With the cancellation of most events, 2020 was a long year for fans of action sports (and the rest of us). But it’s a new year and things are looking up, as X Games Aspen returns to Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado for the 20th consecutive year on Friday, Jan. 29 with three days of competitions. While the event itself—which normally attracts tens of thousands of spectators and fans to the cozy mountain village—will be scaled back, there’s still plenty to get excited about, from young athletes on the verge of history to the return of some of the biggest names in winter sports.
Here’s a quick look at what to look forward to at X Games Aspen 2021, along with the full schedule and more information. To watch the X Games on Sling, subscribe to Sling Orange with ESPN using the link at the bottom of the page.
Fri. Jan. 29, 10:30pm-12:30am ET, ESPN2
Men’s Ski Superpipe
Snowboard Knuckle Huck (Encore)
Sat. Jan. 30, 1-6pm ET, ESPN3
Women’s Ski Slopestyle
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle
Women’s Big Air
Women’s Ski Big Air (Encore)
Sat. Jan. 30, 10pm-12am ET, ESPN
Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe
Men’s Ski Big Air (Encore)
Sun. Jan. 31, 1-3pm ET, ESPN3
Men’s Ski Slopestyle
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle (Encore)
Sun. Jan. 31, 8:30-11pm ET, ESPN
Men’s Snowboard Big Air
Ski Knuckle Huck
The Return of SuperPipe Superstars
The biggest story at X Games Aspen is the return of two of its brightest stars. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White will make his long-awaited X Games comeback when he competes in Men’s SuperPipe on Sunday night. White—who has a record 15 X Games gold medals—was the youngest competitor in each of his first three X Games appearances (2000-2002), but at age 34, he now finds himself the oldest athlete in the field.
“It’s surreal to be at any competition and instead of, ‘The youngest competitor, Shaun White,’ now it’s, ‘And the oldest competitor is...’ I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, did I hear that right? There’s got to be someone older! Where’d everyone go?’” White said last week. “It’s become new motivation that I’m the age I am, still doing it, feeling great, wanting to compete, still motivated and doing the heavy tricks.”
His younger counterpart on the women’s side can probably still relate. Chloe Kim took gold at the Women’s SuperPipe in 2015, becoming, at age 14, the youngest gold medalist in X Games history at the time. After becoming the first woman to record a perfect 100 score at the 2016 X Games, she won back-to-back gold medals at the X Games and PyeongChang Olympics in 2018. Following a hiatus to focus on college life at Princeton University, the 20-year-old returns to the SuperPipe competition Saturday night.
The Kids are More Than Alright
The X Games Aspen 2021 fact sheet notes that 24 of the 78 athletes scheduled to compete were born after Shaun White made his X Games debut in 2000, a full 31% of the field. As unsettling as that is for us 30-plus geezers, younger competitors always shine at the X Games, including White himself. 14-year-old Sonny Alba, who is making her X Games debut in the Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe, is this year’s youngest competitor, and she’s joined by 15 other teenagers throughout the competition.
18-year-old Kelly Sildaru can become the most decorated teenager in X Games history if she medals in any of the three ski disciplines (Big Air, Slopestyle, and SuperPipe) in which she’s scheduled to compete. She’s currently tied with White and skateboarder Nyjah Huston with nine total medals (5 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) and would be the winningest teen ever with at least two golds. And she’ll still have a year to go.
Social Media Star
Swiss skier Andri Ragettli has close to 2 million followers on TikTok, and it’s not just because of his incredible freestyle skills (he won the Slopestyle competition at X Games Norway 2020). His wall-crawling parkour videos have netted him a sizable audience, thanks in part to a boost from an iconic soccer club.
“I’m a big Cristiano Ronaldo fan,” says Ragettli. “In my second parkour video, I wore a Real Madrid shirt and they loved that and reposted it.”
These videos are impressive not only for his athleticism (or, in the video above, his utter insanity), but, in recent clips, Ragettli has displayed a Buster Keaton-style flair for visual comedy. Given his imagination and creativity, we can’t wait to see what Ragettli pulls out at the X Games.
To watch all three days of action at X Games Aspen 2021, subscribe to Sing Orange using the link below.