Commentary

IF ASPEN IS GRETCHEN BLEILER'S PLAYGROUND (SEE PAGE 62) AND EVERYONE ELSE IS JUST A SNOW SQUIRREL TRYING TO GET A SNOW NUT (TASTES LIKE A DOUGHNUT, ONLY CRUNCHIER), THEN WHY EVEN BOTHER? BECAUSE AS SOME FAMOUS PERSON ONCE SAID, THAT'S WHY THEY PLAY THE (X

Updated: July 10, 2012, 3:44 PM ET
By Eddie Matz

2008 WINTER X GAMES

GUEST STARS

IF ASPEN IS GRETCHEN BLEILER'S PLAYGROUND (SEE PAGE 62) AND EVERYONE ELSE IS JUST A SNOW SQUIRREL TRYING TO GET A SNOW NUT (TASTES LIKE A DOUGHNUT, ONLY CRUNCHIER), THEN WHY EVEN BOTHER? BECAUSE AS SOME FAMOUS PERSON ONCE SAID, THAT'S WHY THEY PLAY THE (X) GAMES. IT'S ONLY THE BIGGEST STAGE IN ACTION SPORTS, THE KIND OF ARENA WHERE A NO-NAME DAY PLAYER CAN GO FROM JOE SCHMO TO JOE PRO SIMPLY BY STEALING THE SNOW SHOW. HERE'S A HANDFUL OF HOPEFULS WHO ARE POISED TO GO ALL MCLOVIN'.

BY EDDIE MATZ

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DARREN BRAUN

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

PETER OLENICK, SKI

AGE 23 BASE Dillon, Colo.

CAREER HIGHS Winter X slopestyle silver in 2004l superpipe bronze in 2004 and 2007

X FACTOR Born on leap day in 1984, he-technically-turns 6 next month.

Winning superpipe gold will be a tall order for Peter Olenick. Literally. "At my height, it doesn't look as good when you get air," says the Aspen native, who at 6'1" is about as large as a freeskier gets. "So I wear big clothes to look really short." If that doesn't work? Invent a trick. In 2007, Olenick's new whiskey flip (A cockeyed double backflip) fetched X bronze despite a bumpy landing. With a year to practive, Olenick might stand even taller on the podium this time around.

THE CALIFORNIA KID

JAMIE ANDERSON, SNOWBOARD

AGE 17 BASE South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

CAREER HIGHS Slopestyle gold at Winter X and the U.S. Open in 2007

X FACTOR Has seven sibling, including defending boarder X champ Joanie.

Age is but a number. Just ask Jamie Anderson. In 2004, at 13, she became the youngest person to compete at Winter X. Two years later, she was the youngest to win gold. Now she's got everything. Well, almost. "My mom thinks I'm still too young to drive," says Anderson, who doesn't have her license. "Luckily, I fly a lot." Like when she throws her smoothed-out frontside 360, which, for the record, is more than just a number.

THE KIWI

JOSSI WELSS, SKI

AGE 17 BASE Wanaka, New Zealand

CAREER HIGHS Halfpipe gold and slopestyle bronze at the 2007 European Open

X FACTOR Jossi and his three younger bros are homeschooled by their mom.

Know what separates Jossi Wells from all the posers? The violin. "It taught me to stick to what I'm doing until I get it right," says Wells, who started bowing at 4 and lists Bach and Vivaldi among his faves. These days, what he's sticking to is a triple-spin, backward-launch trick called a switch double cork 1080. Shortly after learning it, last April, he broke two ribs in practice and still hasn't thrown one in comp. Until now. Says Wells: "I know what I'm capable of." (Hint: rhymes with bold.)

THE GOPHER-STATER

STEVE FISHER, SNOWBOARD

AGE 25 BASE Breckinridge, Colo.

CAREER HIGHS Two-time Winter X superpipe champ (2004 and 2007)

X FACTOR Was adopted as an infant.

Don't be fooled by the artwork. Steve Fisher's new board might channel Where the Wild Things Are, but its owner is about as tame as they come/ "I'm usually in bed by 11," he says. With no piercings, the same girlfriend for three years and a Volvo in his driveway, the guy clearly lives life in the slow lane. Except when he shreds: A top finish at Winter X would make Fisher the first male snowboarder to bag three superpipe golds at the X Games. Now that'd be wild.