GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. - Chris Del Bosco says he's going through something akin to the five stages of grief regarding the devastating blow to his sport this week - the announcement that ESPN's Skier X event will not be a part of the 2013 Winter X Games.
The Eagle-Vail local and ski cross phenom received the news on Friday that ESPN has decided to nix the event for this season, along with their snowboard cross and mono ski cross events, thereby skipping the building of a X course for the first time in the event's history.
"It's like the full five stages," Del Bosco said from Government Camp, Ore., Sunday, where he is currently training. "Not believing it, getting mad, and finally I still haven't quite accepted it yet."
Del Bosco, a two-time X Games Skier X gold medalist, said he gained his interest in the sport - where four to six people race simultaneously while clearing gates and hitting jumps - from watching it at the X Games.
"Definitely that was a huge reason why I got started in ski cross," he said. "It's frustrating because that's the best course, they do the best job with the camera work and putting the sport out there for people to see. It's received well, it's good for sponsors, it's an integral part of our sport and now we don't have it."
At the Timberline Lodge glacier on Mt. Hood, where Del Bosco - who calls both Eagle-Vail and Montreal home - has been training for the last several days, the mood was one of disappointment among Del Bosco's teammates on the Canadian national ski cross team, head coach Eric Archer said on Sunday.
"Every one of my athletes looks forward to that event, we sit down and come up with three events they want to peak for and X Games, for every single one of them, is always on that list," said Archer. "For the North American athletes, that was their event to showcase their skills in front of a home audience. ... Now pretty much our sport is completely European dominated as far as exposure goes."
Of the 16 ski cross events on the World Cup calendar this year, only two take place in North America - one at Nakiska and one at Telluride - while France has three and Switzerland and Germany each have two. Despite the low exposure in that arena, the International Ski Federation (FIS) actually amended its calendar a few years ago to give athletes a break from World Cup action during the X Games, lest racers like Del Bosco be forced to choose between one or the other. (He always chose X Games.)
"It's unfortunate that FIS actually made an adjustment in their organization to not schedule events during X Games anymore out of respect for that being the beginning of ski cross on a big-time venue," he said. "Now we've all got the week off that week.
"I haven't been to the SIA show since they held it in Vegas, it was always a good time," said Archer, referring to the SnowSports Industries America trade show, which is now held in Denver on the same weekend as X Games. "Who knows, maybe this year I'll check it out."
Archer has been a part of the Winter X, as both an athlete and a coach, for 13 of the 15 years it has been at X Games, and has been on the X Games Skier X athlete selection committee for the last four years. He said he received an email Thursday morning informing him of the decision, but has no idea why ESPN is nixing the X course for the first time in Winter X history.
"I don't know what they were thinking," he said. "It was like a sucker punch to the gut ... I'm numb."
ESPN quoted Tim Reed, a senior director of content strategy for the X Games, as saying they made the decision in order to focus on pipe, slope, big air, snowmobiles and snowboard street.
"We come up with what we believe are the best events to showcase to our fans on-site and obviously the networks, too."
Within a few days of the story going live on ESPN's website, it had garnered more than 100 fan comments expressing disappointment in the move.
"The most horrible thing ESPN has done," wrote David, a 36-year-old commenter from Steamboat Springs. "It shows how they are not respecting the heart of Action Sports."
Chris Del Bosco's father, Eagle-Vail resident Del Del Bosco, said comments like those, along with any feedback fans can give the Aspen Skiing Co., hopefully will encourage a change of heart for 2014 within the powers that be.
"I think that could have a lot of bearing," said Del Del Bosco, pointing out that snowmobile SnoCross was dropped from the Winter X Games 2012 schedule and picked back up again for 2013. "The fans need to let them know how they feel."
ESPN reported that Reed hasn't dismissed the possibility of the disciplines being added to future X Games events.
"There's nothing to say we won't do X course next year," he said. "We believe in the sport, we love it, we've been doing it for a lot of years."