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Fans watch an event during the X Games on January 27, 2019 in Aspen. Photo by Dave Camara / ESPN Images

The X Games Return to Aspen This Weekend—Here’s What’s New For 2020

Buttermilk Mountain hosts the extreme sports festival for the 19th consecutive year, and there are four new contests on the calendar.

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This weekend, 168 world-class athletes from 17 countries—plus an estimated 100,000-plus spectators—will converge on Buttermilk Mountain for the 2020 X Games. The four-day frenzy of high-flying competitions and high-energy musical performances, happening Thursday, January 23 to Sunday, January 26, will mark the 19th consecutive year that Aspen has hosted the action sports festival.

But don’t expect this year’s installment to be old hat. Four brand-new contests—two in skiing and two in snowboarding—will join 17 familiar events, amping up an already action-packed lineup. The aim of these additions, says Tim Reed, vice president of the X Games, is to bring a “wider variety of tricks and expression and freestyle” to the festival, which also includes snowmobiling and snow bike events. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the novel events, plus top athletes to watch, details on this year’s musical performances, and when/where you can catch all the entertainment. 

Men’s Ski Knuckle Huck

Last year, the X Games introduced the men’s “Snowboard Knuckle Huck,” in which athletes attempt tricks off the “knuckle” of a jump, or the area where the safety deck meets the landing (versus launching themselves off the lip of a jump). The inaugural competition “worked so well, and people were so hyped on it,” according to Reed, that the concept is being expanded this year to men’s skiing. 

How it works: Eight skiers will compete in a 20-minute jam session at the big air venue, where they’ll attempt their best, most creative knuckle hucking tricks. Athletes will be scored on overall impression and “whoever brings the coolest stuff overall to the party will take home the win,” says Reed. “We’re really just trying to drive the style side, improvisational side, and really let the athletes show a full breadth of all the cool stuff that they can do,” he adds. 

Competitors include: Henrik Harlaut (Swedish Olympian and 11-time X Games gold medalist), Alex Hall (U.S. Olympian and two-time X Games medalist), and Torin Yater-Wallace (U.S. Olympian and six-time X Games medalist). 

When/Where: Thursday, January 23 at 7 p.m. at the Big Air Venue

Men’s Snowboard Superpipe Session

Similar to the traditional snowboard superpipe event but with fewer competition rules, the snowboard superpipe session gives athletes more leeway for experimentation, creativity, and style. “It’s not necessarily about a run from the top to the bottom, but it could be cool back-to-back tricks [or] one big trick,” says Reed. “Hopefully the athletes see it as a fun opportunity to show a little bit wider of an expression of their styles riding pipe.” 

How it works: Eight snowboarders will compete in a 20-minute controlled jam session, during which riders will take to the superpipe course and attempt their desired combination of tricks (or one single trick). Athletes will be rated on “overall impression” with judges looking for impressive execution of new, different styles. 

Competitors include: Scotty James (Australian Olympic bronze medalist and four-time X Games medalist), Yuto Totsuka (Japanese Olympian and 2019 X Games silver medalist), and Danny Davis (U.S. Olympian and three-time X Games medalist). 

When/Where: Friday, January 24 at 9:30 p.m. at the Superpipe Venue

Men’s Snowboard Rail Jam

Constructing snowboarding courses—including those with lots of rails—is an arduous undertaking, Reed explains. This difficult process led X Games organizers to a realization: Let’s make the most of our efforts by using the rail garden constructed for the slopestyle competition in a completely separate event. That’s how the snowboard rail jam, which specifically targets riders who specialize in rails, was born. 

How it works: Eight snowboarders will participate in a 20-minute controlled jam session, tackling the first three features of the slopestyle course, which are all jibs or rails. Similar to the knuckle huck and superpipe session events, athletes will be scored on “overall impression.”

Competitors include: Rene Rinnekangas (Finnish Olympian and 2019 X Games silver medalist), Darcy Sharpe (2018 X Games silver medalist from Canada), and Sven Thorgren (Swedish Olympian and four-time X Games medalist). 

When: Sunday, January 26 at 1:30 p.m. at the Slopestyle Venue

Special Olympics Unified Skiing Event

In 2015, the X Games partnered with the Special Olympics to host a unified snowboard event that paired able-bodied pro snowboarders with adaptive athletes. The tradition has continued every year since, and this year, that partnership is extended to include skiers. 

How it works: Six pro skiers will be paired with six Special Olympics skiers. Each athlete will tackle a gated slalom course with teams competing side-by-side. Teammate times will be combined, and the fastest duo will win. 

Competitors include: Special Olympians Amanda Leonard, Haldan Pranger, and Andrew Carlson; and pro skiers Cassie Sharpe, Alex Ferreira, and David Wise. 

When: Thursday, January 23 at 10:30 a.m. at the Big Air Venue

Musical Performances And Other Events

In between sporting events, big-name musicians will take the stage at the base of Buttermilk, including hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd (Friday, January 24 at 10 p.m.), electronic performer Illenium (Saturday, January 25 at 4:30 p.m.), Grammy-nominated producer and electronic musician Alesso (Saturday, January 25 at 9:30 p.m.), and R&B-slash-pop performer Bazzi (Sunday, January 26 at 4:30 p.m.).

Throughout the weekend, X Games will also host film screenings, athlete Q&A sessions, talks, free photography tutorials with National Geographic, and more. 

If you go: The 2020 X Games Aspen runs from Thursday, January 23 to Sunday, January 26 at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. All sporting events and films are free and open to the public. Many of the athlete talks are also free and open to the public. Tickets are required for musical concerts and certain talks. Download the X Games Aspen 2020 app (available on iOS and Android) or visit xgames.com for a complete schedule of events. 

If you want to watch virtually: Sporting events will be broadcast on ESPN, ABC, the X Games social media accounts, and/or the ESPN app from Thursday, January 23 to Sunday, January 26. Visit xgames.com for more details. 

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