I was watching Jimmy Fejis pad the landing ramp for his Phazer with his body and Jay Quinlan adjust his spine after singling a double at the recent ESPN Winter X Games 11. Quinlan’s crew attended to him on the ground as ESPN respectfully switched coverage over to women’s super pipe qualifiers. The slew of extreme winter sports being showcased seemed that they could only be called “games” if you enjoyed riding your tricycle into garage doors as a kid. I wondered to myself how an athlete decides exactly which of all the extreme segments he or she is going to participate in. More exactly, I wondered how I would sort through the extreme possibilities.
Snowboard super pipe: Looks fun until you have to go back up the hill. Lines and chairlifts are the wrong way to ascend a 3,000-foot vertical climb up a snow-covered hill. Super pipe guys like Shaun White make it look so easy. The guy who landed on the deck and folded in half like no human body should—he made it look painful. I’ll pass.
Skier X: Motocross, but without engines, bikes, wheels, suspension, dirt or popularity. Guys start at the top of a hill behind a gate and when the gate drops, they’re off like rockets or as fast as gravity will gently pull them to a breezy glide. Then, they must navigate downhill icy turns at increasing rates of speed, bouncing off other skiers with flailing ski poles in all directions. The one who gets to the bottom of the hill without a concussion wins. Again, I’ll pass.
Modified shovel racing: Tried that as a kid. Bad memory. No thanks.
Snowboard best trick: Also known as slope style, this is done on a regular ski hill, but with booby traps like huge jumps with vertical faces, stairs and a metal rail placed on the slope. They put you on a chair lift and send you to the top and tell you that ESPN cameramen are holding your girlfriend hostage at the bottom of the hill. Getting down without the aid of ski patrol is the best trick. I think that’s how it goes.
Skiing super pipe: Same sort of thing as the snowboard super pipe, but for skiers, because some of us are still stuck in the 80s. Fortunately, not me.
Skiing slope style: Same hostage situation as snowboard best trick, but with the added possibility of taking a rail to the groin. If I had to choose, I’d strap my feet to a snowboard just for the added protection.
Snocross: More up my alley, but a few details about the snocross separate guys like me from guys like Tucker Hibbert, Andy Rooney and Jack Bauer. For instance, more than 17 million gallons of water were pumped out of the local creek (you can’t say ditch or crick when speaking about Aspen) to make “snow” for the X Games course. The “snow” turned out to be white concrete, which, if you can imagine, is not the softest material to land a 150-foot downhill double on. Also, you have to keep in mind that since the snocross track is made for TV, you’re going to spend the bulk of your time either in the air or crumpled up in a pile between whoops. That sounds fun … to watch on TV.
Snowmobile freestyle: The event where people who can backflip compete against other people who can backflip. I can’t backflip, and probably wouldn’t try one even if I did know how to out of fear for getting crushed between a 450-pound metal rock and white concrete, so I probably would avoid that one, too.
Maybe I’m just not extreme enough.