Skip Winter X Games in Aspen? For most of the athletes, there’s no chance

American women's halfpipe skier Maddie Bowman at the X Games Press conference at Buttermilk on Wednesday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

It’s a fair question during an Olympic season and one the athletes get quite a bit: Are you going to compete in X Games?

While there have been instances where an athlete will skip the annual event in Aspen to focus on the Olympics — halfpipe snowboarder Shaun White opted out of the 2014 Winter X Games to train for the Sochi Games — the resounding answer from many of the athletes during Wednesday’s introductory press conference was absolutely.

“I just think it’s a really good gauge of what you are going to see at the Olympics,” Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris said. “There is really no point in not doing this event. You want to sharpen your competitive skills.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea officially get underway Feb. 9, making this week’s Winter X Games the final significant event ahead of the big show. While skipping the ESPN showcase in Aspen crossed many minds, it seems nobody followed through on it.

The notable absences, such as Estonian skier Kelly Sildaru and Tahoe snowboarder Danny Davis, are injury-related. The who’s who of the sports are here and ready to compete, including White.

“This is where our sport was born and came into its own. It’s really special for us,” said Tahoe skier Maddie Bowman. “This is a pretty unique spot where you really do get to show the best of the best. The riding is always at an insane level and the energy is always so amazing.”

The competition gets underway Thursday at Buttermilk Ski Area, highlighted by the men’s and women’s ski superpipe finals. The 8 p.m. men’s finals includes Aspen’s own Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace, who will both compete at the Olympics next month.

Fellow halfpipe skier David Wise, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, believes most people would skip X Games out of fear of getting hurt, a valid reason considering the Winter Olympics only come around every four years.

However, that’s never been his style.

“Taking the momentum from X Games into the Olympics has always been my strategy,” Wise said. “Yeah, we are going into the Olympics very soon. We are within a month from finals of my event, and it would be maybe in some people’s minds to skip X Games, stay healthy. But at the same time you can’t live your life in fear of injury. We are at the highest level of our sport. We are at the cutting edge. We have to go in expecting to land runs.”