What to watch for at X Games Aspen

Ramona Bruland previews X Games Aspen and looks ahead to Shaun White's competitions.

Last year, X Games Aspen fans saw the first perfect score in the history of SuperPipe courtesy of Shaun White, watched Mark McMorris put the cork in Big Air and witnessed Kelly Clark's dominance off the wall. Can 2013 top 2012? We shall see.

Peter Morning

Mark McMorris will have his hands full defending against Shaun White in Men's Snowboard Slopestyle at X Games Aspen 2013.

SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE
Saturday, 2-4 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN

The triple cork (three off-axis flips while spinning at least four times) is the hottest trick going in snowboarding. White, who is serious about training for Slopestyle for the Winter Olympics next year, might have landed the triple in Slopestyle practice (revealed with some grainy video taken at Breckenridge last week but unconfirmed by his team). Once quoted as saying he hoped the triple cork never became a part of Slopestyle runs, defending gold medalist Mark McMorris now plans to be the first rider to throw the trick in a contest run. The triple cork will almost certainly be landed this year with a gold medal waiting for the one who does it.

Several riders in the field have landed the trick in Big Air contests or over special kickers, but launching it over the traditionally smaller Slopestyle jumps adds risk not every rider will be willing to take.

"There's going to be a triple in the winning run, but I think the difference is going to be whoever has the most unique and technical double corks," McMorris said.

On the women's side, Jamie Anderson, who's 2-for-2 in Slopestyle contests so far this season, is all but unbeatable. Last year, under conditions many of the women viewed as too scary to ride in, Anderson scored a 95.33, the highest score awarded in a women's Slopestyle final at X. Imagine what she could do if it's sunny.

Tomas Zuccareno/ESPN Images

Gold medalist Shaun White celebrates his perfect score of 100 competing in the Men's Snowboard SuperPipe at X Games Aspen 2012.

SNOWBOARD SUPERPIPE
Sunday, 9-11 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

The start area during last year's Snowboard Superpipe finals was about as relaxed as the waiting room at a Hollywood callback audition.

The one rider who seemed calm despite the chaos was White, who scored the first perfect 100 in the event's history. So where does he go from here?

"Each year brings something new," says White, who won the first halfpipe contest of the 2012-13 season at December's Dew Tour. "When you reach the cap on what's possible, there's a new event to win and tricks to learn. That keeps me motivated."

On the women's side last year, Clark became the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the halfpipe and was nearly perfect in 2012 contests. She lost only one event, the U.S. Open of Snowboarding to Elena Hight. But Hight's win was no fluke. In May, she became the first woman to land a double cork -- specifically, a double backside alley-oop rodeo, a trick only one other rider has ever landed. His name: Shaun White.

At the Dew Tour in December, Kaitlyn Farrington and Queralt Castellet (the only woman other than Clark who land consistent 1080s) went 102, and in mid-January, 2010 Winter Olympics champ Torah Bright took the Grand Prix title. In other words, Clark has a lineup of women potentially blocking her three-peat.

Scott Markewitz

David Wise surprised everyone with a gold medal at X Games Aspen 2012. Can he do it again in 2013?

SKI SUPERPIPE
Friday, 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

Last year, the surprise win by new dad David Wise, now 22, was the story of the event. (Last month, he was also the story of ESPN The Magazine's 2013 Winter X preview.)

Wise qualified first, then hung on to take his first podium at Winter X. But his repeat is anything but a lock. Canadian Mike Riddle is hot off a win at the Jan. 11 Grand Prix, and two-time champ Kevin Rolland is back after tearing his left ACL a week before the 2012 Tignes X Games.

Every athlete in Aspen last year rode with a heavy heart, but no athletes' hearts were heavier than the women competing in Ski SuperPipe a little more than a week after the death of four-time Winter X champ Sarah Burke. Fellow Canadian Roz Groenewoud won the event, but Brita Sigourney landed the first 1080 in a women's ski pipe competition and Megan Gunning landed the first back-to-back 900s.

Much like the women's snowboarders, there are a handful of women who could take this event, and all of them -- Groenewoud, Gunning, Maddie Bowman -- have the spins to make it happen.

SKI SLOPESTYLE
Sunday, 2-6 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

There hasn't been a repeat men's champ in Ski Slopestyle since Tanner Hall took three in a row from 2002 to 2004. But last year's champ, Tom Wallisch, the 2012 Freeskier magazine skier of the year, could be the first to do so. That's if Russ Henshaw, the first skier to land a triple cork in competition, doesn't continue to play his hot hand. Henshaw won the Breckenridge Dew Tour in December and took second at the more recent Grand Prix.

On the women's side, Kaya Turski, the first woman to land a switch 1080, is the three-year defending Ski Slopestyle champ and won the first contest of this season. No other woman has topped the WX podium since Anna Segal won the inaugural women's contest in 2009. Will this be the year a new name emerges?

Tomas Zuccareno/ESPN Images

Tom Wallisch, the 2012 Freeskier Magazine skier of the year, will be looking to repeat his gold medal in Men's Ski Slopestyle at X Games Aspen.

SNOWBOARD BIG AIR
Friday, 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m, on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

At the 2012 Dew Tour in December, McMorris (ESPN The Magazine's 2012 selection for NEXT action sports athlete and the first rider to land a backside triple cork 1440), landed a triple cork three times to take the Big Air title. The defending Winter X Big Air champ is the hands-down favorite in the event.

But he's not the only athlete who owns the triple, nor will he be the only athlete to throw a new triple variation in Aspen. Torstein Horgmo and Sebastien Toutant, last year's silver and bronze medalists, are heavy favorites in the event, as well.

SKI BIG AIR
Saturday, 9-11 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

Get out your trick dictionaries for this event, one of the most progressive from year to year.

Last year, Bobby Brown -- the only skier to win this event twice -- returned to the top of the podium by landing a switch double 1440 mute grab and a switch double cork 1260 high mute grab. Seventeen-year-old Swiss skier Kai Mahler, last year's silver medalist, won the Breckenridge Dew Tour stop in December with a switch double misty 1440 double Japan grab.

And just like in snowboarding, the triple will be the talk of the event. No skier has attempted a triple at Winter X, although more than half the field has attempted them outside of competition. And just like in snowboarding, the first rider to land one likely will grace the top of the podium.

Scott Clarke/ESPN Images

Torstein Horgmo won't be easy to miss during the Big Air competition at X Games Aspen, but can he go bigger than defending champion Mark McMorris?

SNOWMOBILE SNOCROSS
Sunday, 2-6 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

This year marks the return of SnoCross as well as one of the sport's biggest stars, Levi LaVallee, who's been sidelined with injuries since 2010. LaVallee, 30, is the only athlete who will compete in all four snowmobile disciples at Winter X and is looking for his first gold in SnoCross.

"Racing is the heart of snowmobiling, and it was the original discipline at X Games. It means the most to snowmobiling, so I'm excited to see it back," LaVallee says. "To win would be incredible."

But a win won't come easily against this field. For five straight years before the sport was dropped in 2012, Tucker Hibbert crossed the Winter X finish line first. The five-time defending gold medalist arrives in Aspen with a four-race win streak in the AMSOIL Championship Snocross series and the overall series lead.

Robbie Malinoski, who finished third in 2011, is currently second in the standings, followed by Ross Martin, 2011's silver medalist.

Eric Lars Bakke/ESPN Images

Heath Frisby salutes the crowd after winning Snowmobile Best Trick at X Games Aspen 2012.

SNOWMOBILE SPEED & STYLE
Saturday, 4-6 p.m. ABC, ESPN 3D

After a one-year hiatus, Speed & Style returns to Winter X, one of two racing events making a return to Aspen and the only race that rewards riders for throwing the biggest tricks during the race. Of the eight athletes in the field, only three have medaled in the event: LaVallee, who won in 2008, Heath Frisby, who took silver in 2011, and Joe Parsons, a two-time winner (2009 and 2011) and the favorite heading into the event.

SNOWMOBILE FREESTYLE
Thursday, 9-11 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

There's no tougher Winter X repeat win than Snowmobile Freestyle. A different rider has won this event every year since it debuted in 2007. And the most recent winner, Colten Moore, 23, started riding snowmobiles in December 2009 just 32 days before his first Winter X Games appearance. Until then, he and older brother Caleb (last year's bronze medalist) competed on the freestyle ATV circuit around their hometown of Krum, Texas.

But the brothers took quickly to the white stuff, medaling in their first year at X. This year, Colten hopes to be the first repeat winner and says his biggest training advantage is skin-deep. He trains alongside one of the best freestyle snowmobilers in the world: his older brother.

Barbara Blake/ESPN Images

Kelly Clark will once again be the woman to beat in SuperPipe.

SNOWMOBILE BEST TRICK
Sunday, 9-11 p.m. on ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN 3D

Much like the Moore brothers, this year's dark horse for Best Trick gold, Jackson "Jacko" Strong, began riding snowmobiles only months before Winter X. But the two-time defending X Games champ in Freestyle Moto X has been inspiring snowmobile tricks since he landed the first front flip in motocross competition, at the 2011 X Games.

Six months later, at 2012 Winter X, Frisby won gold by becoming the first snowmobile rider to land the trick. This past summer, Jacko won his second gold by introducing a new body varial he dubbed "The Jack." Now all signs point to the Aussie, a late addition to the Best Trick lineup, bringing a body varial to the snow.

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