NO HOLDS BARRED?
ON DEC. 31, SUPERPIPE RIDER KEVIN PEARCE CRASHED WHILE TRAINING IN PARK CITY, UTAH. HE SUFFERED SEVERE BRAIN TRAUMA, ENDING HIS X GAMES AND OLYMPIC HOPES. THE SPECTER OF PEARCE'S INJURY AND VANCOUVER WILL SURELY BE ON THE MINDS OF XERS THIS YEAR. BUT PAL AND SUPERPIPE COMPETITOR LOUIE VITO WILL CHARGE HARD ALL THE SAME.
"I'm always stoked to be part of Winter X. It's the biggest contest every year, and it's always going to have the best riders in the world and the best park and superpipe. I may not hit handrails for fun or film a big jump because of the Olympics, but I am going to treat Winter X like I always do. I'm definitely not going to play it safe. If I get hurt, then it's meant to be. I will never hold back at Winter X."
TWO-TIME CHAMP TYLER WALKER REVEALS SECRETS TO GOLD IN MONO SKIER X.
1 GEAR UP. "My setup is basically a motorcycle shock suspended in a metal frame, which emulates legs. Since I started racing nine years ago, there's been a huge evolution in equipment. Every year or two there's a better frame with crazy geometry that makes the ski even faster, with better shocks. Even the seat has come a long way. Now they take a mold of your butt and customize the seat out of foam."
2 MIND YOUR TURNS. "Before the race, I inspect the course and burn it into memory. I'll slip down the first section, memorizing terrain changes, bumps, turns, where I need to check my speed. I'll do that section by section all the way down, so I have a mental videotape of the course."
3 GO FAST. "The course is designed for able-bodied skiers. We don't jump as far, so we often come up short on landings. It's safer to go full speed so you can make some of them. I keep my outriggers in front and push forward off the jump, so I get a nice arc of flight to the landing ramp. In the air, I glance down and match the angle of my ski to the angle of the ramp, so I hit with a flat ski for a stable landing."
NEW EVENT: SNOWMOBILE KNOCK OUT
WHAT IS IT? Six sledders launch one at a time off a 30- to 40-foot-tall ramp, headed for a landing ramp. In each round, the rider with the shortest jump is knocked out, until one rider wins.
WHO'S COMPETING? Invitees include X gold winners Levi LaVallee, Joe Parsons and Chris Burandt, plus distance jump-specialist Paul Thacker.
WHY WATCH? "It's all about hitting the ramp as fast as you can and sending yourself off like a rocket," says Burandt. "There won't be anything pleasant about the landing. People will freak when they see 450-pound snowmobiles flying 200 feet through the air."
1 Thirty-one athletes competed at both Winter X and the Winter Olympics in 2006. Only one trucked home gold from both events. Name the athlete.
A: Shaun White, snowboard halfpipe.
LADIES' NIGHT THREE ON THE COME-UP
KAYA TURSKI, 21 SKIING SLOPESTYLE BASE Mammoth, Calif. KNOWN FOR Technical rail tricks HER FORMER LIFE Turski was a competitive in-line street skater (fourth at the 2006 ASA worlds). THE DOMINATOR Turski swept gold at all three Winter Dew Tour stops and bronze at Winter X last season. Icing? She won the 2008-09 Association of Freeskiing Professionals slopestyle title.
JULIA MURRAY, 21 SKIER X BASE Whistler, B.C. KNOWN FOR Attacking big jumps IN HER BLOOD Dave Murray (father) was an Olympic Alpine skier ; mother Stephanie Sloan is a three-time world-champ freestyle skier. STAY TUNED Murray will be competing in her third Winter X. As of Jan. 6, she ranks second among Canadian women in World Cup points. See her in Vancouver? The Olympic team will be named Jan. 25.
MADDY SCHAFFRICK, 15 SNOWBOARD SUPERPIPE BASE Steamboat Springs, Colo. KNOWN FOR Technical airs BREAKOUT Finished fourth at the 2008 U.S. Grand Prix in Copper Mountain, Colo., right behind Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter. SPEAKING OF TETER The pint-size Schaffrick (5'1") grew up with a poster of Teter on her wall. Now Schaffrick is battling her idol for a spot on the 2010 Olympic team (to be announced Jan. 25).