On Jan. 24, four-time X Games medalist Caleb Moore, 25, crashed his snowmobile during the snowmobile freestyle event at the 2013 Winter X Games in Aspen. According to ESPN, Moore was attempting a back flip when his snowmobile nose-dived into the top of the ramp. He landed facedown in the snow, his vehicle rolling over his body and down the hill.
Moore walked — with help — off of the ramp, and went to the hospital to be treated for a concussion. He died Jan. 31 of a brain complication and bleeding around his heart, according to news reports.
Moore was the first person to die in 18 years of the Winter X Games, but the number of serious injuries is staggering. At this year’s four-day event, at least six athletes were sent to the hospital in ambulances, according to the New York Times.
Colten Moore, younger brother of Caleb Moore, separated his pelvis in a crash on the same course a half-hour after his brother crashed. Other serious injuries included a fractured spine, an injured knee and a concussion. During Jackson Strong’s run in the Best Trick event Jan. 27, a runaway snowmobile ran into the crowd, causing spectators to scatter, while a little boy hurt his leg while trying to get out of the way.
In 2012 in Aspen, X Games athletes paid a tribute to Sarah Burke, a freestyle skier who died in a half-pipe accident in Utah Jan. 19, 2012 — a week before last year’s games. She was 29.
A little more than two years earlier, in the same half-pipe where Burke’s accident occurred, snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained a traumatic head injury, which ended his snowboarding career at age 22.
I get it — the X-Games are supposed to be the pinnacle of extreme sports, but intensity comes with inherent risks. At what point, however, does it go from avant-garde athleticism to unnecessary danger?
Why was it necessary to flip a nearly 450-pound snowmobile mid-air? Caleb Moore’s life ended because of the mounting pressure in modern snow sports to push the boundaries of safety and physical possibility.
Whether it is from one’s personal motivation to achieve and innovate or from outside expectations of grandeur, these sports have reached a level that exceeds extreme and catapults into excess.
Measures need to be taken to prevent accidents like these from happening. In nearly all professional sports, when life-threatening injuries occur, safety measures and new regulations are implemented. It’s a shame, though, that for snow sports, it takes a death to spark the discussion.
I’m not arguing the athleticism and value within extreme sports. It’s because of my support that I wholeheartedly believe reform needs to happen. These young, promising athletes should be able to excel and shape the sport, just under safer guidelines.
It doesn’t matter how cool it looks to land a crazy new trick. No back flip is worth a life.