Steamboat’s Schaffrick, 15, plans to enjoy competing in X Games | stanton-company.com

Steamboat’s Schaffrick, 15, plans to enjoy competing in X Games

There are 250 athletes at this year’s Winter X Games, but none younger than Steamboat Springs’ Maddy Schaffrick. The 15-year-old snowboarder is the youngest competitor this week and will drop into the halfpipe.

After a pressure-filled Grand Prix series that served as the Olympic qualifier, Schaffrick says this weekend is more about relaxing. The sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School finished tied for sixth in the final qualifying standings, and the top four were named to the Olympic team. She is coming into this week off her best finish in the series, fourth place at the final Park City event.

“A lot of pressure is off because the Olympic qualifier is over,” Schaffrick said Wednesday. “I’m just looking

to have fun since this past winter was kind of stressful. I don’t have any big goals this week. I’m just looking to land a good run and make the finals.”

She was an alternate for the X Games last year and got in when another boarder withdrew, but Schaffrick didn’t advance out of the qualifier. This year’s qualifier is tonight. The finals are Saturday night.

There are 19 Colorado athletes this year, including five other teenagers inside the ropes: 17-year-olds Duncan Adams (Breckenridge, ski superpipe) and Faye Gulini (Vail, boardercross), 18-year-old Bobby Brown (ski superpipe and slopestyle) and 19-year-olds Taylor Seaton (Vail, ski superpipe) and Zack Black (Breckenridge, snowboard superpipe).

Expansion. The Winter X Games are branching out with a new event in March in the French Alps. Winter X Europe is slated for March 10-12 in Tignes. The resort is two hours from Geneva and fits the natural setting design organizers need to host the events.

“Much like Buttermilk (in Aspen), it has a natural amphitheater to it, for television and fans,” X Games managing director Rick Alessandri said. “They made it clear from the start they wanted the event.”

Tignes organizers are in Aspen this week and said they hope to draw 10,000 fans per day in its inaugural run. Tignes is located in the northern French Alps and is linked to Val d’Isere. The Summer X Games have been global for a few years, with events in Barcelona, Spain; Shanghai; São Paulo; and Mexico City.

The March event will have an abbreviated schedule of events, with competitions in the halfpipe and slopestyle for men and women. Organizers are planning a snowmobile demo, featuring Levi LaVallee — he of double-backflip fame from last year’s X Games — and three other riders.

“We think the athletes will be excited to come over,” Tignes manager Sebastien Merignargues said. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a new event and in the French Alps?”

Numbers, numbers.

Of the 120 spots for the Vancouver Olympics for the three events from X Games (skicross, boardcross and halfpipe), 65 of those athletes are at X Games this weekend. In all, athletes represent 26 states and 24 countries. With the Olympics two weeks away, there is a stronger contingent of international media. This year, 300 media members were credentialed, up from 200 last year. Halfpipe events start today with qualifiers. They will be in a pipe that is 20 feet longer than in previous competitions

For more on the story, please visit The Denver Post Online.

Posted on: January 28, 2010