One of the most prestigious events in the winter action sports game, the Winter X Games, is about to descend on the US resort of Aspen, Colorado, and 17 Red Bull athletes are preparing to stake their medal claims.
The 15th instalment of the championships are at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, boasting snowboard, ski and snowmobile disciplines.
Red Bull at Winter X Games
Seventeen Red Bull athletes are attending, representing eight different countries. Eleven of them are previous WXG medallists; eight medalled in 2010 and four are defending gold medals: Shaun White (Snowboard SuperPipe), Bobby Brown (Ski Big Air and Slopestyle), Heath Frisby (Snowmobile Best Trick) and Kaya Turski (Ski Slopestyle) will be all looking for back-to-back wins.
Unfortunately, Eero Ettala (2010 Snowboard Slopestyle gold - pictured at top) and Levi LaVallee (2010 Snowmobile Knock Out gold and Best Trick bronze) will have to sit out due to injury; Ettala suffered a recent ACL tear in his knee, while LaVallee was injured during practice session for Red Bull: New Year. No Limits. in December.
Who to Watch for at Winter X Games
Shaun White (USA) – Snowboard Slopestyle & SuperPipe
What more needs to be said about Shaun White? Snowboarding’s most dominant competitor comes into Aspen at the end of the month looking for a first-ever four-peat in SuperPipe. He also returns to WXGG Slopestyle competition this year (he took 2010 off to focus on his Olympic Halfpipe runs), where he already owns a four-peat (2003–6 inclusive). Shaun (pictured above with Iouri Podladtchikov on the WXG 2010 SuperPipe podium) has 15 WXG medals in total, including five golds each in SuperPipe and Slopestyle.
Bobby Brown (USA) – Ski Big Air & Slopestyle
Brown let the freestyle skiing world know what was up in 2010, placing consistently high in Slopestyle events throughout the season. He’ll no doubt be looking forward to returning to Aspen this year, since he left WXGG 2010 with not one but two gold medals, topping out in both Slopestyle and Big Air.
Simon Dumont (USA) – Ski SuperPipe
Known for blasting out of the SuperPipe to ridiculous heights, few can forget Dumont’s epic WXG battles with Red Bull team-mate Tanner Hall over the years. Dumont owns seven WXG medals, including two golds in SuperPipe, but finished fourth in 2010, his first time off the WXG podium since 2003. Simon opened his season with a win in Breckenridge in December, and hasn’t been shy about saying that he plans to dominate this season, so he’ll no doubt put on an amazing show in Aspen.
Daron Rahlves (USA) – Skier X
Rahlves (pictured below) is well-known in speed skiing circles as one of the fastest Americans on snow, racking up countless alpine podiums while a member of the US Ski Team. Daron earned gold in Skier X at WXG 2008, but unfortunately went down at WXG 2010, dislocating his hip. Hot off his win at the Red Bull Hüttenrallye in Austria, he’ll be looking for redemption in 2011.
Greg Bretz (USA) – Snowboard SuperPipe
One of the leaders of the crop of talented young shredders in the pipe, Greg earned a spot on the US Olympic Team in 2010 shortly before just missing a spot on the 2010 WXG SuperPipe podium, finishing fourth. Bretz has yet to haul away some WXG hardware, so he’ll be working hard for a medal in Aspen.
Heath Frisby (USA) – Snowmobile Speed & Style, Freestyle and Best Trick
Frisby earned Best Trick gold at WXG 2010 with a Tsunami Indian-air backflip, adding to the three bronze medals he already held in Freestyle. He’ll return in 2011 in both events as well as Speed & Style, holding it down for his injured US Red Bull team-mate Levi LaVallee.
Sebastien Toutant (Canada) – Snowboard Big Air & Slopestyle
At just 18 years old, Seb is poised for a long and illustrious career in snowboarding, based on the impact he’s already had in competition. Coming off of a big win in Beijing at the Oakley Shaun White Air & Style event and another at the O'Neill Evolution in Switzerland, Toutant will make his first WXG appearance this year, and it will no doubt be one to remember.
Iouri Podladtchikov (Switzerland) – Snowboard SuperPipe
A major threat in the SuperPipe, Iouri earned silver behind Shaun White at WXG 2010, and aims to be even more of a challenge to White in 2011.
Grete Eliassen (Norway) – Ski Slopestyle
Eliassen (pictured above, on the right, with Kaya Turski at WXG 2010) has earned three WXG SuperPipe medals (two of them gold), but in recent years she’s moved more into the Slopestyle realm, pocketing a silver in the event at WXG 2009 and bronze in 2010.
Spencer O’Brien (Canada) – Snowboard Slopestyle
With Slopestyle bronze in 2008 and silver in ’09, Spencer was on track for gold at WXG 2010 but it wasn’t in the cards. Known for launching bigger hits than many of her fellow competitors, she’ll be looking to round out her medal collection this year.
Kaya Turski (Canada) – Ski Slopestyle
Turski has made two trips to WXG, leaving with medals both times – including Slopestyle gold in 2010. A dominant Slopestyle competitor, Kaya will no doubt mount a fierce defence of her title in 2011.
Russ Henshaw (Australia) – Ski Big Air & Slopestyle
Down-under freeski pro Russ Henshaw (pictured above) had five years of alpine experience under his belt before he switched to freestyle at age 12, and he’s been cranking up his skills consistently ever since. He has yet to pocket any WXG medals, but with two top-five finishes at WXG 2010, this could be his year.
Elias Ambühl (Switzerland) – Ski Big Air & Slopestyle
One of Red Bull’s newest athletes, Swiss phenomenon Elias Ambühl is tearing up freeskiing competition at the moment. He earned bronze in Big Air at his very first WXG appearance last season, likely just a taste of things to come.
PK Hunder (Norway) – Ski Big Air
Fully recovered from a broken neck near the end of the 2009 season, Hunder recently placed second in Big Air at the Fridge Festival in Budapest, and he’ll be riding that momentum into WXG.
Marko Grilc (Slovenia) – Snowboard Slopestyle
Much like Henshaw, Grilc (pictured below) found snowboarding at seven years old and has built a solid reputation with contest wins and video parts since then. He returned to the WXG stage after an eight-year hiatus in 2010, and will compete in WXG Slopestyle for the first time in 2011.
Bene Mayr (Germany) – Ski Big Air
Another racer-turned-freeskier, Mayr is down with any discipline on skis, but has the most fun launching off kickers. He’ll be headed to Aspen and WXG for the first time in 2011.
Daniel Bodin (Sweden) – Snowmobile Speed & Style, Freestyle and Best Trick
Bodin earned a silver medal in Snowmobile Best Trick at WXG 2010 and he has four consecutive fourth-place finishes in the Freestyle event, so he’s got about as much motivation to break onto the podium as you could possibly muster. He’ll also be making his first Speed & Style appearance at WXG 2011.
Now that you know who’s competing, check out the event schedule to find out when they’ll be throwing down. Look for daily updates and photo galleries on our X Games Central page once Winter X Games 15 kicks off…
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