Simmons escapes X Games with a 2nd |

Simmons escapes X Games with a 2nd

Tim Mutrie

Aspen resident Erin Simmons survived a spectacular crash and rode on to take second place in the elite X Games boardercross event held over the weekend at Mt. Snow, Vermont.

For the 24-year-old Simmons, who trains with the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club, the second-place finish marks a career best at a major boardercross race. Simmons finished ahead of Lake Tahoe’s Amy Johnson, who took third, and behind Norway’s Line Oestold, who won the Buttermilk Swatch Boardercross.

“It feels great,” Simmons said yesterday from Vermont. “I was pumped up for this event. And I think it was my smooth riding that did it, and my determination and will. In the start, I kept saying to myself, `I want this. I want this.’

“It feels great. Amazing. Incredible,” continued Simmons, who collected $7,000 for second place. “I had some really good starts and just felt really confident out there.”

Simmons narrowly advanced to the six-rider final after a dramatic crash in the semis with Leslee Olson. Olson, who was injured in the wreck, wiped out just in front of Simmons near the bottom of the course, which resembles a gated terrain park with banked turns and big air jumps and other obstacles. Simmons, unable to avoid Olson, toppled over her at high speed but landed on her feet and continued on to take second in the heat and advance to the finals.

While Simmons was unhurt in the crash, two other Aspen-based riders fell prey to the carnage of the X Games, which featured more than 15 crashes in the wild head-to-head format races.

Cooper Hall, at 18 the youngest competitor in the boardercross and ultracross, got his bell rung during the ultracross, a sport that partners skiers and boarders in tag-team fashion. Hall took 18th in the boardercross and seventh in the ultracross, in which he was paired with Canadian Roman Torn, who finished second in the 24 Hours of Aspen in December.

“I knocked myself silly in the ultracross,” Hall said. “I don’t remember three hours of the day, so I don’t really know how we did it.”

Yesterday, Hall said he was feeling better, as was Travis McLain, who crashed in both the boardercross and the ultracross, managing 19th in the field of 24 riders in the boardercross and 14th in the 16-team field in the ultracross.

“I was right in the top 24,” joked McLain, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered last year. “I broke some ribs in the ultracross and crashed in the boardercross too, but it was fun.

“You wouldn’t believe the carnage out here,” he continued. “I think Erin’s diving header crash is going to be on ESPN for years to come.”

Former Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club rider Gretchen Bleiler, 19, claimed seventh in the halfpipe competition at the X Games.

The Aspen-area riders planned to return to Aspen today, though Simmons and Hall will travel to Mammoth Mountain this weekend for a Grand Prix boardercross event. McLain, 22, plans to take the rest of the season off “to get everything better because I’m kind of wrecked right now.”

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