The X Games experience through RISE magazine |

The X Games experience through RISE magazine

Anna Gauldin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Winter X Games brings together the world’s best snowboarders, skiers and snowmobilers. Less commonly realized is that the Winter X Games also bring together the world’s best reporters, journalists and sports writers.

This year, ESPN’s RISE magazine decided to extend this opportunity to the journalism students of the Roaring Fork Valley, picking four lucky winners to cover the X Games.

As one of the students chosen, I spent four days on Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen with members of both the RISE and ESPN staffs, learning how to be a reporter. I have attended the X Games in previous years with my friends and my family, and, even as just a spectator, it is undeniable that the X Games are unique from other competitions.

Live music, food and giveaways attract people of all ages, and athletes from around the world gather to compete at the highest level. However, unlike most competitions, the X Games isn’t just about getting the highest score – the X Games are about being the first, the fastest and the biggest. Whether it’s for being the most creative or the most extreme, X Games athletes want to be remembered.

Last year, seven-time X Games medalist Levi LaVallee attempted a double backflip on a snowmobile – something never done before. This year, six-time snowmobile medalist Joe Parsons coined a new trick, the Parsby, which combines a backflip with a 180 body varial – yet another trick never before performed in competition.

This mentality, this drive to be the first to accomplish something, is the heart of the X Games. Yes, the athletes want to win, but there is more to it than that. As LaVallee put it: “It’s so cool out here with the crowd, the show, and the lights. It makes you go bigger.” The X Games is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience for both the athletes and the spectators – and it keeps getting bigger every year.

This year, Winter X Games 14 shattered all previous attendance records – more than 34,000 fans crowded Buttermilk on Saturday alone. Throughout the weekend, more than 84,000 people came to support their favorite athletes.

This is where my media credentials came in handy; special areas at the front of each competition site are reserved exclusively for the press. Not only did I have a front-row seat for all of the action, I also had access to a part of the X Games that most people are unaware of – the press conferences.

After each event, the medalists were brought to the press tent to be interviewed. This meant that I was surrounded not only by athletes, including LaVallee and Shaun White, but also by journalists from all over the country. And, rather than just being near all of these talented individuals, I actually got to meet them. In addition to LaVallee, I interviewed snowmobiler Daniel Bodin after winning his first X Games medal – a silver medal in the Best Trick competition – along with snowboarder Ellery Hollingsworth, who placed fifth in the superpipe, and skier Grete Eliassen, who placed third in slopestyle.

The most surprising aspect of the experience was the amount of research and background information that reporters must have on the athletes they are interviewing. In order to ask informed and in-depth questions, a reporter needs to know as much as they can about the athlete. Anyone can go online and look up an athlete’s personal profile; it is a reporter’s job to find out what people don’t know. By the end of the weekend, I knew trivial facts about half of the X Games athletes – Eliassen lived in Norway for several of her teen years and likes to borrow her friend’s dirt bike; LaVallee, who suffered an ankle injury last May, likes to wakeboard; and snowmobiler Tucker Hibbert, who won his first X Games gold medal at 15, races motocross as well.

One of the greatest experiences of the weekend was getting to know the staff of RISE. Jay Corbin, the Lifestyle Editor, was our mentor for the weekend – he guided us through interviews, taught us how to act professionally, and increased our confidence as reporters.

The opportunity to work with RISE was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I made new friends, met new people, and learned new techniques to better my writing. Working as a reporter opened my eyes to an entirely different perception of the X Games – many people read the articles in the sports section the day after the event, but few realize how much work actually went into the stories. I am leaving this experience not only with an immense respect for journalists, but with a heart set on following in their footsteps.

Anna Gauldin is a junior at Glenwood Springs High School and is sports editor of The Brimstone, the school’s newspaper. She can be reached at She was one of four local students selected to cover this year’s Winter X Games for RISE magazine.

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