Winter X Games Aspen 2012 celebrates 16 years; Invited athletes announced

The most anticipated snow event of the year will return to Aspen, Colorado for another action-packed and intense weekend filled with extreme skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Words: ESPN

Winter X Games Aspen 2012 will return to Aspen/Snowmass, Colo., January 26-29, 2012, with live coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. This year will mark the 11th consecutive year the event will be held in Aspen and will feature more than 200 of the world’s best athletes in the sports of Skiing, Snowboarding and Snowmobile.

For the first time at Winter X Games, the Slopestyle competitions will be held under the bright lights and in prime time – a first for any large-scale Slopestyle competition in history. In addition to 16 hours of live programing on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, more than nine hours of Winter X Games Aspen content will be offered on ESPN3.

Making its debut at the inaugural Winter X Games in 1997 at Big Bear Lake, Slopestyle disciplines were recently approved in July by the International Olympic Committee to be added to the Winter Olympics roster of events, effective in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Slopestyle tests a rider’s ability to handle a variety of terrain by executing freestyle maneuvers down a course filled with a variety of features. The Winter X Games course will contain rails, hips, tabletops and a variety of jumps, allowing riders to combine big air and technical tricks into one run. Riders are judged on amplitude, execution, difficulty of line, landings and use of the course.

“For my peers and I, competing under the lights in prime time represents a huge opportunity for even more people to see what we do and get excited about it,” said Sebastien Toutant, last year’s Snowboard Slopestyle gold medalist and male Jeep Athlete of the Games. “I’m really excited that ESPN made the decision to air Slopestyle at night this year. I’ve been a big fan of X Games since I was young, and am stoked to learn about this new development – its huge!”

Among the first wave of invited athletes:

Shaun White (USA): The most decorated athlete in Winter X Games history and defending four-time Snowboard SuperPipe gold medalist and two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Kelly Clark (USA): Three-time Winter X Games gold medalist and defending Snowboard SuperPipe gold medalist who also became the first female snowboarder to land a 1080 in the SuperPipe. Clark also has Olympic gold from 2002 and bronze from 2010.

Kevin Rolland (FRA): The two-time defending Skiing SuperPipe gold medalist at Winter X Games and Winter X Games Europe, Rolland made history in 2011 becoming the first skier to land three doubles in the same run.

Sebastien Toutant (CAN): The male Jeep Athlete of the Games at last year’s event, Toutant was the surprise star of the Winter X Games, winning both Snowboard Slopestyle gold and Big Air silver in his rookie appearance.

Sarah Burke (CAN): The first female rider to land a 720, 900 and 1080 in competition, Burke returned to the top of the Winter X Games Skiing SuperPipe podium in 2011, adding another gold medal to her collection.

Lindsey Jacobellis (USA): With the most Snowboarder X gold of any athlete, Jacobellis will attempt the first-ever Snowboarder X Women’s five-peat at Winter X Games Aspen 2012.

Daniel Bodin (SWE): After finishing fourth in every Winter X Games Snowmobile Freestyle contest until 2011, Bodin enjoyed a breakout event last year, winning gold in both Freestyle and Best Trick.*Subject to Change

Check out X Games Hangout featuring the invited athletes.