X Games stars talk shop in Wednesday news conference

Torin Yater-Wallace skies down the snowy halfpipe at Buttermilk on Wednesday during practice.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

As Shaun White makes his return to the men’s snowboard superpipe Thursday after missing Winter X Games 2016 in Aspen, the question became whether the other athletes want him back.

Danny Davis, who won superpipe gold in both 2014 and 2015, is game for White competing again, although he knows it presents an extra challenge.

“It puts us in a tough spot, because he always does well. But it’s not a contest when the best guys aren’t there,” Davis said during Wednesday’s news conference. “He’s always one that pushes the envelope. I’m sure he’ll be sending it. It’s good to have him back.”

White, who did not take part in Wednesday’s media session at Buttermilk, missed X Games Aspen last winter after a dispute with ESPN led to him being uninvited. But, with that in the past, he returns, looking for his first Winter X Games medal since winning gold in the superpipe in 2013.

Matt Ladley of Steamboat Springs won last year’s weather-shortened competition.

The men’s snowboard superpipe will highlight the first day of action Thursday, getting started at 8:45 p.m. under the lights and will be televised live on ESPN.

Chloe’s dominance

California girl Chloe Kim is the face of women’s snowboarding, and there is no one who will argue that point. After winning superpipe silver in 2014, she’s won three straight X Games gold medals, including at X Games Oslo in 2016.

The key to her success? It’s just about having fun.

“I’ve started to have a lot more fun while I’m snowboarding, even going out of the halfpipe,” Kim said. “Having that happy mindset definitely puts you in a good place.”

Kim will go for her fourth-straight X Games gold Saturday night.

The ladies go big

Making its X Games debut at 8 p.m. Thursday will be the women’s snowboard big air. X Games Oslo held a women’s big air event in both ski and snowboard last year, but that had a scaffolding jump, commonly found throughout the discipline.

Aspen’s big air is unique as it’s a true mountain base.

“I’m really happy to have a jump on the mountain. Scaffolding jumps are pretty scary, and those are the only big air events I’ve competed in,” said four-time X Games gold medalist Jamie Anderson, the most decorated slopestyle rider in the event’s history. “This is kind of what I’ve always wanted, to be able to compete in big air at X Games. I think all of us girls are really excited for this week.”

The women’s ski big air final will take place Saturday night.

Going for the five-peat

Maddie Bowman is heading into uncharted territory. The Tahoe native will be looking for her fifth — FIFTH — straight Aspen X Games gold in the women’s ski superpipe.

“It would be so awesome to accomplish that,” Bowman said. “I just try to keep it fun while I’m out there at practice and have a good time. There is just something about X Games that makes that really easy.”

The women’s ski superpipe final is 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Seeing double

The most exciting and dangerous moment of Winter X Games Aspen this week might be the snowmobile freestyle finals and best trick, held Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Idaho’s Heath Frisby is all but guaranteed a podium finish — he has 11 X Games medals in 11 attempts, including three gold — but that’s not what it’s about.

He’s attempting to become the first person to successfully land a double backflip in competition.

“It’s going to go down. It’s going to be awesome,” Frisby said. “The snowmobile really wants to fling you back. The more spread out I am, the slower the rotation is. It’s just been a little bit of a challenge on that.”