in SuperPipe and Slopestyle while also working as a television analyst and fulfilling sponsor obligations in Aspen. As a result, she failed to medal for the first time in six years and ended her three-year SuperPipe winning streak. This year, she's focusing all her efforts in the halfpipe, where she is known as the most progressive rider in the field. Last year's winner, Jen Hudak, wants to prove her win wasn't a one-off and that she can beat Burke even when she lands her best run. But a dark-horse competitor could relegate Burke and Hudak to runner-up status. Up-and-comer Roz Groenwoud of Canada won the first Grand Prix of the 2010-11 season by boosting higher than any skier in the women's field. And she's had more than a month of practice since then.
7-10:30 p.m., ESPN: Men's Skiing SuperPipe
The story on the men's side is strangely similar to that of the women. Last year, two-time SuperPipe gold medalist Simon Dumont also failed to make the SuperPipe podium for the first time in six years. And nothing makes Dumont angrier than not winning: He is easily the most focused competitor in his sport. Much like his snowboard counterpart Shaun White, Dumont is most dangerous after a big loss. He started this season by winning the first stop of the Dew Tour with a run that included a double 1260 -- a trick he added to his run this year -- as well as a right-side 900 and a double 900. He's heading to Aspen fresh off a third-place finish at the second Dew Tour stop in Killington. Justin Dorey and Mike Riddle are riding strong and both have runs that open with double cork 12s, as well as a variety of 900s to either side. Last year's silver medalist, Jossi Wells, is still working his way back from September ankle surgery and might not be 100 percent in Aspen.
4-6 p.m., ESPN2: Men's Skiing Slopestyle
Last year, skiing's "It" boy, Bobby Brown, became the first skier to win two gold medals at one Winter X. In Slopestyle, he shocked one of the strongest fields in history, including silver medalist and pre-contest favorite Andreas Hatveit and wunderkind Tom Wallisch. In Big Air, Brown earned the first perfect score for his switch double misty mute 1440. This year, he wants to prove to his peers that last year wasn't a fluke. He spent the summer working on his rail tricks -- his weakest area in Slopestyle -- and added unnatural spins to his list of tricks. The work seems to have paid off. He's leading the overall Dew Tour standings in ski slopestyle and is fresh off a win last weekend in Killington. Last year, Brown had the advantage of arriving in Aspen as a virtual unknown outside of the core freeskiing community. This year, he's feeling the pressure of expectations. Which means his biggest competitor in Aspen just might be himself.
4-6 p.m., ESPN2: Women's Snowboarder X
New year, same story. Six-time winner Lindsey Jacobellis -- who is going for a four-peat in SBX -- is once again the favorite to take this race. But a Winter X bridesmaid believes her day has come: Twenty-year-old Helene Olafsen of Norway feels she is now fast enough and experienced enough to better last year's silver-medal finish. Maelle Ricker, who beat Jacobellis at the Olympics in February, will not compete at this WX.
4-6 p.m., ESPN2: Snowboard Real Snow
This year, two new snowboard events come to Winter X: Snowboard Street and Real Snow. In Real Snow, eight of the best urban riders in the world will be judged on 60-second video segments they submitted earlier this month, and those videos will be shown during the 7-10 p.m. ESPN broadcast Sunday night. In Snowboard Street, the same eight riders compete in a 30-minute jam session while hitting obstacles in a mimicked city environment. Of the eight riders, only two have competed at Winter X -- JP Walker and Jeremy Jones -- as riders primarily known for their video parts never had a home at Winter X. Until now.
9-11 p.m., ESPN: Women's Snowboard SuperPipe
Last year's final was one of the closest and most exciting in contest history. Four-time SuperPipe gold medalist Gretchen Bleiler edged out her Olympic teammate, Kelly Clark and her 14-foot airs with solid 900s and her signature Crippler 720. But this season, Bleiler decided to scale back her contest schedule. Then last weekend she showed up in Killington for the second Dew Tour contest and finished second. Clark scored a 95.75 for the win, setting up another exciting final in Aspen. Since last year, Clark has added a Crippler 720 to her run and will most likely attempt her 1080 in Aspen. (Ellery Hollingsworth could also be the first woman to land the 10 in competition -- she landed it in practice and came close in competition last year.) And the young rider to watch this season is 21-year-old Kaitlyn Farrington, who won the inaugural Winter X Europe by beating Torah Bright (who has pulled out of pipe in favor of Slopestyle) head-to-head.
1:30-3:30 p.m., ESPN: Snowmobile SnoCross
Were it not for the excitement of watching the rest of the field race for second, SnoCross could get boring real fast. Last year, Tucker Hibbert won his fourth straight SnoCross gold medal and his fifth gold overall. This year he attempts to bag the first five-peat in his sport, in a year when he is also racing a full national SnoCross season for the first time since 2003. Yep, he's been winning there, too.
1:30-3:30 p.m., ESPN: Men's Snowboarder X
Nate Holland owns this event: He's the five-time defending champ. Seth Wescott has never won a Winter X gold medal (he took silver last year) but is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist. (Holland finished fourth in Vancouver.) As long as Wescott fails to win at Winter X, the debate over which is more prestigious -- five Winter X golds or two Olympic golds -- will continue. But if Wescott finally steps up in Aspen, the debate over the best U.S. racer will surely come to an end.
3:30-5 p.m., ESPN: Men's Snowboard Slopestyle
After taking last year off to focus on Halfpipe at the Olympics, Shaun White returns to Slopestyle, an event he owned before the break. During his time away, White learned enough double cork variations in the halfpipe to fill three runs, and should bring one or two to Slopestyle. While his detractors believe his time away last year, as well as a summer spent skateboarding, means he won't be prepared, that is rarely the case with White. He's been working out on the Park City air bags, riding his local LA mountains, and needs less time than almost anyone to put together a winning run. His biggest competition will come from Torstein Horgmo, who won the first two stops of the Winter Dew Tour. This summer, Horgmo became the first rider to land a triple cork, and he throws a couple of unique double corks into his run. Last year's winner, Eero Ettala, is out with a torn ACL.
7-10 p.m., ESPN: Men's Snowboard SuperPipe
This year, Shaun White will attempt to become the first rider, male or female, to win SuperPipe four years in a row, and the first to win four times in two disciplines. (He reigned in Slopestyle from 2003-06.) The last two riders to beat him -- Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis -- aren't part of this year's field, and White isn't looking to add another name to that list. Last year's silver medalist, Iouri Podladtchikov, is the most likely rider to thwart White's record-setting. He's the only other rider with a double McTwist 1260, and he can throw it in the middle of his run. White also likely has his eye on Olympic teammate Louie Vito, who's undefeated this season with two wins at two Dew Tour stops and another at the opening stop of the 2011 Grand Prix tour.
The biggest names, events and stories happening this week in Aspen