Baumgartner returning to X Games

By Devon O’Neil

ASPEN, Colo. – Iron River’s Nick Baumgartner and snowboardcross will return to the Winter X Games.

As the world’s best freeskiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers prepare to compete in central Colorado on Jan. 23-26, ESPN this week announced the sport disciplines and initial wave of invited athletes for X Games Aspen.

Two familiar disciplines, snowboarder X and snowmobile long jump, return to this year’s X Games after brief hiatuses – snowboarder X last appeared in 2012 while snowmobile long jump (then called Knockout) last appeared in 2010.

Adding intrigue to X Games Aspen, the competitions will serve as the final major snowsports event before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Ten of the 17 events to be contested in Aspen also will be featured in Russia when the Olympics start two weeks later.

Among those events, longtime X Games disciplines ski and snowboard slopestyle and ski superPipe will make their Olympic debuts. They’ll join existing Olympic disciplines snowboard superpipe and snowboarder X as events that made the leap from the X Games to the Olympics.

“We’re excited to showcase the talents of over 200 world-class athletes at X Games Aspen,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN senior vice president of programming and X Games. “Since 1997 the Winter X Games has become the pinnacle event for the world’s best, and this year many of these athletes will also be representing their countries at the Olympic Games in Sochi right after X Games Aspen.”

Among the first wave of invited athletes are Seth Wescott and Baumgartner. Wescott, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, will vie for his first X Games gold medal in a career that has seen him win four silvers and three bronzes, many of them behind longtime rival Nate Holland.

Baumgartner, in addition to competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics, owns World Cup and X Games gold.

ESPN and ABC will televise a combined 16 hours of live X Games coverage from Aspen in high definition, with an additional 10 hours of competition being carried live on ESPN3.

Baumgartner is now preparing for the World Cup snowboardcross season, opener Friday, Dec. 6, at Montafon, Austria.

“Great day training in Austria,” Baumgartner reported Friday on Facebook. “I worked on rollers, jumps and some methods to keep the stoke alive.

“Snowboarding is fun. I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do. Thanks everyone for your support.”