| AspenTimes.com

Scotty James bests Yuto Totsuka to win third X Games Aspen gold in superpipe

Scotty James is good at winning. At this point, he may not remember what losing feels like. What he does know is the taste of victory is as delectable now as it was when he won his first X Games Aspen gold in 2017.

“The feeling never gets old. Winning is such an amazing feeling. So much hard work goes into this,” James said. “That feeling is unbelievable. To do it here at X Games is very, very special to me. X Games is a pinnacle for us. I dreamt of getting one X Games medal and I’ve added another one to my collection. So I’m absolutely pumped and just excited about the whole event.”

James, the charismatic Australian who has taken over the snowboarding world, won his 10th straight contest — including non-X Games events — on Thursday, holding off Japan’s Yuto Totsuka in the men’s snowboard superpipe final at X Games. It was the third Aspen gold in four years for James, his lone defeat coming in 2018 when he took silver to Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who hasn’t competed at X Games since then.

Going back to essentially the 2018 Winter Olympics, won by Shaun White with Hirano claiming silver and James bronze, the Aussie has been untouchable. White, who has a Winter X Games record 18 medals, hasn’t competed in a halfpipe contest since the Olympics.

Their absence in recent years hasn’t bothered James, who keeps racking up wins.

“I had to learn some adversity, especially coming from Australia and I persevered and here I am with three gold medals,” James said. “Riding the halfpipe is getting more and more technical. It’s becoming more and more physically demanding. So when you get to stand on top of the podium, the feeling is still much the same as the first one.”

Thursday’s contest was a little different than in the past. ESPN opted for a 30-minute jam session in the eight-rider final as opposed to the traditional untimed three-run final format. The winner was determined more by overall impression instead of their best score on a single run.

It wasn’t wildly different, per se, but it was different enough that it tested riders in ways it never had before.

“My riding fits really good in the format. I always like to do creative stuff that’s kind of hard to put into contest runs,” Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer said. “When you have a session like this without a time, it feels more natural. It feels more like riding.”

Scherrer, a relatively veteran 25-year-old rider who competed in the past two Olympics, finished third Thursday to win his first X Games medal. Runner-up Totsuka also finished second to James at X Games Aspen last winter.

“Amazing. I can’t believe it yet,” Scherrer said. “Winning a medal at X Games is pretty much a dream of every competition rider. I’ve been riding competitions for so many years now, it’s a big dream come true.”

James also seems on board with the new format. The best single run still makes up the bulk of a rider’s score — not that there actually is a score, just standings — but a small percentage is about that overall impression, which can mean a number of things, from variety to general creativity.

“I really enjoyed it. I think it was an awesome show and display of snowboarding and how you have to diversify yourself and your tricks,” James said. “Historically that’s what snowboarding has always been about. It’s a way to express your creativity and a format like this really does that.”

Coming in fourth Thursday was Idaho’s Chase Josey, who owns that position. He’s finished fourth in Aspen — one off from medaling — each of the past four competitions. His only X Games medal is a 2016 bronze in Oslo.

California’s Danny Davis, who won X Games bronze last year, finished fifth, followed by Steamboat’s Taylor Gold in sixth, California’s Toby Miller in seventh and Longmont’s Chase Blackwell in eighth.


Redstone road closure leads into lawsuit, confrontation

A Redstone-area homeowner’s association illegally closed a road last summer that’s been open to the public continuously for at least the past 135 years, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by Pitkin County commissioners.

The suit accuses the Rock Creek Association, which represents homeowners in a subdivision north of Redstone, of interfering with and stealing property from Pitkin County when it installed a gate on Dorais Way and cut off public access in August. Dorais Way is a portion of the historic Rock Creek Wagon Road and former Crystal River Railway line, the suit states.

In particular, the August closure cut off the public’s access to most of Filoha Meadows, a 185-acre slice of Pitkin County taxpayer-owned open space, which is only open to the public from July 1 to Sept. 30.

“Members of the public have used Rock Creek Wagon Road through (the Dorais Way section) for travel, commerce and recreation without interruption since at least 1885 until Aug. 28, 2019, when RCA closed and locked a gate at approximately the intersection of Redstone Boulevard — also part of Rock Creek Wagon Road — and the southerly terminus of Dorais Way,” according to the lawsuit filed by Pitkin County Assistant Attorney Richard Neily.

The five-member board of commissioners is asking a District Court judge for three times “the amount of actual (monetary) damages sustained” because of the RCA’s “interference with and theft of property owned by Pitkin County,” the lawsuit states. In addition, they are asking for a permanent injunction to stop the homeowners “from interfering with the public right to use that portion of Rock Creek Wagon Road,” according to the suit.

A lawyer for the defendants was not listed in the suit. Phone messages left Thursday seeking comment from Terry Knapp and Phil Youngman, RCA’s acting co-presidents, and three other members of the homeowners association were not returned. The Rock Creek Association is made up of homeowners in the Wild Rose Ranch Subdivision outside Redstone.

In the Aug. 28 letter, the RCA Board of Directors wrote to inform “friends and neighbors” that it had purchased the portion of Dorais Way from Redstone Boulevard “north to the pre-existing private segments of the roadway,” according to the letter, which is included in the lawsuit.

“Dorais Way is now closed to all public access, including vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” the letter states.

Because of the purchase, RCA homeowners were liable for the road, which frequently sees vandalism, littering of property with human and animal waste and “often quite reckless access … to the dangers of rapidly moving water” in the Crystal River, according to the letter. This “unacceptable liability” requires “the permanent closure of Dorais Way to public access,” the letter states.

In a conciliatory move to area residents, however, the homeowners’ association offered a caveat.

“The RCA recognizes that friends and neighbors in the Redstone community use Dorais Way occasionally for pleasant walks or to visit residents who live along Dorais Way,” according to the August letter. “This type of pedestrian access may continue if an RCA member will provide access and take responsibility for you as a guest.”

The edict apparently didn’t go over well with at least one Redstone area resident, who was out for a hike Sept. 6 in Filoha Meadows with his wife and a friend.

On the way back to their car, the trio was confronted by a member of the homeowners’ association, who was out walking his dog, according to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office report.

“What are you doing here?” the 76-year-old homeowners’ association member said, according to the report.

The 74-year-old hiker responded that the road was public, that they were not trespassing and that he’d been “doing this for 20 years,” the Sheriff’s Office report states.

“(The hiker) told me the man then stepped in front of him and began chest bumping him and said, ‘You know this is private property and you are trespassing,’” according to the report. “(The hiker) told me he tried to go around the man and he kept getting in front of him and bumping him with his chest as if he wanted a confrontation.”

The hiker’s wife and friend also separately told the sheriff’s deputy that the homeowners’ association member was the aggressor in the situation.

The homeowner, however, said the hiker was the chest-bumper and “threatened to kick his ass,” the report states. He also told the deputy the road was private and asked how he would like it if people urinated, defecated and littered on his property.

“I told him that I would not like it, but that didn’t mean I could close public access,” Deputy Josh Bennett wrote in the report. “(The homeowners’ association member) told me there will be problems.”

That was the third time during Bennett’s interaction with the man that he referenced “problems.” The first was right after the deputy arrived at the man’s house, according to the report.

“As I entered the home on the table just inside the door … (was) what appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun,” the report states. “‘Don’t let that intimidate you,’ (the man said) as he pointed at the sawed-off shotgun.

“I asked him if that was for the bears and he responded, ‘It’s for problems.’”

No one was charged in the case.

The legal claim to Dorais Way is complicated and involves what is known as “quitclaim deed” the homeowners’ association received from two mining companies, which conveyed “whatever property interest, if any” it had in the former railroad line, according to the lawsuit. That interest can be tracked back to the person who originally acquired the property from the U.S. government in November 1894, the suit states.

Pitkin County wants the judge to find that Dorais Way is and has been a public highway and that the mining company and railroad before it abandoned the property after the track was torn up in 1942 for use in the war effort, according to the lawsuit. That means the mining company would have had no interest to convey to the homeowners’ association, the suit states.

Five Aspen High School students receive $12,000 aviation scholarships

Made possible by the BettyFlies Foundation, a nonprofit created in memory of renowned local pilot Betty Haas Pfister; Pitkin County Air Rescue, Ger R. Andlinger, and the Aspen Flight Academy, these inaugural BettyFlies Foundation Flight School Scholarship awards aim to cover the cost of earning a private pilot license for each student, supporting the teens in pursuing careers in aviation and aeronautics after high school.

“This is a group of great, well-rounded kids. I am impressed by how motivated they are,” said Peter Hutter, a pilot and member of the BettyFlies Foundation advisory board. “This is a terrific opportunity and a special thing for our community to have available to students.”

Jack Fox also was awarded a $12,000 scholarship, but was not at the Thursday morning award ceremony.

Chris Corning’s strength, commitment make first X Games Aspen big air gold more attainable

In all his years working with elite athletes, including NFL and NHL players, Nathan Henry had not experienced what he went through at X Games Aspen this time last year.

Standing beside U.S. Snowboard coaches under the lights in the cold at Buttermilk Ski Area, the nerves overtook Henry. This was a situation where one of his athletes, snowboarder Chris Corning, was in a situation similar to a UFC fighter. Staring down the 300-foot-long run-in and 80-foot jump, to Henry, was like stepping foot in the Octagon, closing the cage door behind you and staring across the mat at a rabid opponent.

Then there’s another extreme sports analogy Henry compared it to, something with more of an Evel Knievel feel.

“When we are working on him, it’s like a Formula One race car and launching it off this jump,” said Henry, who’s now the director of athlete development for Dallas Stars Elite Hockey. “It’s watching and hoping he can land it.”

In the end, last year’s X Games big air final didn’t turn out how Henry and Corning hoped. Corning aggravated one of the major injuries he and Henry worked doggedly the summer before to heal: a Lisfranc fracture to his left foot. It was the latest health hiccup in a young career for the 20-year-old Silverthorne resident who has worked through setbacks.

But that’s where Henry comes in. In the summer of 2018, Corning drove several days a week, always arriving early, to work with Henry, then a coach for Landow Performance in Centennial. The coach soon learned Corning isn’t just any other snowboarder. His attention to detail is obsessive. His drive to be his best is rabid. And his athleticism, despite the foot injury and a hobbled back and hip, was alarmingly elite.

“The first time I had him on the ladder,” Henry said, “I was like, ‘Holy cow, this guy could have been a running back.’”

Corning chose snowboarding, a smart move, evidenced by back-to-back FIS Crystal Globe season titles. That said, Corning has yet to win an X Games Aspen medal, a goal he’ll work toward Friday at the men’s snowboard big air elimination round.

The X Games big air jam format is a beast — a 25-minute jump-till-you-drop endurance fest. With that in mind, Henry’s main focus with Corning has been to build his “trunk,” as Henry puts it, for the unnatural physics of loading up to huck a rotation and, perhaps more importantly, being able to stop a stuntman-like spin on a dime. The coach said he worked more on Corning’s trunk than any athlete before.

This past summer, Henry said, was about polishing the strength and muscular endurance he generated the summer prior.

Last month, Henry soaked in a crowning moment for Corning: winning the Visa Big Air at the SunTrust Park baseball stadium in Atlanta. He did so by landing his four-inversion, five-rotation quad-cork 1800.

Corning hopes for another this weekend in Aspen. Thursday’s developments made it a bit tougher, as Corning failed to qualify through to the slopestyle final after tweaking his knee when landing awkwardly on a flat portion of the course.

Whatever happens this weekend, Henry said even with all the strength and conditioning work, what sets Corning apart is between the ears.

“I haven’t met anyone,” Henry said, “who is more committed than he is.”

Japanese trio steals snowboard big air show as Gasser goes for triple cork

On a night where snowboarding fans at Buttermilk Ski Area watched with bated breath to see if Austrian star Anna Gasser would attempt a three-inversion triple cork trick, they didn’t have to wait long for excitement in the X Games Aspen women’s snowboard big air final.

Before Gasser even attempted — and nearly landed — the unprecedented triple cork on her first run Thursday, a trio of snowboarders set the stage for one thrilling big air jump after another. In the end, the show was stolen by a collection of Japanese riders, including eventual champion Miyabi Onitsuka.

Twenty-five minutes before Onitsuka was crowned, on the first run down the 300-foot run-in to the 80-foot big air jump, Slovakian veteran Klaudia Medlova set the stage for one progressive trick after another by landing a double backside rodeo. The 21-year-old Onitsuka then landed a frontside 1080 to get into the conversation. Over her next two runs, Onitsuka followed the frontside 1080 with a backside 1080 and a huge backside 1260 to take the commanding lead in the jam format, where judges re-ranked snowboarders after each jump, based on “overall impression.”

Before Gasser could even drop in, Japanese 18-year-old Reira Iwabuchi landed a backside double-cork 1080 to put her in position for her eventual bronze medal.

Then Gasser attempted her triple cork for the first time, the closest she came all night. Gasser continued to try the trick, failing to get enough speed to get it around on her second and third runs before going for it again on her fourth run.

On that fourth run, Gasser had two people at the top of the ramp whip her onto the run-in for more momentum. But the failure to land the triple cork was the scariest miss yet, as the front of her board caught the landing and she hit her head hard on the landing. After a couple of minutes being assessed by X Games medical, Gasser rode off OK.

As for the rest of the competition, Onitsuka followed up that frontside 1080 with a backside 1080 and then a soaring backside 1260. The 1260 was actually landed twice Thursday night after only being landed once before in women’s competition. The other rider to land it was eventual silver medalist in Japanese teen phenom Kokomo Murase, who at 15 is the youngest snowboarder in any X Games competition this year.

After the competition where the trio of Japanese riders took home gold, silver and bronze, Onitsuka, in her best English, summed up the night.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “Landing my backside double-cork 12 to take gold. I was so stoked.”

Aspen’s Torin Yater-Wallace makes X Games return in ski knuckle huck fresh off plane from Japan

Had it been a more serious competition, Torin Yater-Wallace might have opted to go home. But, despite being only an hour or so off the plane from Tokyo, the Aspen freeskier went ahead and returned to X Games for Thursday’s ski knuckle huck.

It was a low-key return to the lights of Buttermilk for one of the sport’s biggest stars, who missed most of last season because of injury.

“I didn’t really think I was going to do it, because it’s just a knuckle,” Yater-Wallace said. “I booked my trip to Japan and then they hit me up. I wasn’t going to change my flight and I don’t know, I just did it.”

Yater-Wallace, the 24-year-old who grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley and won the first of his six X Games superpipe medals when he was only 15, wasn’t sure if he would ever compete in X Games again. Going into the 2018-19 competition season, his plan had been to spend it in the halfpipe before walking away from the discipline for good.

This was all expedited when Yater-Wallace crashed on his first run in Dew Tour’s modified halfpipe in Breckenridge on Dec. 16, 2018, essentially shattering both of his heels, among other maladies. He spent weeks in and out of the hospital, riding the couch in the time in between.

He made his return to snow on Nov. 7, roughly 11 months after his injury.

“Riding hardpack was a battle at first, but now my feet are feeling a lot better,” Yater-Wallace said. “So skiing resort and skiing park is feeling pretty normal again, but it’s sure nice to just ride powder all year.”

Yater-Wallace, who skis for Red Bull, spent about two weeks filming in Japan before returning home Thursday, landing only a few hours before the scheduled knuckle huck competition. Knuckle huck, an event where athletes throw a single trick off the rounded part, or knuckle, of the big air jump, made its X Games debut in 2019 with the snowboarders.

Thursday was ski knuckle huck’s X Games maiden voyage.

“It’s pretty mellow. I don’t know if the public can really relate to it, but for the skiers it’s a niche little category that’s cool,” Yater-Wallace said of the event. “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna, just being tired flying home from Tokyo today. But practice felt good and it felt nice to be skiing, so I went ahead and did it and I’m glad I did.”

Yater-Wallace didn’t have a favorite run in the 20-minute jam session, saying none “of them were that great, really.” The judges basically agreed, as he finished sixth in the eight-skier event, won by Park City’s Colby Stevenson, a 20-year-old X Games rookie. He held off Swedish big air legend Henrik Harlaut for the inaugural crown, or should we say knuckles, as the winner of knuckle huck does in fact receive a pair of gold knuckles as a trophy.

Winning or losing, or even competing, wasn’t important to Yater-Wallace, who seems to have moved on from that part of his life. He’s about making films — he’s headed to Canada soon for more skiing — but can’t rule out a return to X Games in the future, although probably not in halfpipe.

“Maybe I was hoping one day for slopestyle or big air. I was still hoping for that at some point. But right now I’m just focusing on making this movie,” Yater-Wallace said. “But it’s nice to be out here, under the lights and all. I don’t really have any desire to compete, but it’s always nice to be back. Hanging under the lights here will always be special.”

The men’s ski superpipe contest, sans Yater-Wallace, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday. Fellow Aspen skier Alex Ferreira will compete, looking to defend his gold medal from 2019. Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell, 20, was added to the competition Thursday after originally being an alternate, meaning he’ll make his X Games debut at 7:15 p.m. Friday during the elimination round. Ferreira goes straight to finals for having been on last year’s podium.

The snowboard knuckle huck contest is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday, right before the men’s ski superpipe final.


X Games Day 1 notebook: Ferreira primed for finals; women to take center stage Saturday

Saturday at X Games Aspen is all about the ladies.

Noted as “Women’s Day” on the official X Games schedule, this is not the first time organizers have earmarked a day for women, but this year they are making sure the focus from competitions to Studio X events and film screenings all focus on female action sports.

The women’s snowboard slopestyle final starts the day at 11 a.m. with American Jamie Anderson looking to podium to tie Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris and American snowmobiler Joe Parsons for the second most X Games medals at 17.

Other female finals Saturday include the ski superpipe at 6:30 p.m., followed by women’s snowboard superpipe closing out Day 3 at 8:45 p.m.

In between competitions, the film screenings and panels at Studio X are centered around women. At 1 p.m. there is a screening of “Unconditional,” a 21-minute documentary focusing on Anderson. Right after the film screening is a panel discussion in Studio X at 1:30 p.m. called “Women of X Games.”


Aspen’s Alex Ferreira, the reigning X Games Aspen gold medalist in men’s ski superpipe, took part in the inaugural Special Olympics Unified ski race Thursday, winning silver alongside Lakewood’s Haldan Pranger.

Ferreira will compete in Sunday’s halfpipe final looking to defend his title from last winter and said everything has been smooth sailing so far this week. As a returning medalist, he does not have to compete in Friday night’s elimination.

“Training has been going great,” Ferreira said after Thursday’s unified race. “We had an awesome training Monday and Tuesday night and I feel like I’m skiing well and I’m happy. When you are skiing well and you are happy, then usually good results come.”


Aspen skier Cassidy Jarrell will make his first appearance in the X Games. He found out Thursday night he has been added to the start list for Friday’s superpipe elimination.

Jarrell, 20, was named an alternate in December, meaning someone had to drop out if he was to get in. That happened Thursday.

“Words can’t describe how proud of this guy I am!” Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club coach Sam Ferguson posted on social media. “Now let’s get it Cass!”

Jarrell is trying to become the next to join a list of Roaring Fork Valley halfpipe skiers to make the big stage, a list that includes Ferreira and two-time Olympian Torin Yater-Wallace, who returned to competition Thursday night in the inaugural ski knuckle huck event.


Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut, a fan favorite and six-time X Games gold medalist, snuck into Friday night’s men’s ski big air final after taking fourth in Thursday’s qualifier at Buttermilk. He and Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli, who won slopestyle bronze in 2018, were the last two to qualify.

Winning the qualifier was Finland’s Elias Syrja, followed by France’s Antoine Adelisse and Christian Nummedal. They will join last year’s podium finishers in Norway’s Birk Ruud (gold) and Canada’s Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (silver) in the final; previous podium finishers automatically qualified to finals.

Last year’s bronze medalist, James Woods, is not competing this year, so last year’s fourth-place finisher, Canada’s Evan McEachran, slipped into the third automatic qualifying spot.

Not making Friday’s 8:35 p.m. final were Utah’s Alex Hall, the reigning X Games champion in slopestyle, 2016 big air champ Fabian Boesch, Jesper Tjader and Teal Harle.

Compiled by Rose Anna Laudicina and Austin Colbert

How To Drink Wine? Pay attention

Maybe you find the wine world to be a bit pretentious. And maybe the idea of some guy who writes a wine column telling you “how to drink wine” ranks for you at the top of the pretentious scale.

After all, four words will do the trick, right? “Unscrew, pour, swig, swallow.” Done.

OK, I’m kidding. But the point is everyone can, and should, drink wine, under cork or screw cap, sipped or swigged and swallowed in any way that makes them happy. Taste, after all, lies on the tongue of the beholder.

But having consumed my share of wine (most great, some good and some, occasionally, plonk) and, having had a chance to taste with winemakers who have made the wines of their passion, with sommeliers who make the study of wines their obsession and with collectors who drink to gauge the value of their holdings, I have learned a thing or two about the process of drinking. Or tasting, if you will.

And the best advice I ever received on how to drink a glass of wine is the simplest: Pay attention. That’s right, just two words from Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher over a dozen years ago in a wine seminar changed the way I tasted, and thought about, wine.

By paying attention to what I was drinking, by stopping long enough to read the label front and back as I opened a wine, by caring what kind of glass I was using, by being conscious of the temperature of the wine I was pouring, by looking at the color of the wine, by considering where the wine came from as I swirled it, I had a whole world of possibility and engagement open up to me. And that is all before I even put my nose in to inhale the aromas or tilted the glass for the first sip.

Jay’s advice has stayed with me all of these years and has become a part of my drinking DNA. I don’t even think about “thinking about it.” Whenever a bottle of wine is opened and I am about to have a glass, my entire being simply pays attention.

Writer Malcolm Gladwell espoused a theory once in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success” that he called the “10,000 Hour Rule.” It basically says, and I am paraphrasing, that if you practice something for 10,000 hours you will master it. There are flaws of course, and over the past decade other writers have written 10,000 rebukes pointing out those flaws. But as an arbitrary number my guess is it would come pretty close to the number of glasses of wine I have paid attention to over the course of, say, the last 15 years.

Has it made me an expert? Hardly. I don’t possess the natural palate of some who can decipher and define the myriad smells and tastes found in wines with little more than minor vintage variation. I don’t pretend to have mastered the skills of trained tasters, like the aforementioned Jay Fletcher MS, who can examine a glass like a lawyer examines the law and make calculated deductions about the varietal, its place of origin, the person who made it and the year the grapes that are in the glass were grown.

But today I have a pretty good grasp on the world of wine. I likely know it better than I know anything else in my life, with the possible exception of football. And my deep appreciation for all that wine represents, from geology to geography, from climate to history, and especially sociology, has had a markedly positive impact on my life. All because I have paid attention.

I have a friend, one who is in a position to afford not just good, but really good wines. “After three sips, nobody knows what they are drinking anymore,” is his refrain.

Though generous with his wine, he is convinced that from Burgundy to the Barossa, from Napa to New Zealand, all wine is just fermented grape juice. And you know what, he is correct. All wine is a natural product that has its origins in grapes. But if you pay attention, the complexity and the diversity and, well, the magic of such a simple product can change the way you feel about wine.

Back to the start. How should you drink wine? There are no rules. It’s an individual endeavor. But if you take a moment to stop, look, smell and taste, and give some thought to what you’ve seen, smelled and tasted, chances are you will have a more enjoyable wine experience.

Just pay attention?

After six years, Daina Shilts finally wins unified snowboard gold with Mike Schultz

Daina Shilts has become as much of an X Games mainstay as any other athlete competing this week at Buttermilk. Her enthusiasm each of the past five years in the Special Olympics Unified snowboarding competition isn’t easily forgotten.

Then came Thursday, her sixth time competing in the event, which happens to be in its sixth year, which ended with her winning X Games gold for the first time.

“After six years I finally got it. Oh my gosh, my adrenaline is so high right now,” a fast-talking Shilts said from the bottom of the slalom course. “I’m shaking so bad. I’ve worked so hard to get this. But in the end it’s not about finishing first, it’s about finishing, having fun and interacting.”

From Neillsville, Wisconsin, Shilts won a silver once alongside Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter. She’s also won four gold, five silver and two bronze medals competing at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2013 and 2017.

This winter at X Games Aspen, she partnered with Minnesota’s Mike Schultz, an adaptive motorsport athlete who entered this year’s games at Buttermilk with nine career X Games gold medals between the summer and winter events.

“This one is pretty special. It’s the first team event I’ve done and I’m so happy for Daina and her winning the gold,” Schultz said. “She’s been here for six years and to be here while she won her first gold was pretty dang special. You could see the expression on her face and just overwhelming excitement. So I’m really happy I could be part of that moment.”

The unified event is a head-to-head snowboard race between teams of two: one Special Olympics athlete and one professional. The event has long been dominated by Aspen’s own Chris Klug, an Olympic bronze medalist in alpine snowboarding, and Special Olympics athlete Henry Meece of Oregon. This year, Meece partnered with X Games host Jack Mitrani for bronze.

California’s Danny Davis, one of the best snowboarders in the world who also competed in Thursday’s men’s superpipe final, won silver alongside Russia’s Dmitri Tiufiakov. Other notable pros who competed included Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler and Austria’s Anna Gasser.

“This event is pretty special. It brings out the best in sport,” Schultz said. “The Special Olympic athletes, obviously they are going through some challenges in life and for them to be able to come out and compete on a stage like X Games and be teamed up with pros of the sport, it’s incredible.”


New this year was the addition of a skiing competition to the unified event, won by Telluride freeskier Gus Kenworthy and Denver’s Palmer Lyons, who was decked out in a full speed suit for Thursday’s race.

Lyons said he is a close friend with Denver’s Cody Field, a notable Special Olympic athlete who won three gold medals at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Korea. Hearing of Field competing at X Games inspired Lyons to want to try it himself with skiing making its unified debut at Buttermilk.

“It’s very special and I’m so glad they include skiing and I’m so grateful I was asked to be a part of it and I feel very lucky that I was partnered with Palmer,” said Kenworthy, a five-time X Games medalist. “This one is very special to me. It’s actually my first X Games gold, so that’s amazing. I’ve got a handful of silver and bronze, but it just feels incredible and I really got to give it up to Palmer, because it was all him.”

Winning silver in the ski race Thursday was Aspen’s Alex Ferreira, the reigning X Games ski halfpipe champion who will compete in Sunday’s final. He partnered with Denver’s Haldan Pranger to hold off bronze finishers Sarah Hoefflin, a freeskier from Switzerland who won X Games Aspen big air gold in 2018, and Boulder’s Kohlor Von Eschen.

Ferreira, who also has an Olympic silver medal in halfpipe skiing, is making a name for himself as a ski racer this winter, having partnered with NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to win the annual Audi Ajax Cup on Dec. 30, a fundraiser for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.

“There might be a career switch in the future,” Ferreira joked. “It’s an amazing experience, first and foremost. I was lucky enough to do the unified BMX Special Olympics during Summer X Games, and then they asked me to do skiing and I noticed it was the first year and I said, ‘Of course, absolutely I’d love to be a part of it.’”

Finishing fourth in Thursday’s ski race was Nevada’s David Wise, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe skiing, and Denver’s Andrew Carlson. Wise, who was a ski racer until his early teens when he switched to freeskiing, liked the banter between the professionals. He, Ferreira and Kenworthy all are competing against each other this weekend in the halfpipe.

Olympic and X Games halfpipe champion Cassie Sharpe of Canada and Montana slopestyle specialist Maggie Voisin, another X Games champion, also competed.

“I’ve watched it on the snowboard side in the past and always thought it was super cool. So as soon as they announced they were going to do ski I threw my name in the hat,” Wise said. “We were definitely talking trash back and forth and making it fun and interesting — it’s a super cool event because it’s all about camaraderie. For me getting to meet my teammate Andrew and just see his passion for skiing and his excitement for life is pretty special.”


Libations: Drinks with a one-two punch

To get it out of the way up front: If you’re in town for X Games and going the (ill-advised) energy drink and alcohol route, try Jagermeister and Monster instead of vodka and Red Bull. However, that’s not the focus of this article, because drinking either of those cocktails would technically be considered a relapse. It’s been at least three years since my twice-daily energy drink habit.

Heading into Aspen for X Games can feel daunting, especially if you have the budget of the average person near college age. Take a wrong turn, and drinks can reach $20-plus very quickly. However, a little observation and know-how can reveal a local’s favorite special: The beer and shot combo.

Going by multiple names, including a “standoff” or “boilermaker” depending on the alcohol involved, a shot and a beer is an easy way to jumpstart an evening, and many bars in town have some sort of specific deal.

Only issue: It may not necessarily be on the menu.

Start with a local favorite watering hole, Aspen Public House. A quick look through the drink offerings doesn’t mention any kind of combo, but disregarding norms and ordering with confidence is key. The beer is simple and the liquor is well, but you get to pick your poison and, at less than $10, it can’t be beat.

If you’re looking for something similar with a slight elevation, Jimmy’s offers a list of five or six options of beer and shot combos at around $12 each, ranging from Aspen-made alcohols to wider-themed affairs going beyond beer and simple spirits. The Oaxacan combo is a standby, and the True Believer isn’t for the faint of heart. Start the night off with something different, and then stick around for the fantastic food and cocktail options before heading back into the cold.

While the Aspen standard drink fare may feel overwhelming with high prices and complicated recipes, the town offers plenty of standbys that appeal to a wider audience. It only takes a little searching and some respectful conversation with a local or two to learn the secret art of affordable drinking.