Winter X Games scraps snowmobile best-trick event |

Winter X Games scraps snowmobile best-trick event

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
AP fileCaleb Moore

ASPEN – ESPN announced Tuesday that it is discontinuing snowmobile best-trick events at the Winter X Games.

The decision to pull the best-trick event follows – but is not directly tied to – an investigation into the death of snowmobile best-trick competitor Caleb Moore in January, the network said.

Moore, 25, died Jan. 31 of head and heart injuries he suffered during the snowmobile freestyle competition in Aspen on Jan. 24. The Texas native under-rotated a backflip attempt and crumpled under the weight of his tumbling 450-pound snowmobile. His death was the first in the 18-year history of the X Games.

Later, in the best-trick competition in Aspen, a snowmobiler fell off his machine and the throttle stuck, sending it veering into the crowd. No one was seriously injured.

The decision does not mean the cancellation of all snowmobile competitions at the Winter X Games, the network said.

In the same announcement, ESPN said it is dropping its motocross best-trick event as well. That competition usually has been part of the Summer X Games lineup at a different place, and it has not been in Aspen since 2005.

“Moto X Best Trick and Snowmobile Best Trick were not dropped in response to what happened in Aspen,” ESPN spokesman Danny Chi said in a prepared statement. “This decision was under consideration before Aspen, and, in fact, our review of Snowmobile Freestyle continues.”

A former all-terrain-vehicle racer, Moore switched over to snowmobiles as a teenager and quickly rose to the top of the sport. He won four Winter X Games medals, including a bronze in 2012 when his younger brother, Colten, captured gold.

ESPN’s statement said the change “reflects our decision to focus on motor sports disciplines which feature athletes who also compete in multiple, world-class competitions.”

The network said that over the past 18 years it has made more than 60 changes to competition lineups at X Games events to capture the evolution of extreme sports. Discontinuing the motorcycle and snowmobile best-trick events continues that growth, ESPN said.

The motocross best-trick competition is considered one of the more dangerous X Games events. Carey Hart crashed a backflip attempt during the event at X Games 7 in Philadelphia in 2001, breaking several bones.

“Progression in these sports obviously comes with more risk,” the network said. “Nobody can eliminate risk in its entirety, but what we can do is focus on providing world-class events that are as safe and organized as possible.”

Winter X Games have taken place at Buttermilk Mountain for the past 12 years through an arrangement with Aspen Skiing Co.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Tuesday that company officials had no input into ESPN’s decision.

“It’s ESPN’s event,” Hanle said. “We provide the venue. They’ve changed events many times over the entire history of the X Games. We work with them and move forward.”

Hanle said the X Games has had an “extraordinary record of safety” over the years. Caleb’s death was a tragic and unfortunate accident, he said.

“It was a sad thing,” he said. “Does it give people a negative impression of Aspen? I don’t believe so.”

Winter X officials recently scratched a snowmobile freestyle demonstration set for later this month in Tignes, France, so organizers could review safety protocols.

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