Aussie snowboarder Scotty James rolls into Aspen, Colorado this week as the reigning champion of the X Games halfpipe competition and hot favourite to take out his pet event. After a stellar 2019 that saw him scoop gold in the world championships, U.S Open, and of course Winter X Games, James is on a roll to clinch his 10th straight half-pipe win next week.
James to continue his unstoppable form?
With Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano both out of the mix, James’ major competition comes in the form of Japanese teen sensation Yuto Totsuka, who took silver behind him last year. While Danny Davis, Taylor Gold, and Toby Miller will be among the hunt, many consider James to be almost unstoppable as he aims for his tenth consecutive victory in halfpipe competitions.
The 25-year-old Australian half-pipe champ is just one of a swathe of shredders currently descending upon the winter mecca of Aspen Snowmass’ Buttermilk Mountain for its 19th consecutive year of Winter X Games. The athletes are primed for a range of niche ski, snowboard, snowmobile, and snow bike events designed to test their skills and push the limits of action sport.
X Games welcomes four new events for 2020 - and no scores for the SuperPipe Jam?
Four new events will be introduced this year, with Snowboard SuperPipe Best Trick, Snowboard Rail Jam, Special Olympics Unified Skiing, and Ski Knuckle Huck all entering the fray for our viewing pleasure.
To make things more interesting, X Games is trialling a new format that ditches scoring during SuperPipe Best Trick for a real-time ranking format designed to encourage variety and prevent riders from repeating and fine-tuning their runs (eliminating the yawn factor while rewarding balance and consistency). Judges will be on the lookout for riders showcasing the elements of progression, technique, creativity, difficulty, execution, and variety.
"It’s an expression session. I think that’s where the new direction of all action sports is going," said former pro snowboarder and X Games host, Jack Mitrani.
Whether the new format will be a success and is adopted in other events remains to be seen. While some pros are psyched up about the change, others are yet to be converted.
“I still don’t know yet," Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer said after winning the qualifier.
“It’s kind of weird how we don’t see the scores, but it worked out really good for me, so I’m happy.”
Ski Knuckle Huck is another talking point that comes after the success of Snowboard Knuckle Huck in 2019, and promises to entertain with riders required to take off on the knuckle (or rollover) rather than the jump itself.
The entertainment doesn’t stop there, though, with a series of action sports films and concerts scheduled throughout the event’s four-day window. Each night will wrap with a live gig at the base of the mountain, and with musical talents, Rae Sremmurd, ILLENIUM, Alesso, and Bazzi filling the line-up, the prestigious mountain town is poised to pump.
For those who’d rather ride than watch, there’s some great news in the forecast - 100% of Snowmass’ terrain is currently open, 28cm of fresh snow is predicted to fall on a solid base and crisp sub-zero temperatures are set to preserve conditions. Meaning there will be plenty of fun on offer for inspired punters amping to hit the slopes.
Unfortunately for Australian viewers, there won’t be a free-to-air option, but those with Foxtel can tune in to ESPN (who have acquired exclusive rights). And for those who have Kayo, you’ll be able to stream the 2020 Winter X Games live from January 24.