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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Updated: January 28, 1:42 PM ET
WX14: What to watch for

By Mary Buckheit
ESPN Action Sports

If the deep freeze of the sports season has your inner fan dozing into hibernation, we've got a wintry jolt that is sure to rouse your systems. The table is set for Winter X Games 14 in Aspen, Colo., and the finest folks on ski, snowboard and snowmobile are ready to clear the dishes. Some 250 world-class athletes, including 40 past and present Olympians, are about to shock you from your frosty sleep-state. Tune in to our extensive television coverage to get the ice running through your veins. Here's what to watch for:

If domination were an Olympic sport, our snowboarders would be money

Vancouver-bound and down to dominate.

The X Games in Aspen are going down about 1,300 miles and less than 30 days from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. So if you say you care about this stuff only once every four years -- it's go time. The U.S. has dominated Olympic snowboarding since its debut at the 1998 Nagano Games, winning 14 medals, including five golds. The 18-person U.S. Olympic snowboard team, announced Monday, includes our very best, and you'll get to see them duking it out before donning the red, white and blue in solidarity next month. Keep an eye out for the flurry of former U.S. Olympic snowboard gold medalists all competing at Winter X, including Kelly Clark (halfpipe), Lindsey Jacobellis (boardercross), Hannah Teter (halfpipe), Seth Wescott (boardercross) and Shaun White (halfpipe).

Meet Ski Cross again, for the first time

Ski Cross may be making its Olympic debut in Vancouver this year, but the X Games are no stranger to the sport, which is best described as part ski racing, part rodeo and part NASCAR. The idea is to go fast, stay on and don't let the other guys bump you into a carnage-ival. When the bibs bust out of the gates, the man to keep your eye on is 2008 Winter X Games Skier X gold medalist Daron Rahlves, who is about the most accomplished speed skier in American history with 28 World Cup podiums and three World Championship podiums over the course of the last decade. Yeah, he's that good. But the cool thing is, the odds of picking a winner are as uncertain as a horse race. Nine different men have taken gold in the 12-year history of Skier X.

Skiercross + Skier X = Olympic Ski Cross.

Simple Simon

Keep an eye on Simon Dumont -- the pride of Bethel, Maine -- who has been on the Ski SuperPipe podium every year since 2004 but hasn't eked out a gold since his first in '05. He's hungry for seconds, and his rival Tanner Hall is out with an injury, but don't think the rest of the field hasn't noticed.

Jon. Rhymes with "swoon."

Too much pretty.

Jon Olsson is like the David Beckham of skiing. Sure he's talented (he has the second highest Winter X ski medal total in history with 10) but what gives him real star power is his inner diva. Check out his can't-miss style and pretty face, which earned a spot on Sweden's sexiest-men list according to Elle magazine. One look at this guy's flair and you'll know exactly what it takes to be the whole package, and subsequently, the highest-paid freeskier on the planet.

The bright and the restless

Look out for Aussie bombshell Torah Bright to attempt a double cork 900. Not just any double cork 900, but the first double cork ever attempted by a female in competition history. Very few men can land a double cork, but that won't keep the fairer sex's finest from giving it a spin. Even if Bright keeps the double cork nine in her koala pouch, the goods from newly named U.S. Olympic teammates Clark, Teter, Gretchen Bleiler and Elena Hight will most certainly pour over in the pipe.

Torah Bright has the women's field seeing double.

Up in the air

Two events will make their X Games debut in 2010 -- Ski SuperPipe High Air and Snowmobile Knock Out. SuperPipe High Air pits the top six skiers in the world against one another in a 30-minute jam format where they compete for highest huck. Snowmobile Knock Out is kind of like a long jump on diesel fuel, in the snow, off a ramp. Picture six of the burliest snowmobile riders known to man and beast competing in a single-elimination format through several rounds of head-to-head competition. Their mission is to travel as far as the throttle can possibly take them. The guy who covers the least ground per round is knocked out until only one champ is left standing. Snowmobile living legend Levi LaVallee is confirmed to compete in this discipline's debut.

We're the kids in America

So you've been watching 40-year-old Brett Favre running around, and now your appreciation for fresh talent is skewed and you need a reason to give a crap about some teenager. Well, consider the history trend that swiftly mints masters of sport from tiny teens. Back at Winter X Games in 2000, we witnessed three rookies burst onto the scene. A 13-year-old White X-perimented for the first time; now he's got 14 Winter X medals (including nine golds), plus one Olympic gold medal, on his mantle. That same year, 15-year-old Winter X snowmobile rookie Tucker Hibbert set the still-standing record for youngest Winter X gold medalist by besting favored vet Blair Morgan in SnoCross. The kid's gone on to net eight medals, four of which are gold. Also in that 2000 freshman X class was Clark, who now has six Winter X medals in just 10 years and has an Olympic gold. The moral of the story: Beware of the next big thing. With 70 rookies in the Winter X field this year, who knows how many next big things have just descended on Aspen? Here are a few to consider, just so you can say you knew (of) them, way back when: Snowboard SuperPipe's 16-year-old Sage Kotsenburg and Ski Slopestyle's 17-year-old Elias Ambuhl.

Mary Buckheit is an ESPN.com columnist. She can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.