Ski and snowboard cross get cut from X Games schedule

ESPN, creator of the made-for-TV action sports mega competition the X Games, announced this week that two of the winter version’s longest-running events have been eliminated from the 2013 schedule. Both ski and snowboard cross, as well as mono skier cross, will be left out when the production trucks and flood lights return to Aspen in January.

“These decisions are never easy, obviously,” said ESPN X Games senior director of content strategy Tim Reed in an report. “We understand the ramifications these things bring. We come up with what we believe are the best events to showcase to our fans on-site and obviously the networks, too.

“There wasn’t one single factor that led to this decision,” continued Reed. “It just comes down to filling the schedule with how much we believe we need to make the event enjoyable to the fans and deliver on what we need from a product standpoint.”

The decision means that the costly X Course, widely touted as the best cross course in the world each year, will not be built for the first time in the event’s history. Snowboarder cross is one of only three competitions that had made the schedule every year since the inaugural Winter X Games in 1997. Skier cross has been held 15 of the event’s 16-year history.

“It’s a devastating blow to our sport and skiercross, too, because X Games has been our Super Bowl for years,” six-time X Games snowboarder cross gold medalist Nate Holland told ESPN.”I have sponsors that put a value on X Games and the exposure I get there. Basically, my stock went down as soon as that news came out.”

After establishing itself as an X Games staple, snowboard cross became an Olympic sport in 2006 while ski cross made its Olympic debut at the next Games in Vancouver in 2010.

“No Skier X comes as a surprise to me since X Games put it on the map and (helped foster) the progress it’s made to the Olympic level,” said alpine racing icon and 2008 skier cross X Games gold medalist Daron Rahlves. “Skicross athletes look forward to the X Games for the best track of the year and the big stage to compete on.”

Snow cross athletes will now be forced focus their efforts on World Cup competitions as this season’s races mark the beginning of qualification for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Rahlves’s Banzai Tour will also hope to fill the enormous gap left by the X Games cancellation.

Giving some hope to athletes and fans of snow cross sports is the fact that two events that were eliminated at last year’s winter X Games, snowmobile cross and speed and style, will return to the 2013 schedule.

“There’s nothing to say we won’t do X course next year,” added Reed. “We believe in the sport, we love it, we’ve been doing it for a lot of years. Ultimately we just made the decision that we’re going to focus on pipe, slope, big air, a full complement of snowmobiles and snowboard street.”

This hit to winter action sports comes just months after an announcement that the Winter Dew Tour, the X Games chief competitor, reduced its previous three-event tour to just one on-snow competition. – EW

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