For the average ESPN viewer, it was the most relatable, easy-to-comprehend sport on the Winter X Games lineup: Six competitors push out of the start, and the first to the bottom is the winner. The guy in front is doing well — the guy in back, not so much. Along the way, there are monster jumps, huge bank turns and other features that might lead to multi-racer pileups.
Spectators need not bring vast knowledge of the sport nor a trained eye to differentiate the best guy in the world from the 10th-best guy in the world. It is racing in the raw, fun to watch for lifelong skiers and snowboarders, as well as for those who never stepped foot on the bunny slope. Makes for good television, right?
Not this year, as the powers-that-be at ESPN announced in August that ski and snowboard cross, as well as mono ski cross, will be left out of the mix when the flood lights and production trucks return to Buttermilk in January.
While rumors had been circulating for a couple years among members of the cross community, for most, the decision came as a total surprise.
“I must have been out of the loop a little bit because I never heard anything about that even being an option,” said 2008 X Games ski cross gold medalist Daron Rahlves. “It is the biggest event that the athletes look forward to every year because it’s the best venue, the best track, and because [the X Games] really put the sport on the map.”