Why Including Adaptive Sports at ESPN X Games is Critical

In January of every year, our family heads west to take in another year of ESPN Winter X Games. Standing at the edge of the Super Pipe while athletes do their tricks above your head is pretty exciting. Standing at the bottom (or the sides) of the Big Air ramp is mind blowing, no matter how many times you’ve seen it before. But there are a handful of events that mean even more to me – the adaptive races.

Sara Schultz (wife of athlete Mike Schultz) watches the Adaptive Snowboarder X on the big screen. Photo: Judy Berna
Sara Schultz (wife of athlete Mike Schultz) watches the Adaptive Snowboarder X on the big screen.
Photo: Judy Berna

This year I had a chance to see the Adaptive Snowcross, Adaptive Snowboarder X, and the Monoski races. Between practices that are open to the public and the actual races, there was a lot of excitement in the adaptive world at X Games this year.

I’ve been an amputee for the past dozen years. Even though I had a misshapen foot most of my life, I never imagined I’d someday be an amputee. Having a limb cut off is pretty low on the list of things most folks assume might happen to them in a lifetime. Continue reading Why Including Adaptive Sports at ESPN X Games is Critical

The Top 14 Reasons Why I Love Winter X Games

Photo Op! Photo: Judy Berna
Photo op! Snow sculptures! Photo: Judy Berna.

Every year, I write about our adventures at Winter X Games. With four snow-loving kids, three of them risk-taking boys, this kind of event is right up our alley—and right down the road from our town. Even if you don’t live in Colorado, it’s worth a second look if you’re seeking out a winter vacation destination with your family next year. It’s always on a reliable date, held the weekend between the last NFL playoff games and the Super Bowl (the weekend of the Pro Bowl). That gives you plenty of time to make plans to attend next year. Need more convincing? Here are the top 14 reasons why this GeekMom loves Winter X Games:

1. It’s free! How can you not love something that will impress your kids, make great family memories, and cost you nothing?

2. It’s becoming more ADA accessible every year. As an amputee myself, every year I report back to one of the top ESPN guys in charge of Winter X Games, and tell him what they are doing right and what still needs work. This year, you could check out a souped-up, off-roading-type wheelchair, to navigate the tricky terrain between events (also free). There are dedicated ADA viewing areas that are well protected and actually very close to certain events. It’s exciting to see X Games become more and more accessible to adults and children with disabilities.

Large black mats make some tricky areas easier to navigate.  Photo: Judy Berna
Large black mats make some tricky areas easier to navigate. Photo: Judy Berna.

3. You can watch world class Paralympic athletes using the same courses as the able-bodied athletes. Every year, X Games includes more and more adaptive competitions. It’s great for people to see the incredible level of ability these athletes have, and makes watching the Paralympics a lot more relative. One of my favorite athletes, Mike Schultz, was a repeat gold medalist in Snowmobile at X Games, then lost his leg in an accident. In just a few years, he’d designed a new kind of leg, custom-made for athletes, and is now competing in Adaptive Snowmobile, as well as Adaptive Snowboard.

GeekMom Judy and Mike Schultz compare legs. Photo: Judy Berna
GeekMom Judy and Mike Schultz compare legs. Photo: Judy Berna.

4. Staying a few days is an option. You just have to know the trick. If you’d like to spend $800 to $1,000 for a hotel room, go ahead and book one in Aspen, which is just a few miles away. But if you book early and are willing to drive a half hour, you can secure a clean, comfortable room in Glenwood Springs, for 50 bucks and up. Add that to the fact that the event itself is free, and you’ve got yourself a pretty budget-friendly vacation.

5. It’s full of fun photo ops. Whether you’re on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, there are many places to stop and catch a shot of something unique. Much like Disneyland, half the fun is going through the fun pictures once you get home. Also remember that the event takes place in the heart of the Colorado mountains. Just about every picture you take, at any time of the day, will come out beautiful. Be especially alert at sunset, when the sky can turn amazing colors.

One of GeekMom Judy's favorite photo ops.  Photo: Judy Berna
One of GeekMom Judy’s favorite photo ops. Photo: Judy Berna.

6. There are free shuttles that are well organized. Parking has never been a problem. By using a commuter lot a few miles away, there is plenty of parking, and the access to the shuttle buses is efficient and timely. If you stay in Aspen, you can catch a free city bus that stops at Buttermilk every half hour.

7. It’s motivating and inspiring. Watching these events on television will make just about everyone who walks in the room say, “Whoa!” Imagine standing underneath that athlete as he jumps over your head. There are many opportunities to stand right next to the action, including the public access to the sides of the SuperPipe. You can literally hear the athletes breathing as they fly over your head in the middle of a jump. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Snowmobile practice session. Photo: Judy Berna
Snowmobile practice session. Photo: Judy Berna.

8. With practice sessions open to the public too, you have twice the opportunity to see your favorite events. The jumps are just as high and just as exciting when the athletes are warming up and there are great opportunities to get crazy photos, like the one above.

GeekMom Judy's daughter, standing at the edge of the Super Pipe during practice. Photo: Judy Berna
GeekMom Judy’s daughter, standing at the edge of the SuperPipe during practice. Photo: Judy Berna.

9. The athletes are accessible—to a point. Last year, I was amazed to see the difference between the X Games and the Olympics, which were a week later. While they aren’t necessarily cruising around in the crowds, at Winter X Games, many of the events have the athlete pass through a path in the middle of the crowd on their way to the snowmobile ride back to the top. Little kids and big kids alike got to high-five their favorite athletes, and many times take a quick selfie with them. At the Olympics and most other professional events, athletes are kept far away from the public. And if you keep your eyes open, you just may see your favorite athlete walking around later in the day, which leads us to reason number 10.

A high five as he makes his way back to the top, during competition. Photo: Judy Berna
A high-five as he makes his way back to the top, during competition. Photo: Judy Berna.

10. The athletes love being there. Every year at the press events, the athletes bring up how they look forward to this date in January every year. They love the way the SuperPipe is perfectly groomed. They love the interaction with their fans. Even in the midst of serious competition, the mood is relaxed. The athletes talk about it like it’s a big family gathering, where there is as much going on on the slopes as there is after hours.

One athlete, taking pictures of another athlete, with some excited fans.  Photo: Judy Berna
One athlete, taking pictures of another athlete, with some excited fans. Photo: Judy Berna.

11. You can choose to ski in the middle of the venues. Buttermilk Mountain does not close down during Winter X Games. The lifts still run and the ski runs all lead to one path, which runs through the middle of the festivities. As you ride the lift up the mountain, you get an aerial view of the huge jumps and snow cross courses. On the way down, you’re flanked by the SuperPipe on your left and the Snowmobile course on your right. You can ski all morning, then watch your favorite event in the afternoon.

12. It’s crowd-friendly. Every year, the attendance records are broken, yet it never seems as crowded as it should. Maybe it’s the wide open spaces that happen on a ski mountain. Maybe it has something to do with how the venues are spread out, leaving plenty of viewing room for the public. Sure, there are a lot of people around, but it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. It just feels like you’re surrounded by 5,000 excited friends.

Snowboarder Louie Vito, hangs out with the crowd after his run. Photo: Judy Berna
Snowboarder Louie Vito hangs out with the crowd after his run. Photo: Judy Berna.

13. There is music everywhere. As a backdrop during competitions, you’ll hear electronic beats. As you walk around the village, you’ll catch free bands playing periodically. This year, the paid concerts were big names—as in Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. Maybe they aren’t your favorite artists, but I’m always excited to see who they’ve secured for next year’s Games. ESPN is determined to make X Games all about quality music events as much as athletic events. The concert venue is right on the grounds, so getting to the paid concerts is as easy as a quick walk after you’ve watched the last event of the night.

14. It’s one of those rare events you can share with your teenager, and both walk away with great memories. Winter X Games is very family-friendly (although I recommend a backpack carrier instead of a stroller for tiny people, because of the snowy terrain). But it’s especially friendly to teenagers. There are huge screens everywhere, showing constant clips of current and past events. The announcers are entertaining. There are many spur-of-the-moment “contests” while the athletes wait out commercial breaks (much like at a football stadium). The dance contest between three random people they pull from the crowd is a huge hit every year and even on the last night of X Games, there was a trivia-type contest being held on the mini stage, with the chance to win tickets to the immediate concert.

Huge screens placed all around the venue, keep everyone in the action. Photo: Judy Berna
Huge screens placed all around the venue keep everyone in the action. Photo: Judy Berna.

You may be wondering if I’m actually on the public relations staff for ESPN, as much as I gush about the Winter X Games every year, but alas, there is no such job on my resume. I’m just a mom who discovered this gem of an event and wanted to share it with as many other moms as I could. So get out your vacation planner for next winter and have a family meeting. Winter X Games could be just the unique family experience you’ve been looking for.

Winter X Games – Watching Women Support Women

GeekMom Judy, navigating X Games with her daughter. Photo: Judy Berna
GeekMom Judy, navigating X Games with her daughter. Photo: Judy Berna

Every year my family and I go to the Winter X Games. We had watched them for years as we lived all over the country, and once we moved to a mountain town just a few hours away from Aspen, we knew it would be an annual trek.

This year, one of my favorite moments happened on the very first day. On Wednesday afternoon there was a press event, where a row of X Games athletes, representing a wide range of events, sat in front of reporters and answered questions.

There was the usual barrage of questions fired at Shaun White, one of the most famous of the X Games athletes. There were questions about the Olympics last year, where many of these athletes competed just weeks after last year’s X Games events. And then there was a question that touched my heart.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

The reporter directed the question at Kelly Clark, about her relationship with Chloe Kim. If you’ve seen any of the press about X Games, you know that Chloe Kim, at 14, is the youngest person to win a gold medal at X Games. She won the silver medal in the same event last year, at the age of 13. She’s the real deal. She is pretty much destined to be the women’s version of Shaun White in years to come. That is, if the women stopped being overlooked.

The current women’s version of Shaun White is Kelly Clark. She began competing back in 1999, at the age of 16 and in the years since has racked up an impressive list of medals, including medaling in two Olympic Games, twelve years apart. She’s been around a long time and has been at the top of her game for a long time. Yet no one knows the name Kelly Clark like they do Shaun White. I’m hoping that thinking changes in the years to come. Maybe with Chloe Kim’s generation, it will.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

The reporter asked Kelly to describe her relationship with Chloe. The athlete who has been in the trenches literally longer than the athlete who is chasing her tail has been alive. Snowboarding is a small world. The athletes are thrown together, through travel and competitions, all year long. There is a fine line to be balanced between being friendly and staying competitive. The answer Kelly gave was refreshing (you can see a video clip of it here).

She talked about how talented Chloe is. She talked about how much she loves the sport and how it’s all about building a legacy, building up a sport to be all it can be.

“Knowing there are people like Chloe coming up, who will take what I’ve built and do things on snowboard that I never could, I’ll be able to look at women’s snowboarding and know that not only is it in good hands but in the hands of somebody that I built up.”

Chloe, who continuously grinned under her floppy hat, returned the affection when she got the microphone. Earlier in the session she had remarked about how Kelly was like big sister to her, always helping her navigate the world of extreme sports. “I always feel so much more comfortable with Kelly and I’m so thankful for her.”

Wait. Where’s the cutthroat competition? Where’s the “cut you off at the knees so I can have an advantage”? Where is the older athlete who refuses to be replaced by some younger, possibly faster athlete? That attitude was nowhere in sight at this press event.

I don’t know if the men’s athletes in the same events have similar sentiments. But it was so refreshing to hear a young woman gushing about the love and support she regularly receives from the woman she grew up watching, her idol becoming her mentor. Kelly not only accepts that she will be replaced some day, she is honored to be the one who is shaping the next generation.

How amazing would it be if that attitude could survive in other areas of competition and life? Every woman secure enough in her own abilities that there was no need to knock down the woman coming up behind her. Every woman recognizing that the lessons she could pass on to a protégé could mean building a legacy, not negating her own self-built kingdom.

Photo: Snowboard Magazine
Photo: Snowboard Magazine

This press event took place three days before the Super Pipe Snowboard event that decided the medals for 2015. After earning the gold medal in the event for the last four years in a row (and in 2006), this year Kelly took the silver. Standing next to her on the podium, with that bright gold medal around her neck, was the young woman she’s been grooming. I’m sure it must hurt at least a little bit, to give up that spot, at least for this year, but Kelly held up her medal and smiled. Just like the classy athlete that she has proven to be. A valuable example not just to a young woman named Chloe, who is paving her own way, but to all of us who have something worth passing along.

What It’s Like to Be Married to an Extreme Athlete

Photo: Alexandra Wise

One of the joys of being a part of the GeekMom community is that whatever you have a passion for, it’s accepted here. We decided early on in our GeekMom.com days that “geeking out” about something could mean a lot of things. Anything you are passionate about, especially if it falls a bit outside the lines of what’s ‘normal’ for our demographic, is supported here.

One of my personal passions is all things related to extreme sports, especially winter sports. We live in the mountains of Colorado and not only try to hit the slopes as many weekends as possible, we follow the sport’s circuit events that happen near our home. Being the mom to four snow-crazy kids keeps me in the loop, as much as a 47-year-old amputee mom can be.

As a wife and mother, I watch the extreme sport athletes and wonder about their lives. What’s it like to have an extreme job? At the women’s events, I wonder how those women balance it all. Many of them are wives and mothers. How exactly does that work, in everyday life?

Photo: Judy Berna

As I watch the men’s events, I think of the women in their lives. I know many of them are young enough that they still have girlfriends who line the fences, cheering them on. But every time I witness a crash I think of that kid’s mom, and wonder if she is watching the event live, or if she’s about to get that phone call. Extreme hobbies can take their toll on the people who surround the athlete too.

At the Winter X Games 2014 I had a rare opportunity to chat with one of the women of extreme sports. She patiently answered a whole list of questions I’d been forming in my brain, as I wondered about the behind-the-scenes stories of extreme athletes. You won’t find her name on the score board. She spends her time on the slopes purely for fun. But Alexandra Wise happens to be married to a guy whose profession involves doing massive tricks on skis, while flying down a huge half pipe. Her husband is David Wise, a professional skier who is pretty darn good at his job.

Right after my family and I got to see David  pick up another Ski Halfpipe gold medal at the ESPN Winter X Games, Alexandra and David boarded a plane to Russia, and within two weeks, David had an Olympic gold medal to add to his collection. This guy is the real deal. And not just when he’s wearing skis.

David Wise is not the norm in extreme snow sports, especially when it comes to male athletes. Most of the field is rounded out by single, young guys, who push the limits, on the snow and off. Not many of them go home at night to a tiny blonde 2-year-old who jumps into their arms and calls them Daddy. But David does.

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Photo: Alexandra Wise

He and Alexandra met at a church camp and, as many long lasting love stories go, they became really good friends before they decided to explore deeper emotions. They were young, after all. Like in finishing up high school for Alexandra and living on airplanes and in training gyms for the rising star that was David. Their relationship grew until there was finally a ring and a set of “I do”s. A year later, Nayeli joined their new little family. Even in his early 20s, David was officially the old man of his sport.

Add to that the fact that David and Alexandra lead a thriving youth group at their local church, and spend their time off the slopes helping troubled youth, and you’ll find an extreme athlete you can believe in. In fact, 10% of the money that David earned by bringing home an Olympic gold medal will be sent to WeSayWater, a nonprofit started by the Wises, that provides clean drinking water in Malawi (get more information/donate here). In extreme sports it’s tradition to spend 10% of your winnings at the bar the next night, buying drinks for friends. David decided to put a twist on that tradition. He buys clean water. Just another way this extreme athlete is breaking the mold in positive ways.

Photo: WeSayWater.com

So once I found out how Alexandra happened to get herself tied to an extreme sports guy for a lifetime, I asked her the obvious wife questions. What’s it like to live with a spouse whose job it is to take risks—huge risks? Did she know what she was getting into before she said “I do”?

At first Alexandra didn’t realize what she’d found, when that cute boy caught her eye during camp. “He never told me what kind of skiing he did,” she said, “He never bragged. It wasn’t until we really started talking and dating that I understood he was a skier, like for real, and what he was capable of.”

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Photo: Alexandra Wise

 There was no thought in her mind that their home might grace a few gold medals some day. She just saw a guy who had the kind of character she had always admired.

As far as how hard it is to not worry that her husband could have life changing injuries at any point, she’s learned to relax through the years. “It’s part of who David is. He is constantly taking risks and conquering fears, but I never doubt his control or self-confidence. He knows the limits of his own body and the situation. He makes people nervous because they don’t understand the calculated input and outcome that David puts into everything he ever does.”

Somehow this young wife of a gold medal athlete is making me more relaxed about standing on the sidelines, watching extreme sports. She helped me understand that not only her own husband, but many other extreme athletes, continue to compete, safely, because they are as smart as they are athletic. They spend their off seasons—much like David Wise does, I’m sure—cross training, strengthening their bodies, learning the limits of their sport, and testing those limits in a contained environment.

Photo: Alexandra Wise

The logical next question I had for Alexandra was how much he talks about his sport with her. Having been a spouse myself for as long as Alexandra Wise has been alive, I know how important it is for spouses to support each other in their passions. But how much can an extreme athlete confide in a spouse whose name isn’t on the scoreboard too?

“Skiing is definitely a business,” she says. “It is how we live. There are many things to discuss as his wife, business partner, and supporter. But when it comes to tricks—he saves his breath for his coach. David knows I have no idea.”

Some of my favorite parts of the conversation I had with Alexandra involved how she loves watching her extreme athlete husband turn off his competition brain and turn on his daddy brain. This is a guy who travels a lot during the winter months. He has a lot on his mind. If he’s not focused, it can mean career ending injuries. But somehow he can turn that off when it comes to their 2-year-old daughter, Nayeli.

This is how Alexandra describes it, “the one thing in this world that can get David to slow down is skiing with Nayeli. He is so patient with her. When she’s had enough of skiing between his legs or inching down the bunny hill to his arms, he wisps her up onto his shoulders and they get some wind in their faces together.”

I guess parenting is the great equalizer. Nayeli will soon have a little brother to use her hand-me-down skis. Although David and Alexandra knew it, they didn’t reveal to friends and family that they were expecting again, even as they navigated the travel around a significant trip to Sochi. Once the hometown gold medal celebration died down, they finally broke their private, special news. The planet would soon greet another baby Wise, another potential extreme skier.

Photo: Alexandra Wise

The winter sports season is just about over. The off-season has arrived and it’s time to move on to spring and summer sports in our household. One of the great geek out moments of the 2013-2014 season for this GeekMom was a chance to stand on a snowy hill and ask the questions I’d been carrying around for a long time. I was lucky to have access to the wife of one of our favorite athletes. I have huge respect for the family members of these athletes and I walked away with a new understanding of the sport and what happens behind the scenes, when the television cameras have all been packed away.

Our family will continue to watch extreme sports and this is one mom who is now a permanent member of the David Wise fan club. Partly because of how talented he is on the slopes and in that half-pipe. And partly (mostly) because I now know more about the person underneath those dark ski goggles, including the rock solid spouse he so wisely chose to marry.

Why the ESPN Winter X Games (and the Olympics) Inspire This Mom

Snowboarder Scotty James, with Judy’s son, Sam, right after he’d completed his silver medal run. Photo: Judy Berna

One of our first priorities when we moved to Colorado was to check out the ESPN Winter X Games in person. My kids have grown up watching these games on TV, and enjoyed them as much as they did the Winter Olympics, which don’t come around as often. This year was our third trip to watch the Winter X Games in person and it was a double bonus that many of the athletes we saw there later climbed on planes and flew to Russia.

I’ve always loved how the Winter X Games inspired my kids. They’ll never be podium-seeking athletes, but watching others excel at sports they love pushes them to do their own personal bests. Once we caught the spirit of X Games in person, my love for them grew exponentially.

Having athletes fly over your head as you stand on the edge of the Superpipe is a very special feeling. Photo: Judy Berna

I’ve written about the X Games a few times before. My post from 2012 can be found here. And last year, after watching the summer X Games, I told you seven things I love about the games. Last year’s Winter X Games impressed me once again. And my theme continues—these are the sporting events that show an athlete’s true character. Time after time I’ve been deeply impressed by what these young people are like when they are up close and personal. They might inspire my kids by their athletic prowess, but they inspire this GeekMom by their incredible daily life examples.

The X Games are a unique event. In an age where professional athletes are bubbled off by body guards and security detail, Winter X Games is a place where a kid (or star struck mom) can stand right next to the big dogs, high five them after a great run, and sometimes even take a selfie with them before they do their next run. The kids on the front row, who went home with cherished selfies, paid nothing for the experience.

At Winter X Games the athletes glide through a chute lined with fans after each run. It’s encouraging to the athletes (especially after a not so great run) and a thrill for the fans. Photo: Judy Berna

The Winter X Games are free to the public. Even the shuttle from the parking lot is free. The only catch is that you get there a little early if you want a good view. The stands are set up to allow as much front row access as possible. When it would have been just as easy to have athletes shuttled off to the sidelines to catch their snowmobile ride back up the mountain, the event organizers instead set up a long chute that athletes glide through, that is lined with energetic young people, thrilled to be high five-ing their favorite riders between runs.

The practice sessions are open to the public. There are fewer spectators, meaning a closer view, and the jumps are just as high. It’s almost like everyone has a backstage pass.

The snowmobilers line up and get ready to do their jumps and races. Photo: Judy Berna

Once again this year I noticed the amazing camaraderie between the athletes.  The older ones encourage and cheer on the younger ones, who will some day take their place. Sure it’s a competition. They all want the top spot. But these kids understand the concept of being a human being first, an athlete second.

One of the bright stars of the women’s snowboard Superpipe was a girl named Chloe Kim. She got the second best scores at the Olympic trials in California the week before X Games, but will not actually go, because she’s…wait for it…13 years old.  She’s beating some of the top women in the sport and she’s still a middle schooler.

GeekMom Judy with silver medal X Games snowboarder (who is 13 years old), Chloe Kim.

There is no age requirement for the X Games, so after she’d had her fun at the Olympic Trials, she headed to Colorado to compete against the big girls again. I met up with her during practice one day and she’s the gem I’d hoped she would be. Sweet, polite, and apologetic when she was late for our meeting because she had to meet with her medical team about an injury at the last minute. I assured her I understood. Her time was much more important than mine that day, but she didn’t seem to realize it.

When she stood at the top of each run she was surrounded by women she’s grown up watching, the heroes in her sport. They weren’t icing her out and trying to get in her head. They were hugging her and wishing her luck. This little girl who had the skills to take their medals, and they treated her like she was a little sister. She left the 2014 X Games with a silver medal in her pocket.

Scotty James, stopping to take pictures with fans between his runs during competition. Photo: Judy Berna

Then we have a kid named Scotty James. He’s from Australia and ended up with a fourth place finish in the Ski SuperPipe at Winter X Games, but his bright smile and great attitude won this mom over. After each run during the competition Scotty made his way through the chute slowly, taking pictures with dozens of fans along the way.  You would never know he’d just come off a huge run in a world famous competition. The first time I met him, in the media tent a few hours before the competition, he was surrounded by reporters and yet still calm and collected. On his way out I asked him for a picture and he flashed that relaxed smile and said, “Sure!” before throwing his arm around my shoulder. “This…,” I thought to myself, “this is the kind of kid I love my boys idolizing.” He has every right to be fussy and demanding, and yet he’s as comfortable in a room full of reporters as he is hanging out with friends.

Snowboarder Scotty James, humoring this GeekMom with a quick picture, before he headed off for his competition. Photo: Judy Berna

This year, with the double dose, I’m seeing the same thing play out on our nightly recap of Olympic events. Many of the same faces we saw in Aspen are now fighting for a medal that honors their country. And I’m seeing the same character diamonds that we saw in Aspen.

One of the biggest examples is the story of Shaun White. If you don’t know the name Shaun White, I fear you’ve been living under a rock (or in a tropical location) for the past decade. Shaun White is the rock star of the snowboarding world. He’s won more medals and competitions than I have space to name. He’s got an stylish boy’s clothing line at Target stores that saved my preteen from having to wear clothes that better suited six year olds. My son finally enjoys shopping for new clothes, because they are great boarder styles, designed by his hero, Shaun White.

One of Shaun’s biggest accomplishments was winning the gold medal in two consecutive Olympic Games in the SuperPipe competition. This was going to be his year to get his three-peat. He’s been training for years, perfecting specific tricks, so that he could come to Sochi and earn his next gold.

Spoiler Alert coming: Shaun didn’t win gold. In fact, he didn’t even make it to the podium. The biggest name in snowboarding didn’t get a medal. It was humbling. It was sobering. It was hard to watch, in this house full of Shaun Super Fans.

Then the inevitable interview afterward. It felt a lot like the interview with Payton Manning after the Super Bowl. Everyone watching knows that all that athlete wants to do is go away, get some time alone, and maybe scream for an hour or two. But instead there is a microphone stuck in their face and silly questions are asked, like, “Are you disappointed?”

Just like the iconic quarter back after his Super Bowl loss, Shaun White showed his true character. He didn’t blame the horrible conditions of the Superpipe, that was designed wrong and filled with slushy snow. He could have. It was a known fact that conditions were bad.

He didn’t blame his coach. He didn’t get mad at the young men who did have medals around their necks. Instead he did the right thing. He did the winner thing. He hugged the kid who stood in the spot he’d become so comfortable in, and he accepted that he just hadn’t earned that medal. He said he was frustrated with himself, because he knew he could have done better, and it just wasn’t his day. Then he walked away with his head held high and our family’s respect still firmly in his camp.

Superpipe snowboarder Louie Vito, graciously takes a picture with GeekMom Judy’s son after winning the silver medal. Photo: Judy Berna

The Olympics, and the Winter X Games, are about so much more than a sport. They stand for more than just years of hard work and sacrifice. To this mom, they are a reflection of those athletes’ character. Win or lose, who will you be? That’s something I’ll drag my kids to Aspen to see and something that makes me forget about school night bedtimes. My kids can stay up late to watch, when their heroes (and mine) are front and center on the screen.

Winter X Games – It’s Time For Some Fun!

Photo: Judy Berna

It’s that time of year again! With the arrival of a new year comes the next edition of ESPN’s Winter X Games. I have four children, three of them boys who are constantly making ramps for their bikes and don’t know why anyone would ski on groomed trails when there are perfectly good forest trails to navigate. We’ve watched the X Games as a family since they first got the training wheels off of their bikes.

Photo: Judy Berna

In a stroke of luck, three years ago we moved to a town just a few hours away from where the Winter X Games are held. This will be our third year to attend them and I’m confident we will have as much fun this weekend as we have every other time we’ve visited Aspen for this event.

If you have a chance, by all means, show up in person. Admission is free, parking is free, and there are always great company samples to fill your backpack. Standing on the edge of the SuperPipe, watching the athletes flip in the air as they fly over your head, is something you (and your kids) won’t quickly forget. There are some amazing family memories to be made there.

But if you don’t live within driving distance, you can still catch a lot of the events on the television set in your family room. Curl up with your favorite hubby or kiddos and munch on a bowl of popcorn as you take in the action in the warmth of your own home. As the interest in X Games has increased every year, so has the television coverage. If you can’t watch the television coverage live, be sure to set your DVR and make a date the with family to meet up later. Here’s where you can find them:

Friday, January 24 on ESPN (all times Eastern)

10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Snowboard Big Air Final and Men’s Ski SuperPipe Final

Friday, January 24 on ESPN 3

12:30–4:00 Men and Women’s Boarder X and Men’s Ski Slopestyle

7:30–8:30 Women’s Ski SuperPipe

9:00 pm–12 a.m. Snowboard Big Air and Men’s Ski SuperPipe

Saturday January 25 on ESPN

2:00-4:00 p.m. Mens’ Snowboard Slopestyle Final

Boarder X Final

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle Final

9:00-11:00 p.m. Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe Final

GoPro Ski Big Air

Saturday January 25 on ABC

4:00-6:00 p.m. Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle Final

Boarder X Final

Snowmobile Long Jump Final

Sunday January 26 on ESPN

2:00-6:00 p.m. Men’s Ski SlopeStyle Final

Snowmobile Adaptive Snocross Final (Adaptive, meaning my great friend Mike Schultz will be there. He’s the X Games gold medalist who lost his leg in a training accident then came back to win golds in the adaptive version, making his own competition leg with parts from his garage. He’s definitely ‘one to watch’)

Women’s Ski Slopestyle Final

Snowmobile Snocross Final

9:00-11:00 p.m. Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe Final

Photo: Judy Berna

And then there is the Best of the X Games that will air the day before the Super Bowl, on Saturday, February 1st, from 2:00-6:00 p.m. on ABC. If you are a beginner to Winter X Games this might be a good show to start with.

Click here to find a description of the invited athletes and here to see videos of the action from last year.

My family and I are headed to Aspen first thing Saturday morning and we’ll be driving home late on Sunday night. By the end of next week I’ll be sharing with you what it was like, and which athletes you should keep an eye on, as the Winter Olympics head our way. I’m especially excited to tell you about a certain 13 year old snowboarder I met, whose talent is astounding and humble temperament refreshing. Now go set your DVR.

You can thank me later, after your family has made some pretty great new memories together.