Flips take faith for elite snowmobilers
It often takes a foam pit for an X Games snowmobiler to learn a new trick, but even that hardly qualifies as safe, said Joe Parsons, who on Saturday won the X Games snowmobile freestyle event for the second consecutive year.
“If you land on top of the sled but disconnected from it, the sled takes out the foam and you land on the hard sled,” he said. “That doesn’t work.”
Considering he needed to disconnect from the sled, a foam pit was out as he kicked around ideas on how to perfect the trick he knew he needed, the “volt,” a full backflip for the sled and, simultaneously, a 360-degree spin by the rider.
He settled on starting with a shorter ramp, much less severe than the monster that waited at X Games Aspen. His friends helped by chopping up soft snow in the landing.
That only kind of worked. He landed the trick just twice in 11 tries, then on his 12th attempt, just two weeks ago, he was injured so badly he thought he might miss X Games entirely.
Things came together, however. They came together in a big way.
In a moment of hard-to-comprehend luck, Parsons was describing his injury and persistent pain in the athletes lounge at X Games. Someone overheard, checked his back and identified a dislocated rib. It was popped back in two minutes later.
Then, stuck in second place behind Colten Moore and down to his last run and his last trick, Parsons turned to the volt and, for just the third time in his life and for the first time ever for a rider in a competition, landed it.
That propelled him to the win in snowmobile freestyle with a score of 93.00.
“I didn’t have very good odds on that one, but I felt really good about it for some reason,” he said.
That trick gave him just enough of an edge over Moore, who’s high-flying run scored in at 92.00.
Levi LaVallee scored in at 90.00 to claim third.
LaVellee was thrilled to be back on the podium after an absence of several years. He racked up 10 X Games medals between 2004 and 2014, but has been shut out the past two winters. Last year he tried to pull a backflip during SnoCross and the resulting injury kept him out of freestyle.
He made up for it this year.
“It was good to come back and be able to throw down my run,” he said. “I was excited to get a medal. You’re out there with the best guys in the world, so it’s a real honor just to be riding with them.”
He also had one of the best seats in the house for the X Games debut of the volt.
“It is so cool. I’ve been a racer my whole life, and in racing you’re always looking for the edge,” he said. “In this, we all know the struggles of trying to overcome your fears. To see these guys throwing these tricks and stomping them, you’re as excited as they are.”
Flip and flip again
Moore, who was second, is aiming to land his own huge trick today at the X Games finale, the snowmobile best trick event.
He’ll be aiming to land a double backflip, and he said one of the most difficult parts of the process is actually the X Games itself.
“You have to wait five days here to do it,” he said.
With that in mind, he actually took a week off from training, trying to prepare himself for every complication that will come his way as he prepares for the big run. He learned he can do it when he’s been practicing every day. He said he’s launched the trick more than 100 times into the pit.
The result after his self-imposed week-long exile from his ramps? Success.
“I nailed my first one coming back to the pit after a week and a half, so that was a major confidence booster,” Moore said. “Confidence is key. It’s mental game. As long as you get your body to do what it needs to, it’s your head that’s going to screw you up.”
When asked if he is receiving any insider information on the terrain, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — the boyfriend of Edwards’ own Mikaela Shiffrin — chuckled and replied, “You probably think so, but I actually I don’t.”