In January, the men's ski and snowboard slopestyle finals at Winter X Games Aspen 2012 will be held at night. This marks the first time that a Winter X slope competition, and any slope competition of its caliber, has been conducted at night.
That means we'll be watching them on primetime TV, instead of the daytime slots where they have traditionally aired. According to ESPN, it was burgeoning interest and participation in the discipline that resulted in the time change. "It is hard to argue with the fact that slopestyle is driving a lot of interest in both ski and snowboard," said Tim Reed, senior director of content strategy for the X Games. "The Olympic inclusion clearly shows what has been built over the first 15 Winter X Games. In addition, we were the first to do a major lighting operation with the superpipe and we believe slopestyle now deserves the same treatment."
The change has slopestyle athletes excited for a brighter share of the Winter X spotlight. "Having a slopestyle event at night is an amazing opportunity to showcase our sport to the world," said skier Gus Kenworthy. "To be one of the few athletes lucky enough to get to compete on skiing's biggest stage, on a lighted course, at the best possible time for TV viewers would be a dream come true."
Snowboard athletes echoed similar sentiment. "I love snowboarding at night," said Tyler Flanagan, the bronze medalist in last year's snowboard slopestyle. "I haven't done too many contests at night besides X Games Big Air, and a few rail jams. But it has always been fun, considering it's not something many of us get to do too often."
Added Seb Toutant, the 2011 snowboard slope champ: "I'm stoked they are doing it. The riders will actually see what they are doing."
Competing under lights has been standard procedure in the pipe since night finals were first held for that event in 2004. But the pipe competition remains contained within roughly the same area as the last two jumps of the Winter X slope course. With a course that winds through seven features, many of which have multiple options, lighting up the slopestyle course constituted a much larger task.
Ten new light towers are going up to hang over a hundred 2,000-watt halogen bulbs over the slope course, along with two Musco Light trucks. In total, 330 kilowatts of power will illuminate the sky for slope finals, making it the largest lighting installation at Winter X. To put that in perspective, it takes 192 kilowatts to light the pipe.
Previous Winter X slope finals have taken place during the afternoons, meaning the sun would dip below the horizon by the second and third runs, resulting in drastic changes in speed and visibility during the contest.
"The last few years slopestyle finals have been held at the end of the day, which means the landings are in the shade," said skier Russ Henshaw, who took silver last year. "I think [night slope finals] are going to be awesome because conditions won't play as big of a factor."