X Games 2023 – What to Look Out For in SnowboardingPublished on 01/25/2023 · 7 min readThe 2023 Winter X Games are fast approaching! Snowboard Expert Shane H. overviews the riders to look out for, as well as the events you just must see!
Winter X Games XXVII is slated to kick off this weekend with a stacked pool of talent ready to rip up the slopes of Buttermilk Mountain. After a big season last year, a bevy of highly-decorated athletes are returning to Aspen January 27th - 29th to defend their titles. 2022 saw big-name snowboarders not only competing in the X Games but also collecting impressive amounts of hardware at the Winter Olympics.
Last year, a bevy of fresh riders put the veterans on alert by claiming spots on the podium that were formerly reserved for seasoned pros. Perennial standout Jamie Anderson (USA) took a back seat to rising star Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) on the women’s side, while Marcus Kleveland (NOR) took home the most gold in the men’s events. Mark McMorris (CAN) came away with a win in Slopestyle which put him in a tie with Jamie Anderson for most Winter X Games medals at 21 each.
Sadowski-Synnott may have an easy path to victory this year since Anderson is taking a break from the competition while expecting the birth of her first child. McMorris now has the opportunity to break the tie with Anderson by adding to his medal count in both Slopestyle and Big Air.
In SuperPipe, last year’s champion Scotty James (AUS) has his work cut out for him with the Hirano brothers from Japan, both of who medaled in the X Games and the Olympics. Women’s SuperPipe is wide open with last year’s gold medalist, Sena Tomita, and Olympic gold medalist, Chloe Kim both stepping away from competition this year.
Whether watching the men’s or women’s divisions, there will be drama in the battle between young standouts and experienced shredders. Can the decorated veterans push back the tide of incoming talent, or will this year solidify the shape of what’s to come?
Schedule of Events
All events in Mountain Standard Time (MST)
Friday, January 27th
- 11:30 am: Women’s Slopestyle
- 8:30 pm: Men’s SuperPipe
Saturday, January 28th
- 1:30 pm: Women’s SuperPipe
- 6:30 pm: Women’s Big Air
- 8:00 pm: Men’s Big Air
Sunday, January 29th
- 12:40 pm: Men’s Slopestyle
- 4:30 pm: Knuckle Huck
Where to Watch
- Broadcast TV on ESPN and ABC - U.S.
- Livestream on YouTube and Twitch - Worldwide
What to Look Out For
In order to excel at Slopestyle, riders not only have to be well-rounded in their ability to hit different features, but they must also link their tricks in a manner that maximizes flow between each obstacle. Competitors are tasked with hitting jumps, rails, boxes, and other special features. Judging is based on trick difficulty, amplitude, style, and flow. A jam session format means riders can make as many runs as time permits, with their best run counting for their score.
Expect to see highly technical rail work along the top of the course, coupled with huge airs and dizzying spins as riders reach the lower section. Judges will be watching for well-executed grabs and clean landings throughout the runs. In this era of highly advanced maneuvers, it’s not enough to simply land tricks. Competitors must show their mastery of the sport by exhibiting stylish executions and supreme board control. Riders must make perfect landings and ride away clean to have a chance at medal contention. It also pays to note that many of these tricks will be performed switch stance, adding an even more unfathomable dimension when watchers realize they’re riding backward!
Let’s face it, SuperPipe is beyond impressive. Riders hurl themselves at the 22-foot sloped walls at breakneck speed, oftentimes launching over 20 feet into the air with multiple inversions in a single trick. Anyone who has seen a SuperPipe in person knows how gargantuan the arena is. Just as impressive is the agility and precision required to stick a winning run. SuperPipe is judged on combinations, flow, difficulty, amplitude, and execution. Look for riders performing multiple corked rotations and landing high on the transition to maintain their speed while flowing down the 567-foot SuperPipe.
Last year was a banger in the world of pipe riding. Japanese brothers Ayumu and Kaishu Hirano spent the season battling Scotty James—not only in the X Games but in the Olympics as well. James took top honors at last year’s Winter X, with the brothers Hirano rounding out the podium. Later in the season, during the Olympics, Ayumu Hirano bested James by landing the best SuperPipe run in the history of the sport. Both riders ended the season with a Gold and Silver in the most prestigious events in snowboarding, with younger brother Kaishu scooping Bronze in both events. The Hirano brothers are on a quest to dominate SuperPipe but Scotty James won’t make it easy for them.
Queralt Castellet (SPN) and Haruna Matsumoto (JPN) took Silver and Bronze, respectively, in last year’s women’s event. Both riders would love to trade up for Gold and may have the chance since a couple of notable names are missing from this year’s competition. Multi-time Olympic Gold medalist, Chloe Kim and last year’s X Games Gold medalist, Sena Tomita are taking a hiatus from this year’s contest. This leaves the door open for the talented young riders to show they’ve got what it takes to clinch Winter X hardware.
Bis Air is the greatest spectacle in snowboarding. Winter X Game’s Big Air will showcase just how hard these riders have been working to up their rotations and prove who is the master of the skies. Judges will score the aerial athletics on originality, difficulty, creativity, style, and trajectory of a rider’s two best attempts. Marcus Kleveland won last year’s event with a backside 1800 and cab 1800. Expect to see everyone add an additional half to full rotation to what they posted last year, as that’s generally how these contests progress.
Keep an eye on last year’s winner, Marcus Kleveland, as well as American Dusty Henricksen on the men’s side. A former Winter X Gold Medalist, Hendricksen missed the podium last year and will be gunning to regain his title in 2023. In the women’s competition, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott may easily cruise to victory without Jamie Anderson in contention, but she’d be remiss to think the other ladies aren’t going to put up a fight.
The Knuckle Huck has been a fan favorite since its introduction into the 2019 X Games. It’s kind of like the creative, scrappy little brother to Big Air. Instead of hitting the huge launch ramp that boosts riders in Big Air, the Knuckle Huck competition uses the landing portion of the ramp to float boarders into the void below. In most instances, it looks like the riders are levitating above the snow before dropping into the landing ramp—flipping and spinning on the way down.
Last year’s winner Marcus Kleveland is always impressive, but the person to look out for this year is Burton Snowboard’s Zeb Powell (USA). Fans were appalled last year when he failed to place after posting the most unique tricks of the contest. Big flips and spins garnered the highest scores last year, but there is no denying that Powell drips creativity and will be doing tricks that no other rider has even dreamt of.
The Future of Snowboarding Gear
For us gear nerds, the X Games is a portal into the future. Many of the top-ranked pros use the contest to showcase what their sponsors have in the works for next season. Keep an eye out for unfamiliar graphics and new colorways as a preview of what’ll be on shelves next fall.
Circle back to Curated once the X Games have wrapped up and the after-parties have died down. We’ll showcase the gear that helped these rippers secure the bag and highlight the tech that’ll help you step up your game on the mountain.
Interested in catching the ski action? Get caught up with our pre-game predictions here.