The History of Winter X Games – Part One


All Images ESPN/Shazamm



Fifteen years of Winter X Games has come and gone. I thought it was a good time to reflect back on how we got here and what the Games looked like through the years. The 15 year milestone is quite remarkable and exciting considering the infancy of the sport in 1996. The X Games has no doubt been an integral part of the sports growth and world-wide recognition, thanks to the support of ESPN. Throughout the years, the X Games has grown into the biggest snowboard event of the season, showcasing talent from across the globe in one of the grandest arenas on earth. Snowboarding is the only sport that has been a part of Winter X since the beginning. Here's a historical recap on how the X Games became what it is today.






1998 – Tara Dakides

In 1993 ESPN was really starting to recognize the importance of action sports and its potential. The concept of organizing a "gathering of action sports athletes" was talked about, and the idea to allocate resources in order to make something happen got the wheels turning. The following year, a press conference was held at Planet Hollywood in New York City announcing the first Extreme Games in Middletown, Rhode Island and Mount Snow, Vermont over the summer of 1995. While the Extreme Games were originally supposed to be every other year, because of its initial success the first year, event organizers announced the event for 1996.


1998 Bakke Photo


1998 – Todd Richards – Dana Paul Photo


1998 – Mike Michalchuk


1999 – Ross Powers – Dana Paul Photo

The Extreme Games was shortened to the X Games in early 1996 to encourage better branding opportunities and simpler translation for foreign audiences. During the 1996 Summer X Games, ESPN announced the first Winter X Games at Snow Summit in Big Bear. The event would showcase snowboarding, ice climbing, snow mountain bike racing, super-modified shovel racing and more. In January 1997, the first Winter X Games was televised in 198 countries. There were more than 38,000 spectators. Some standout moments include Barrett Christy winning gold in both women's slopestyle and big air. Shaun Palmer took snowboarder X gold and Norway's Daniel Frank won gold in men's slope and silver in halfpipe. Note the halfpipe was literally half the size it is now, 12 feet tall. Most notably Sweden's Jennie Waara swept the podium with gold in snowboarder X, silver in halfpipe and bronze in slopestyle, making her today still the only athlete in win three medals in the same year.


1999 Peter Line – Dana Paul Photo


1999 – Keir Dillon – Dana Paul Photo


1999 – Kevin Jones, Bjorn Leines, Jimi Halopoff Podium – James Lozeau Photo


1999 – Shannon Dunn – James Lozeau


1999 – Leslie Olsen – Eric Lars Bakke Photo


1999 – Big Air – Bakke Photo

Winter X moves to Crested Butte the second and third years adding freeskiing, snowmobile, snowcross and skiboarding to the mix.

Mount Snow, Vermont hosts Winter X in 2000 and 2001. With more than 83,500 spectators in attendance, the crowd is the largest to date. The addition of the superpipe event may have had something to do with it.


2001 – Cheryl Maas – Nate Abbott Photo


2001 – Shannon Dunn


2001 – Jimi Halopoff


2001 – Crowd


2001 – Crowd


2002 – Fans


2002 – Janna Meyen, Tara Dakides, Barrett Christy – Slope Podium

In 2002 Aspen, Colorado takes on a new persona as the venue site for the Games. The hype is big with the onslaught on the first halfpipe event at the Olympics just weeks following in Salt Lake City, Utah. Aspen takes on the honors of hosting the Games every year since. In 2003, The number of spectators rose 12,000 from the year prior, totaling 48,700— a new record in Winter X history. The increase in viewership on the tube also rose 33 percent.


2002 – Shaun White


2002 – Shaun White


2002 – Shaun White, Tarvis Rice, Todd Richards – Slope Podium


2003 – Hana Beaman, Janna Meyen, Lindsey Jacobellis – Slope Podium


2003 – A Young Torah Bright


2003 – Keir Dillon – Shem Roose


2003 – Travis Rice Riding Superpipe? Yep. Embry Rucker Photo.


2003 – White, Jimi Tomer, Jussi Oksanen – Slope Podium

This year marked Aspen's 10th anniversary hosting Winter X. This year may have been the most historical yet with Shaun White taking his fourth consecutive gold in Superpipe, Torstein Horgmo landing the first triple in the Big Air and Kelly Clark landing the first 1080 in a women's pipe event. Other notables of 2011 include the addition of Snowboard Street and Best Method with Candian Nic Suave taking his first Winter gold in street and Lago winning his first gold with his mouth wired shut for best method. On the slopestyle end, rookies swept the men's podium and a rookie beat out two seasoned pros on the women's end as well. Viewership was also its largest yet and Buttermilk Mountain held its biggest crowd to date. Only one question remains: Where can snowboarding go from here?


2004 – Kelly Clark – Nate Abbott


2004 – Tara Dakides – Nate Abbott Photo


2004 – Kazu Kokubo – Markus Paulsen Photo


2004 – Marius Otterstad – Nate Abbott


2004 – Marie-France Roy – Nate Abbott Photo