One year after the death of his older brother, Caleb, following a snowmobiling crash at X Games Aspen, Colten Moore says he is ready to return to the scene of the accident and compete in Caleb's memory at the same event.
Caleb Moore died Jan. 31, 2013, one week after coming up short on a backflip during the Snowmobile Freestyle finals. The four-time X Games medalist was thrown forward off his sled and the 450-pound machine landed on top of him. He walked away from his crash but later developed bleeding around his heart. His death, at age 25, was the first in the 19-year history of the X Games.
Colten Moore, 24, arrived at Electric Mountain Ranch in Hotchkiss, Colo., this week to prepare for the Freestyle competition Thursday, the opening night of X Games Aspen. In an ESPN interview in his parents' garage in Krum, Texas, Moore said the main reason he feels ready to return is because Caleb will be there "watching out for me."
"I think going back to X Games is going to be a little nerve-racking but I've dealt with it throughout the year," Moore said. "And I'm going to have a lot of family and friends there to help me, keep me calm. I'll pray to Caleb, and I know he'll be there with me. And everything should be good."
Colten had a crash of his own just minutes after his brother's accident in last year's event. He separated his pelvis and was admitted to the same hospital as Caleb that night. However, once he recovered, he said he never considered giving up the sport -- nor his freestyle all-terrain vehicle career, which segued into a professional snowmobile career in December 2009. He continues to perform stunts on the Nitro Circus Live and Nuclear Cowboyz tours and is only two years removed from an X Games gold medal in Snowmobile Freestyle.
"It's important for me to keep riding because that's what I love to do. That's what I'm going to do for the rest of my life," Moore said. "Not for one moment would I ever think of walking away. Caleb would smack me if I wanted to walk away. If Caleb was here and I was like, 'Man, I quit, I'm over this,' he'd be like, 'What are you talking about? Shut up, let's go.'
"I know for a fact he would not want me to stop or even slow down."
The Moore family has kept Caleb's memory present at home. His helmet sits on the bannister in his parents' house. Colten talks to him when he's training, which still takes place on the carpeted jump and foam pit in his parents' yard in Krum. "I feel like he's there riding with me," Moore said.
The night of the fatal crash remains a vivid memory for Moore. He always thought of Caleb as a "tank" who walked away from every wipeout. "Watching him go down, I immediately ran over and worried about him," Moore said. "But he stood up. I thought he was good. … I realized it was more serious when I crashed and got sent to the same hospital. I was going to go in there and joke, 'You know, I couldn't leave you hanging, I came here to be with you' or whatever. But they already had him sedated and he was out, so I knew it was a little more serious at that point."
Moore said he has had to adjust to riding without his training partner, chief mechanic, sibling rival and best friend. It hasn't been an easy reality to accept. But he's committed to upholding his brother's memory through his own actions -- and encouraging others to do the same.
"The best way to honor Caleb is to be energetic like him. To be caring. To help everyone out," Moore said. "When they're down, pick them up. And keep pushing the limits. That's what he loved to do, is take stuff one step further. And that's what I'm going to try and keep on doing. He was a little crazier than I am, so it's going to take me a little longer, but I'm going to try and step it up just like he would."
Despite his brother's death, Moore does not believe freestyle snowmobiling is too dangerous. Nor does he intend to take a more cautious approach in Aspen.
"Everyone's worried about what happened [last year]," he said. "But to go there, and to do good and show everything is fine and we can keep going -- it might be a little different but we can keep moving on and push harder and harder.
"We all know there's risk, we all know what can happen. We've known it from day one. But we practice hard, we try not to let anything bad happen."
When Moore pins his throttle and accelerates into a jump at X Games Aspen, he will do so with no apprehension, a freedom he attributes to Caleb.
"I feel safe," he said. "I feel like he's here protecting me in a way that he couldn't before."
John Bartmon contributed information to this report. Tune in for Snowmobile Freestyle at X Games Aspen, Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.