Vail-area locals to look for at X Games 2020
Taylor Seaton celebrates his 10th appearance, while Ryan Wachendorfer makes his first
EAGLE COUNTY – Local halfpipe athletes Jake Pates, Ryan Wachendorfer and Taylor Seaton are set to compete in X Games 2020 in Aspen starting Wednesday.
Pates is a 21-year-old snowboarder from Eagle who is coming off a fifth-place finish at last year’s X Games. Seaton, 29, is a skier from Avon who finished fifth at X Games 2018. Wachendorfer, 23, is a snowboarder from Edwards who has been an alternate in the past but is set to compete for his first time this year. Snowboarder Zoe Kalapos, of Avon, has a spot an alternate if any of the women is unable to make it to the halfpipe event.
X Games returns to a qualifying format for halfpipe athletes this year, allowing for five more spots in the men’s competitions. In recent years, a straight final has welcomed only10 athletes total to the men’s halfpipe events. This year, 12 athletes will square off in a preliminary round for a chance to compete against last year’s podium finishers, who get to go directly to finals. The snowboard qualifiers are Wednesday, with a final Thursday. The ski qualifiers are Friday with a final Sunday.
Wachendorfer said that in addition to the halfpipe competition, he’s also looking forward to participating in the Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe Session, a new event for 2020, taking place at 9:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s a half-hour jam session — their main focus is they’re not looking for full halfpipe runs,” Wachendorfer said. “So it’s kind of a best trick, but they’re just looking for people to have fun and try some new stuff out, it will be a very interesting event.”
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New judging format, no scores
Seaton said he can’t remember the last time he’s been as excited about a competition as this year’s X Games.
“I’m hyped to try out their new real-time ranking format,” he said. “It’s designed to encourage variety, not the same run repeated.”
Seaton has made an effort to not repeat his runs at recent X Games. After dropping in backwards and starting his run with a switch 900 in 2018, he started his second run with a forward-facing double-cork 1260 to keep everyone guessing.
“That was the most fun I’ve ever had at X Games, landing all different runs for the crowd,” he said. “I felt like starting completely different from a switch 900 to a forward 12 would put on more of a show and in that way show more reverence for X Games as the premier event in our sport.”
The real-time ranking system was tested out in park skate competitions at X Games, where the format is looser. Athletes get more runs, which translates to more chances to improve their ranking. But they don’t receive a numerical score for the run — any performance only move athletes up in the rankings, and the only way they can move down is by someone else moving ahead.
“You’ll have to make a good overall impression,” Seaton said. “It could work out to favor athletes who have a bigger bag of tricks, and if that’s the case, I’m all for it.”