The first wave of invitees for the 2015 X Game Aspen event has been released by ESPN officials, and it includes a who’s who of snowmobile competitors, including some folks previously thought to be retired.
The event (previously referred to as the Winter X Games) will be January 22-25 back at Aspen, Colorado. More athletes will be invited in most of the competitions – most notably snocross – so this field should be seen as a start, not a finish. It is highly focused on folks who have performed well at past X Games events and, so far, is entirely focused on North American competitors.
Hillcross returns for 2015, and that’s where you find the names of a couple of competitors previously considered retired from competition. Both Chris Burandt and Carl Kuster had brought home X Games medals in the past but had pretty much hung up the competition aspect of the sport in favor of their backcountry riding clinics and adventures – Burandt’s Backcountry Adventures and and Carl Kuster Mountain Park, respectively.
The allure of competition is pull both back in, however, though don’t expect them to be shoo-ins for greatness, because the competition is going to be strong based on this first list of riders that includes hillclimb and backcountry riding superstars.
Invited at this point, in alphabetic order, are Gavin Balls, Burandt, Keith Curtis, Kuster, Levi LaVallee, David McClure and Kyle Tapio
Snocross & Adaptive Snocross
So far just 11 athletes have been invited for the snocross aspect of the X Games Aspen, and it’s generally the names you would expect. The only name that might surprise some is that of Levi LaVallee, who announced at Haydays that he was retiring from regular snocross competition. Those paying attention, however, would remember that in the same announcement LaVallee said he’d compete in all X Games competitions, including snocross.
Here’s the field, so far, by brand. More names are sure to be added once the season gets rolling, and history tells us a few of these guys might have to pull out due to injuries.
From Arctic Cat in this first announcement are seven-time defending gold medalist Tucker Hibbert along with Cody Thomsen, Logan Christian and Dave Joanis. From Polaris are Ross Martin, Kody Kamm, Kyle Pallin, LaVallee and Justin Broberg. The only Ski-Doo drivers guaranteed a spot at this point are Tim Tremblay and Darrin Mees, though we’d expect a bunch of the brand’s Scandinavian drivers to be added in the next wave.
In Adaptive Snocross, adaptive superstar Mike Schultz will look to build on his six gold medals, but he’ll be chased by a veteran crew in the field, with previous medalists Doug Henry, Garrett Goodwin and Jim Wazny plus freestyle crossover superstar Paul Thacker all in the mix.
Snowmobile Long Jump
The X Games focus and bringing back past medalists is clear as day in the Snowmobile Long Jump competition, where six competitors have been formally invited and each has a proud X Games pedigree.
Most celebrated from an X Games promotional standpoint is Levi LaVallee, holder of nine total medals from the X Games — six gold, two silver and one bronze. But in terms of total hardware, Joe Parsons has him covered, with 12 total – three gold, six silver and three bronze – and Heath Frisby has him tied with nine – two gold, one silver and six bronze.
Also coming back looking for more are Chris Burandt (one gold, one silver), Colten Moore (two gold, one silver) and Cory Davis (one silver, two bronze).
Snowmobile Speed & Style
Take Chris Burandt off of the list from Snowmobile Long Jump list and you’ve got the initial group of athletes invited to compete in Snowmobile Speed & Style. They are Cory Davis, Heath Frisby, Levi LaVallee, Colten Moore and Joe Parsons.