The X Games are an annual extreme sports event organized, produced and broadcast by ESPN. Coverage is also shown on ESPN's sister network, ABC. The inaugural X Games were held during the summer of 1995 in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, United States. Participants compete to win bronze, silver, and gold medals, as well as prize money.
The X Games gained media exposure due to their big name sponsors, top-tier athletes, and consistent fan attendance. As the Journal of Sport Management (2006) explains, Generation X and Generation Y are the two demographics most highly valued by marketers. This creates a broad approach on marketing towards that certain demographic, which is why the X Games marketing and economic outlook is so "out of the box". According to a 2008 report by ESPN, in 1997, the Winter X Games inaugural year, 38,000 spectators attended the four-day event. In 1998, the attendance dropped to 25,000 spectators. But just two years later, a record attendance of 83,500 people attended the Winter X Games East Coast debut. The X Games and Winter X Games continue to grow with the popularity of action sports and the athletes who compete in them.
As part of the X Games, there have been performances by various rock bands over the years, as well as a DJ being on-site at all events. The X Games have made it a point since its founding to stage an eco-friendly event. Such measures include using biodiesel fuel in their vehicles and organizing recycling campaigns.
Variation of X Games logo, used for Winter X Games
The Winter X Games VIII in 2002 was the first time an X Games event was televised live and also had coverage by ESPN's flagship news program, SportsCenter. Viewership across the three networks that carried coverage of the event – ABC Sports, ESPN, and ESPN2 – exceeded 2001's household average by 30% according to Nielsen Media Research. The event also reached record highs in several demographic categories. To accommodate the first-time live coverage, nighttime competitions were added, resulting in record attendance for the Aspen/Snowmass venue in Colorado.
The 2002 Winter X Games was a significant year for ESPN and the X Games. It was the first year that the games were held in Aspen at Buttermilk Mountain. The Games continued to add new events including the ski slopestyle event, ski superpipe event, snowboarding, skateboarding etc. The most memorable incident of the 2002 Games was when the entire 2002 U.S. Olympic freestyle snowboarding team showed up to compete in the Winter X snowboard superpipe event, just weeks before the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Also in 2002, ESPN announced the establishment of the X Games Global Championship. The Global Championship featured two distinct venues hosting competitions in summer and winter action sports simultaneously. It consisted of six teams of the world's top athletes, grouped together by their region of origin, to compete in the four-day event. The winter sports were held in Whistler Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia, and the events included snowboarding and skiing.
The Winter X Games are mostly held in the United States in January, but can happen in February, while the Summer X Games are usually held in August. The location of the Winter X Games is in Aspen, Colorado, through 2019, while the location for the Summer X Games has been in Los Angeles, changing to Austin, Texas, in June 2014. The X Games also has international competitions and demos around the world that are held at varying times throughout the year. The games are shown live on television.
The Winter X Games are, as described by ESPN (2008), a competition compiled of the greatest winter action sport athletes from around the world competing on an annual basis. The competition has day and evening events including skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. The first Winter X Games took place at Snow Summit ski resort in Big Bear Lake, California, in 1997. The following two years, the Games were held at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. The two years following that, the Games were held in Mount Snow, Vermont. Since 2002, the Winter X Games have been held at Aspen's Buttermilk Mountain and will continue to be until 2024, according to ESPN.
During 2015's Winter X Games, ESPN used camera drones to capture aerial views of the athlete's runs. This was a first for ESPN.
In May 2003, the X Games held the Global Championships, a special event where five continents competed in 11 disciplines. The event was held in two locations: the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and Whistler, British Columbia. The final team results, in order, were the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia, and South America.
In May 2011, ESPN held a bid to select three host cities in addition to Los Angeles, Aspen, and Tignes, France, to form a six-event calendar for the next three years beginning in 2013. In May 2012, the selected cities were announced: Barcelona, Spain; Munich, Germany; and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. The two European cities have hosted the Summer Olympic Games in the past, whereas Brazil has provided several X Games competitors. Since 2010, Winter X Games Europe has been held in Tignes and also began holding events in Norway in 2016. An event in Sydney, Australia was held in 2018 and winter and summer events were also planned for 2019 and 2020 in China and a return trip to Norway in 2020.
X Games Chiba, the first edition to take place in Japan, was introduced in 2022.
Bob Burnquist managed an almost perfect Skateboard Vert run with a score of 98.00. This run is considered by many to be the best run ever in the history of skateboard vert, as Burnquist landed several tricks that had never been done before. Tony Hawk, who was commentating, nearly lost his voice while screaming in disbelief.
Mat Hoffman landed the no handed 900-degree spin on a BMX.
Mike Metzger landed the first backflip in X Games history. He also pulled off two consecutive flips; one of them over an 80-foot gap, in a competition run for the victory. He became the first person to win the event other than Travis Pastrana.
Mike Metzger wins his first gold of the competition in the Moto X Big Air/Best Trick with a no foot backflip.
Carey Hart takes home the silver, finally landing a backflip.
Travis Pastrana landed the world's first double backflip on a dirt bike, and won Moto X Best Trick with a score of 98.60, the highest current score in best trick. He also claims gold in the Moto X Freestyle event.
Jake Brown was hurt after landing the first 720 in Big Air competition. He fell from 40'+ and landed on his backside and back on the flat. The force of the fall knocked his shoes off. After 8 minutes laying motionless, he walked away with help. He suffered a fractured wrist, bruised lung and liver, whiplash, ruptured spleen and a concussion.
Simon Tabron made an X Games first, doing back-to-back 900s in BMX Vert.
2008: X Games XIV – Los Angeles (July 31 – August 3, 2008)
Danny Way clipped his shins on the lip of the quarterpipe after a 20+ foot freefall during the Big Air competition, which the commentators refer to as the "second worst fall ever at the X Games" (the first being Jake Brown's the year before). After spending a few minutes with paramedics, Way limped back to the ramp and went on to nail the trick he had fallen on, coming in second place, behind Bob Burnquist who scored a 96.00.
Ryan Sheckler won gold in Skateboard Street, his second gold medal at the X Games.
Jeremy Lusk won a gold medal in the Moto X Freestyle event.
Kyle Loza won his second gold medal in the Moto X Best Trick competition in two appearances by performing a never-before-seen move named the "Electric Doom".
Kyle Loza became the first person to three-peat gold Moto X Best Trick in controversial fashion by using the same trick he used to win in 2008, the "Electric Doom", especially after the judges had said that "innovation" would win the gold that year.
Ricky Carmichael fell and hurt himself on Moto X Step Up. Due to the circumstances, dual gold medals were awarded to Carmichael and to Ronnie Renner.
Pierre-Luc Gagnon won gold in Skateboard Vert for the second consecutive year.
In his first X Games appearance, the retired IndyCar champion Kenny Brack won Rally X gold over the defending gold medalist Travis Pastrana. In a TV first, co-drivers Jen Horsey and Chrissie Beavis commentate live inside the racecars.
Ashley Fiolek, 18, won the Women's Motocross Super X, becoming the Games' first deaf medalist.
Travis Pastrana competed in four events after pulling out of Best Trick at the last minute. He came back to freestyle after a 3-year break and took gold, pulling yet another double backflip, the first in Moto X freestyle competition. He had troubles in Rally, costing him gold in Rally Racing and the chance to compete in Super Rally, but came back on the bike and won his first gold in Moto X Speed & Style, beating Nate Adams
Ashley Fiolek won the Women's Motocross Super X for the second year running, becoming the only rider to do so.
Matt Buyten won gold in Moto X Step Up, beating the former champion, Ronnie Renner.
Jamie Bestwick became the first person to 4-peat with a win in BMX Vert.
Pierre-Luc Gagnon became the first athlete to win in Skateboard Vert three times, beating the silver medalist, Shaun White.
Cam Sinclair made what some call the greatest comeback in action sports history, winning his first X Games gold medal in Best Trick by pulling a double backflip, the trick that bit him hard in Red Bull X-Fighters only 8 months before, leaving him in a coma for seven days, and having him retrain his body, learning how to walk and, eventually, to ride again.
Ryan Sheckler won the X Games gold medal in Skateboard Street seeking redemption after his X Games XV mishap.
Nyjah Huston came first in the Men's Skateboard Street, his first X Games gold medal since his participation in the event at the X Games XIV.
Travis Pastrana fell while attempting a rodeo 720, or as he called it "The Toilet Paper Roll", in Moto X Best Trick, breaking bones in his foot and ankle. Despite the injury, he competed in RallyCross three days later using hand controls mounted to the steering wheel.
Jackson Strong landed the first frontflip on a dirt bike during Moto X Best Trick, claiming the gold.
2012: X Games 18 – Los Angeles (June 28 – July 1, 2012)
Bob Burnquist won his fourth Big Air gold medal, and his ninth total gold medals.
Ronnie Renner won the gold medal in Moto X Step Up, breaking the previous record height of 37' by 10' making it the highest ever at the X Games with 47'.
Elliot Sloan won his first gold medal in Skateboard Big Air, defeating Bob Burnquist, who earned his 26th X Games medal (bronze). Tom Schaar took the silver.
Vicki Golden won her third consecutive gold medal in Women's Moto X Racing, defeating Meghan Rutledge, after Rutledge crashed across the gap. She also became the 1st woman to compete in a freestyle moto X competition, earning bronze in Best Whip.
Vince Byron landed the first 540 double tail whip in BMX Big Air, earning the silver. Morgan Wade took the gold.
Jackson Strong landed a frontflip in Moto X Best Trick and took the gold. Strong had just returned from the hospital after he crash-landed on a double backflip during the Quarterpipe competition about an hour before.
Jamie Bestwick won his tenth gold medal in BMX Vert, landing an Alley-oop 540 Tailwhip (which hadn't been done before).
Scotty Cranmer broke his back when his BMX bike malfunctioned while attempting a backflip double tail whip in BMX Park.
Second Summer X Games to be held at professional or private training facilities, without an in-person audience. The decision was made in 2021 due to COVID-19 protocols, but also due to positive response from athletes, who enjoyed the relaxed "backyard" format.
Events were held at 3 separate facility venues, one in Ramona, and two in Vista: The CA Training Facility skatepark, and Elliot Sloan's backyard vert and megaramp setup, nicknamed "The Sloanyard".
ESPN confirmed that moving forward, all future summer X-Games events will be in-person events open to public audiences once again.
Kelly Clark landed the first 1080 by a woman in competition, in Women's Superpipe.
Torstein Horgmo landed the first triple cork in competition, in Men's Snowboard Big Air.
Shaun White became the first to four peat in Snowboard Superpipe in X Games history.
Sebastian Toutant wins gold as a rookie.
During the Snowmobile Best Trick, the brothers Colten and Caleb Moore successfully landed a two-man backflip but were disqualified because judges ruled the event as an individual sport. Daniel Bodin later took gold for the event.
Tucker Hibbert became the first Winter X Games athlete to six-peat in any event with his sixth gold medal in Snowmobile SnoCross.
Shaun White won Snowboard Superpipe for the sixth year in a row and in the process shatters the height record out of a halfpipe with a 24'1" or 7.3m backside method air.
Elena Hight became the first snowboarder, male or female, to land a double backside alley-oop rodeo during a halfpipe competition.
The first triple corks were landed in the Ski Big Air competition. Henrik Harlaut earned a perfect score with his nose butter triple cork 1620.
American snowmobiler Caleb Moore became the first X Games participant to die from injuries sustained at the event. He died on January 31, 2013, from complications of injuries suffered in a crash on January 24.
Two movies were filmed at the X Games. Ultimate X: The Movie was filmed at the 2001 X Games in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and X Games 3D: The Movie was filmed at the 2008 X Games and Winter X Games in Los Angeles, California and Aspen, Colorado.