Paralympic Athletes Journey To Aspen For 2016 Winter X Games

By Joe Clarke | Jan. 28, 2016, 4:08 p.m. (ET)


Mike Shea (left), Evan Strong (center) and Keith Gabel (right) seen here after sweeping the podium in Sochi.

Buttermilk Mountain is set to host the 20th rendition of the Winter X Games as ten members of the U.S. Paralympic team will compete in three unique events, Jan. 28-31 in Aspen, Colorado. The slate is filled with both X Games newcomers and veterans with action to follow throughout the weekend.

MONO SKIER X

Mono Skier X will feature Paralympians Kevin Bramble (Truckee, California), Chris Devlin-Young (Campton, N.H.) and U.S. Sled Hockey Team member, and Mono Skier X rookie, Nikko Landeros (Johnstown, Colorado) as well as Paralympic hopeful Josh Elliott (Aspen, Colorado).  Landeros is fresh off a 2016 World Sled Hockey Challenge win after Team USA topped Canada and is now changing his competitive mindset to Mono Skier X.

“I skied when I was younger and did primarily freestyle,” Landeros claimed when asked about his prior skiing experience. “Once hockey became my number one priority, I could not risk getting hurt, so I didn’t ski.  My Colorado Avalanche teammate Brandon Adam gave me the idea to try mono skiing and since it is a non-Paralympic year, I thought I would give it a shot at the X Games.” Landeros mentioned that he will carry over the momentum from his latest victory with Team USA and that he “definitely wants to be on the podium at the end of the day.”

When to watch: The Mono Skier X competition gets underway at 2:00 p.m. MT on Friday with qualifying and will conclude on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. MT with the semifinals and final.

SNOWBOARDER X

The U.S. trio of Evan Strong (Nevada City, California), Mike Shea (Castaic, California) and Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah), who swept the podium at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games, will reunite in Aspen and join teammates Mike Schultz (Saint Cloud, Minnesota), Dustin Fleming (Baytown, Texas), and Mike Minor (Leadville, Colorado) in Snowboarder X Adaptive. Gabel claimed gold in the event last year and was the only American to fill a spot on the podium.

“I'm just super stoked to be here at X Games again this year,” Gabel said. “I love these big courses and running six across on it. It's definitely a testament to our skill level and a testament to how far our sport has come. I'm also super stoked to defend my title as it is against the best in the world in our sport and I feel like this is a course that suits my riding style.”

When to watch: Snowboarder X Adaptive qualifying starts Friday at noon and closes with the semifinal, consolation and final races at 10:00 a.m. MT on Sunday.

SNOWMOBILE SNOCROSS

The field for Snowmobile Snocross Adaptive will consist of six Americans with Schultz being the lone representative from Team USA. Although it is not a Paralympic sport, Snowmobile Snocross Adaptive has been kind to Schultz in the past, winning X Games gold in 2014, 2013, 2011 and 2010. Schultz will compete in both the Snowmobile Snocross Adaptive and Snowboarder X Adaptive this year.

“I'm definitely looking forward to X Games this year, especially after last year’s injury and having to watch the Snocross from the couch!” Schultz said. “My ankle injury from the Snowboarder X qualifier was about the toughest injury I've had to recover from.  I was out of my normal activity routine for over six months and I'm still not 100 percent.  I've been riding Snocross for about six weeks and things are feeling really good for the race coming up and it shouldn't affect my performance much.”

When to watch:
The Snowmobile Snocross Adaptive final starts at 3:30 p.m. MT on Thursday.

The Winter X Games turns 20 this year and 2016 will mark the 15th straight year it has been held in Aspen. Festivities officially begin Thursday at 1:00 p.m. MT with events and concerts scattered over the course of four days. Aspen is contracted to host the Winter X Games until 2019.

Visit USParalympics.org for more information on the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding Teams.

More information on the X Games is available here.