Athletes and announcers were pumped with excitement as the X Games Aspen kicked off with a press conference at the base of Buttermilk Ski Resort on Thursday afternoon.
The new CEO of X Games, Steven Flisler, opened up about how excited he was to be “putting the pedal to the metal back in Aspen”.
ESPN, the creator of the X Games franchise, has sold its majority stake returned to MSP Sports Capital in October. ESPN will maintain a minority position and continue to broadcast the events, but day-to-day operational control of the summer and winter competitions is in new hands.
“We’re here to build the next chapter of the X Games,” said Flisler. “We’re taking incredible, incredible parts that have been built over 27 years and we’re really looking forward to building the future with all of you.”
In its first year under new ownership, X Games brought back Selema Masekela as official host for 2023. He left X Games in 2013 after 13 years as host. He was there in 2002 when X Games first arrived at Buttermilk. He will be joined by co-host Victoria Arlen.
“Aspen is the home of the X Games when it comes to winter sports and I look forward to being back and being a part of it,” said Masekela.
Basalt freeskier Hanna Faulhaber was one of five athletes who had their say. She is competing in her second X Games this year after winning bronze in her debut in women’s halfpipe skiing a year ago. She is also fresh from her first trip to the Winter Olympics, finishing sixth at the Beijing Games last February.
“It’s just such an honor to finally be able to compete in my dream competition and I still can’t find the words to really describe how I feel,” she said.
Veteran X Games snowboarder Scotty James is back and the affable Aussie is looking to add another to the seven medals he already has in the halfpipe.
“It’s been a fun journey so far and I’m looking forward to doing it again for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Other panelists included Zeb Powell, who competed in snowboard ankle huck for the third time; Canadian Megan Oldham, who finished third in Ski Slopestyle and second in Ski Big Air last year; and Alex Hall of Utah, multiple X Games medalist and reigning Olympic champion in slopestyle skiing.
camaraderie of teammates
Despite competing against each other, X Games panelists realized how important their tight-knit community is to them.
“As much as we’re all competitors, we all respect each other very much,” James said. “It’s not a walk in the park out there. It is dangerous. It’s technical. It is hot. Its scary. I think that’s where the brother-sister thing comes from.”
Faulhaber, who grew up idolizing some of the X Games athletes who are still active today, now competes alongside them.
“They are definitely my older sisters and brothers,” she said. “It’s just so awesome to have this experience after absolutely covering it with fangirls.”
Big air under the lights
For the first time since before the pandemic, Big Air is returning to its own place under the lights. Last year the Big Air Jump was still part of the slopestyle course, although it is a separate discipline.
“It’s really cool to highlight that and have a really big jump where we as athletes can push ourselves to show you guys what we can do on track,” said Oldham.
The competition starts on Friday
The first X Games Aspen 2023 medals will be awarded on Friday. The action begins at 11:30 am with the women’s snowboard slopestyle final. The Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding and Skiing event returns at 1:30 p.m. before the women’s Ski Big Air with nightly competitions begins at 5:30 p.m
At 7:30 p.m. it’s time for ski ankle hopping and at 8:30 p.m. for a nightcap on Friday: the men’s snowboard halfpipe competition
General in-person viewing is free and open to the public.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at [email protected].