Wednesday January 21st, 2015

The 2015 Winter X Games are going to be huge. Don’t even call that a prediction; it’s fact. A roster of more than 200 snowboarders, skiers and snowmobilers, the winter extreme sports elite, will compete for gold and glory in Aspen this weekend. The talent field is littered with former X Games medalists, current X Games legends, Olympians and dangerous kids on the rise who want what their opponents have.

If you follow winter sports, you know their names.

MORE: Creating an X Games world of competition and music

X Gamer Olympians are everywhere. Within the snowboarders ranks you have Iouri Podladtchikov, Sage Kotsenburg, Kelly Clark, Shaun White, Jamie Anderson and Mark McMorris and Max Parrot. Among the skiers, there is David Wise, Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christenson, Maddie Bowman and Bobby Brown. Many of these riders have both X Game and Olympic hardware, after competing in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Relaxed and focused: Maddie Bowman is ready to dominate X Games Aspen

Having so many featured X Games athletes vying for Olympic spots may have taken just a little creativity out of the last year’s X Games, held less than a month before the Olympics' opening ceremony. Riders of both disciplines, with Sochi on their mind, were more conservative than we are used to seeing them be. Shaun White pulled out of the event completely in preparation.

This year, there’s no broad-reaching reason for anyone to hold anything back. X Game participants who were not at the Olympics are going to have to bring a serious A-game to keep up, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t. In a culture were the status quo never stays quo for long, Winter X is set up to be bigger than we’ve ever seen it.

Women's Ski Superpipe Final
(7 p.m. EST, Wednesday)

Maddie Bowman is less than a year removed from winning the first-ever Olympic Halfpipe gold medal in Sochi. With no Olympics on the horizon this time around, Bowman will be able to let the creative juices flow in the Superpipe; that's an advantage afforded to all of the Olympians competing this weekend. This event is an open and shut case. Look for Bowman to continue her dominance in the pipe tonight.

Gold Prediction: Maddie Bowman​

Snowboard Superpipe Men’s Final
(9 p.m. EST, Thursday)

After he pulled out of last year’s competition to focus of the Olympics, Shaun White will have all eyes on him as he makes his return to X Games, but he won’t be the only focal point. Danny Davis is the reigning king of the Buttermilk Superpipe. He won with a score of 95.00, which we’ve seen White surpass in the past, but he will likely have to do it again. Young Japanese rider Ayumu Hirano, who finished second behind White in the pipe two years ago, is a rider to watch. Of course, it’s well within I-Pod’s power to conquer the Superpipe himself.

Gold Prediction: Iouri Podladtchikov

Snowboarder X
(1 p.m. EST, Friday)

 A couple of snowboarder X legends are back in the fray; Seth Wescott, 38, makes his return to X Games after four years away. He has a gold, four silvers and a bronze to his name already.  Lindsey Jacobellis has eight X Games gold medals, including the one she won last year after a three-year hiatus. After a subpar showing in Sochi, Nate Holland will be on the hunt for the X Games podium.

Gold Prediction: Men’s: Nate Holland; Women’s: Lindsey Jacobellis

Snowboard Big Air
(9:30 p.m. EST, Friday)

Big Air events are one trick, one time, throw your cards down and see who is boss. For that, the only thing one needs to know about the event is what trick earned gold the previous year. The answer: Max Parrot’s backside triple 1620. He attempted a trick during one of his runs last year that he wasn’t able to land. So he has a trump card in his back pocket other than whatever else he’s been working on recently. He may need it; Mark McMorris is capable of winning any event that he competes in. Other riders to watch out for are Big Air specialist Torstein Horgmo, and Sage Kostenburg.

Gold Prediction: Mark McMorris

Ski Slopestyle Men’s Final
(1 p.m. EST, Saturday)

Nick Goepper is going for an X Games gold medal three-peat in the event, so let’s start there. Luckily for the viewers, it’ll be no easy task for him. Fellow Olympians Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen and Bobby Brown will be trying to take their fellow U.S. teammate down. Brown, who has historically done better in the Big Air event, is especially confident in his ability to podium in slopestyle this time around. Also to keep in mind the contingent of Euro slopestyle skiers who should be raring to upstage the American sweep of slopestyle skiing's Olympic debut last year.

Gold Prediction: Nick Goepper

Ski Slopestyle Women’s Final
(3 p.m. EST, Saturday)

Canadian Kaya Turski, the most dominant woman in slopestyle skiing, is not participating this year, so the podium is up for grabs. There was a similar case in Sochi last year; Canadian Dara Howell took gold, so look out for her.

Gold prediction: Dara Howell

Snowboard Superpipe Women’s Final
(8 p.m. EST, Saturday)

2014 Olympic Halfpipe gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington’s retirement announcement earlier this month following the diagnosis of a degenerative condition in her spine was sad news for the world of snowboarding. Were she present and healthy, she’d be a favorite to take gold. That said, her absence creates one of the most compelling events of the 2015 Winter X Games. Kelly Clark is the legend. She has 12 X Games gold medals; she earned seven of them in the Superpipe. Torah Bright was the Superpipe winner or runner up for four consecutive years between 2006-09, but she’s only competed in two X Games since then, with no medals to show for them. This could be the year she returns to the Superpipe podium. Chloe Kim, the 14-year-old who earned silver in her X Games debut last year, is also a rider to watch—and watch closely—in this event.

Gold Prediction: Chloe Kim

Ski Big Air
(9 p.m. EST, Saturday)

Henrik Harlaut and his nose buttered triple cork 1620 are back in Aspen looking for a third Big Air gold, but Bobby Brown is back on the scene and ready to take back his podium. After dominating the Big Air jump between 2010-2012, injuries hindered Brown’s 2013 performance and caused him to miss 2014. My money is on the race for gold coming down to them.

Gold Prediction: Bobby Brown

Snowboard Slopestyle Women’s Final
(11:45 a.m. EST, Sunday)

Jamie Anderson is the Queen of Slopestyle. I called her that when I saw her in Aspen yesterday, and while she laughed, she didn’t argue. 2015 makes it a decade of X Games appearances for the California soul, and she's just 24 years old, nowhere near finished. Norway's Silje Norendal beat Anderson to the gold medal last year, and after a disappointing performance in the Olympics, she’ll be looking to repeat the feat.

Gold Prediction: Jamie Anderson

Snowboard Slopestyle Men's Final
(1 p.m. EST, Sunday)

Even without Shaun White, this is easily the deepest field of any event in the 2015 Winter X Games. Kotsenburg, McMorris, Parrot, Toutant and Willett are all household-name Olympians who have found success in the event. There’s no way to call a podium, let alone a winner.  If the judges are in a spin-to-win state of mind, the edge goes to Parrot and McMorris. If style rules the day, all the better for Sage Kotsenburg

Gold Prediction: Sage Kotsenburg

Ski Superpipe Men’s Final
(3 p.m. EST, Sunday)

David Wise, winner of the first ever ski halfpipe Olympic gold medal, is the favorite to win the X Games' closing event. Gus Kenworthy and youngster Torin Yater-Wallace are probably his greatest competition and podium mates before Wiz Khalifa closes down the festivities.

Gold Prediction: Gus Kenworthy

Snowmobile (Overall):

Levi LaVallee owns the snowmobile scene at X Games. He has 10 medals, seven of which are gold, and is participating in all three main snowmobiling events. If he doesn’t sweep them, it’s an upset.

Gold Prediction: Levi Lavallee

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