As the world's best freeskiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers prepare to compete in central Colorado on Jan. 23-26, ESPN on Wednesday announced the sport disciplines and initial wave of invited athletes for X Games Aspen.
Two familiar disciplines, Snowboarder X and Snowmobile Long Jump, return to this year's X Games after brief hiatuses -- Snowboarder X last appeared in 2012, while Snowmobile Long Jump (then called Knockout) last appeared in 2010.
Adding intrigue to X Games Aspen, the competitions will serve as the final major snowsports event before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Ten of the 17 events to be contested in Aspen also will be featured in Russia when the Olympics start two weeks later. Among those events, longtime X Games disciplines Ski and Snowboard Slopestyle and Ski SuperPipe will make their Olympic debuts. They'll join existing Olympic disciplines Snowboard SuperPipe and Snowboarder X as events that made the leap from the X Games to the Olympics.
"We're excited to showcase the talents of over 200 world-class athletes at X Games Aspen," said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN senior vice president of programming and X Games. "Since 1997 the Winter X Games has become the pinnacle event for the world's best, and this year many of these athletes will also be representing their countries at the Olympic Games in Sochi right after X Games Aspen."
Among the first wave of invited athletes are a host of X Games veterans and past medalists: Bobby Brown, Kelly Clark, Jamie Anderson, Kaya Turski, Mark McMorris, Torin Yater-Wallace, Lindsey Jacobellis, Seth Wescott and Tucker Hibbert. Hibbert will attempt to win his seventh consecutive Snowmobile SnoCross gold medal, a feat that has never been accomplished in X Games history. Meanwhile, Wescott, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, will vie for his first X Games gold medal in a career that has seen him win four silvers and three bronzes, many of them behind longtime rival Nate Holland.
Snowmobile Freestyle returns to the X Games Aspen docket one year after Caleb Moore died as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during competition. Event organizers have made modifications to increase safety in the event, including mandatory torso and chest protectors for competing athletes and springs on snowmobile skis to keep them facing upward upon landing. Moore's death was the first in X Games history. Snowmobile Best Trick will not be contested in 2014.
Also absent from the lineup is Skier X and Mono Skier X, two disciplines that have traditionally used the same course as the Snowboarder X competitors.
"The X Games sport complement changes year-to-year based on a multitude of factors, and we expect that to continue," said Tim Reed, senior director of content strategy for X Games. "Skier X has been a great element to the X Games, and we hope we'll be able to showcase it in the near future."
ESPN and ABC will televise a combined 16 hours of live X Games coverage from Aspen in high definition, with an additional 10 hours of competition being carried live on ESPN3. As always, up-to-the-minute updates, recaps, photo galleries and videos will be available on XGames.com.
To see the full list of invited athletes, click here.