Better Off Sled: WX14 Snowmobile Preview
Ready for another Winter X Games, snowmobile fans? This is going to be an interesting one: New events, new riders and all-new tricks are all about to be unleashed here in Aspen. It's sure to be another boundary-pushing year for the sport. Before we get going with Wednesday's practice, I wanted to give you a quick preview of each discipline.
Tucker Hibbert is on the verge of making snowmobile racing history yet again this year. Coming into WX14, Hibbert is the first athlete with a chance to four-peat in a snowmobile discipline ... and if he does, it will tie Blair Morgan's record of five golds total. Tucker is the odds-on favorite here. Of course, there's a pack of hungry rookies and seasoned veterans out there looking to break his win streak. Could this be the year that history becomes, well, history?
The Best Trick competition has created more buzz among sledheads in the weeks leading up to WX14 than any of the other snowmobile disciplines. Rumors abound of flip variations, underflips, decade airs, body varials, and even remote-control assisted backflips (seriously!). One thing we know for sure is that no one - not even Levi LeVallee himself - is claiming a double backflip this year.
Joe Parsons showed up very well prepared for X last year, and it paid off in the form of two gold medals. Parsons will return to WX14 ready to battle, but the question is: How prepared will the rest of the field be?
Last year's silver medalist, Justin Hoyer, has been practicing for nearly two months and is feeling very confident with an arsenal of huge tricks. Heath Frisby recently landed the ruler flip, which had eluded him for a couple of years and would certainly add some points to his score here if landed cleanly. Swedish rider Daniel Bodin is determined to break out of his annual fourth-place finish and claim a medal. And as if having the top riders from WX13 pushing harder than ever isn't enough, quad freestyle crossover riders (and brothers) Caleb and Colten Moore are already riding at or near medal-earning level. What!
Add it all up and you'll soon realize that this will be the most stacked field ever for Snowmobile Freestyle ever.
Debuting at WX14, the Knock Out event promises to be unlike any previous snowmobile competition. Riders will line up in front of a steel ramp set for distance and in line with a huge step-up like landing. The idea is really quite simple: To see who can jump the furthest.
Paul Thacker set a record for jumping a sled and broke the 300-foot mark last spring, which has to make him a favorite for any event where flying a sled as far as possible is the goal. Hibbert and LaVallee may also have an advantage in Knock Out as well, since snocross often requires precise pre-loading of the suspension and higher speeds than freestylers typically ride at.
Make no mistake, these guys are here to race. Whatever disability a rider pulls up to the line with doesn't matter when the green flag drops, because from that point on it's all about winning. Guys like Mike Schultz and Doug Henry are fierce competitors. Mix in a handful of other racers with equally compelling stories and you've got an event full of heart and inspiration.
Sure, Levi LeVallee isn't an event at WX14, but he's a force of nature here for sure. While his plans for completing the double backflip are temporarily on hold, LaVallee will be doing the opposite of slacking. In fact, he'll be going for gold in four different snowmobile events -- again. Even if he just makes it to the start of each event, that will mean that LaVallee has competed in every single snowmobile discipline in X games history (aside from adaptive snocross). That's 7 events total.