X Games

X Games

The X Games is an extreme sports competition that is presented twice a year by ESPN, the sports television network


5 - 12+


Experiential Learning, Geography, Human Geography

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Morgan Stanley

The X Games is an extreme sports competition that is presented twice a year by ESPN, the sports television network. Athletes from around the world compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals, as well as money and prizes.

The X Games consists of two versions: a summer competition and a winter competition. The first summer games were held in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, in 1995. The winter competition was added two years later, at Big Bear Lake, California. Currently, the winter games are always held in Aspen, Colorado, and the summer games are always held in Los Angeles, California.

X Games events can vary from year to year, but generally consist of skiing, snowboarding, BMX biking, and skateboarding. Many X Games athletes compete in world championships. For example, Sarah Burke, from Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, has been named one of the best freestyle skiers in the world. She is a three-time X Games gold medalist. Other X Games athletes represent their countries in the Olympics. Shaun White, who has won Olympic gold medals in snowboarding, is also an X Games athlete. White, a native of Southern California, has won X Games medals in both snowboarding (at the winter games) and skateboarding (at the summer games).

Winter Games

The Winter X Games is held in a snowy mountain environment and features winter sports such as snowboarding, skiing, and snowmobiling. Competitors in those sports face off in a variety of different ways.

In Skier-X (also called ski cross) and Snowboarder-X (also called boardercross), athletes do not race individually, the way they do in most sports competitions. Athletes in Skier-X and Snowboarder-X race head-to-head, going down the mountain four–at–a time. The courses feature a variety of terrain, including jumps, moguls, and bank turns. Ski cross was an Olympic sport for the first time in 2010, when the Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

In a Winter X Games event called slopestyle, skiers or snowboarders individually choose their own route through a course with many of the same features and obstacles as Skier-X and Snowboarder-X. But instead of trying to get down the course as fast as possible, they use the features to perform tricks and are judged on how well they perform them. There are also competitions to see which athlete can perform the best trick or get the most air, or height, off a jump. Travis Rice, who learned to ski near his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a snowboarder who competes in slopestyle events.

The X Games snowmobiling competitions include Snocross, in which competitors race on snowmobiles around a track with steep jumps and obstacles. Snocross competitions are held outside the X Games, too, with the world championships held in Falun, Sweden.

Summer Games

The Summer X Games is held in a warm environment and includes competitions in skateboarding, BMX biking, motorcycling, rally car racing, and surfing.

Skateboarders compete in the half pipe, a hollow semi-circle made of concrete. Athletes skate up and down two opposing ramps and perform tricks when they reach the top. There is also a competition for the best trick and most air off a jump. In "street" competitions, skateboarders skate around a park of obstacles and perform tricks. Skateboarder Tony Hawk, from San Diego, California, is probably the best-known X Games athlete in the world. In addition to having an outstanding sports career, Hawk has a successful skateboarding video game series.

BMX bikers also compete on a half pipe and a street course. They also perform tricks. Anthony Napolitan of Youngstown, Ohio, for example, landed the first double-front flip on a bicycle at Summer X Games 15 in 2009.

Motorbike riders have similar events, along with a "supercross" race around a dirt obstacle course with steep jumps. Travis Pastrana, from Annapolis, Maryland, is one of the top motor sports athletes and competes for Team Puerto Rico in international competitions.

Athletes from around the world compete in the X Games. There have been X Games athletes from such countries as Brazil, Japan, Belgium, Australia, and Italy. In 2003, athletes from six different regions—the United States, Europe, Canada, South America, Asia and Australia—competed in the X Games Global Championships in winter and summer sports. The United States, Europe, and Australia placed first, second, and third.


X Games Environmentality (XGE) is a program to make X Games fans and viewers aware of environmental issues. The program promotes recycling and waste reduction. In addition to promoting recycling at events, X Games organizers use biodegradable cups, plates, and napkins. These materials are made from corn and potato waste. The paper used at the games is made from 100 percent post-consumer waste.

The X Games "Get Caught Recycling" program gives fans an added incentive to recycle. At the events, fans who are caught recycling are rewarded with tokens that can be used for goods and services.

Fast Fact

X Marks the Spot
The X in X Games symbolizes many things. X is short for extreme, which defines many of the dangerous, risky sports in the competition. X is also the mathematical symbol for the unknown, which X Games fans have come to expect.

X is also the label applied to the generation born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s. When the X Games debuted in 1995, many competitors were members of the last part of Generation X. Generation X was also the intended audience for the X Games. Now, most competitors and viewers are members of Generation Y, born between the early 1980s and 2001.

Media Credits

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Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Santani Teng
Hilary Hall
Tara Ramroop
Erin Sprout
Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau
Hilary Costa
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Tim Gunther
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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