For most freestyle skiing and snowboarding fans, the Winter X Games is the biggest event of the year.
The excitement kicks off tonight with the women’s ski superpipe event, where Olympian Roz Groenewoud will be looking for her sixth X Games medal. Roz is one of the many Canadians that will be looking to reach the podium in Aspen, Colorado.
Since the first Winter X Games in 1997, the number of events and athletes competing have grown significantly. The 2015 Winter X Games, which runs through January 25th, will feature 27 Canadian skiers and snowboarders competing in 16 different events (there are also five snowmobiling events). Some of the athletes are veterans while others will be getting their first taste of the X Games.
Here are some of the athletes to keep an eye on (full athlete list at the end):
The men’s snowboard slopestyle competition features arguably the best crop of Canadians. Although only 21 years-old, Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Mark McMorris will be trying to add to his collection of seven X Games medals (3 gold, 4 silver). McMo took home silver in 2014 despite a big crash that left him with a cracked rib right before the Sochi Games. Olympian Maxence Parrot arrives at Aspen as the defending champ in both snowboard slopestyle and big air. The final Canadian aiming for the podium is Olympian Sébastien Toutant, who has four X Games medals to his name (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze), including slopestyle gold from 2011.
On the women’s side, Olympian Spencer O’Brien will be the only Canadian competing. O’Brien knows how to compete under pressure, having won gold at the 2013 FIS World Championsip. Spencer has also won four X Games medals over her career (1 silver, 3 bronze), including slopestyle bronze in 2014.
Three Canadian men, all with Olympic experience, will be looking to race their way onto the podium in 2015. Kevin Hill, who recently took home silver from the FIS World Championships, came close to the podium last year, finishing fourth. His only X Games medal was a silver back in 2011. The other two Canadians are Sochi Olympian Chris Robanske, who finished seventh at last year’s X Games, and two-time Olympian Rob Fagan, who has competed at seven X Games over his long career.
The women’s snowboardcross competition will feature two Canadians. The more experienced is Dominique Maltais, who is the first woman to win multiple Olympic snowboardcross medals (silver in 2014 and bronze in 2006). She is also a two-time FIS World Championship medallist and took home snowboardcross gold from the 2012 X Games. Compatriot Carle Brenneman will also be aiming for the podium after finishing fifth last year.
The men’s ski slopestyle competition will include three Canadian competitors. Alex Bellemare came agonizingly close to the podium in 2014, finishing fourth at his first X Games. This year he will be looking to crack the top three and leave Aspen with a medal. Joining Bellemare are Olympian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, who will be aiming to improve on his 16th place finish last year, and 17-year-old Evan McEachran, who will be participating in his first X Games.
The women’s slopestyle competition will also feature three Canadians. Leading the way is Dara Howell, who made history at Sochi 2014 when she took home gold in the first-ever Olympic ski slopestyle event. Howell won bronze at the 2013 X Games and will be looking to improve on her fourth place finish in 2014. Along with Howell, X Games rookies Nikki Blackall and Anouk Purnelle-Faniel will be looking to find their way onto the podium.
There will be four Canadians competing in the men’s ski superpipe this year, including three Olympians. Sochi 2014 silver medallist Mike Riddle will be shooting for the podium in 2015 after finishing fourth last year. Olympians Justin Dorey and Noah Bowman will be looking to improve on their eighth and 11th place finishes, respectively, in 2014. Simon d’Artois, the final Canadian, placed 14th last year at his first X Games.
Olympian Roz Groenewoud will be the lone Canadian competing in the women’s ski superpipe. The 25-year-old is one of the favourites to finish on the podium. She has won five X Games ski superpipe medals over her career (1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze), including a silver last year.
Complete list of Canadian Comeptitors
Carle Brenneman (Snowboardcross)
Rob Fagan (Snowboardcross)
Kevin Hill (Snowboardcross)
Dominique Maltais (Snowboardcross)
Alex Massie (Parasnowboard)
Mark McMorris (Slopestyle & Big Air)
Spencer O’Brien (Slopestyle)
Maxence Parrot (Slopestyle & Big Air)
Chris Robanske (Snowboardcross)
Sébastien Toutant (Slopestyle)
Antoine Truchon (Big Air)
Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (Slopestyle & Big Air)
Alex Bellemare (Slopestyle)
Nikki Blackall (Slopestyle)
Noah Bowman (Superpipe)
Simon d’Artois (Superpipe)
Sam Danniels (Mono Skier X)
Justin Dorey (Superpipe)
Josh Dueck (Mono Skier X)
Vincent Gagnier (Big Air)
Roz Groenewoud (Superpipe)
Dara Howell (Slopestyle)
Evan McEacheran (Slopestyle)
Noah Morrison (Big Air)
Anouk Purnelle-Faniel (Slopestyle)
Mike Riddle (Superpipe)