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Winter X Games: The X Factor

At this year’s events, these four stars will shred the slopes and make gravity seem like a minor nuisance

Simon Dumont

Simon Dumont competes in the Skiing Superpipe Men's Elimination at the ESPN Winter X Games 11 on January 25th, 2007 in Aspen, Colorado.

Doug Pensinger/Getty

TANNER HALL, FREESTYLE SKIER
One of the downsides of being a pro skier famous for attempting the ridiculous is that all anyone asks you about are your crashes. Three years ago, Tanner Hall, the skier with the most wins in X Games history, shattered both ankles when he came up short trying to pull a switch 900 over the 120-foot-wide Chad’s Gap in Utah. He’d describe it “like someone packed dynamite in there, and my feet blew up.” But Hall came roaring back. He won the 2006 X Games, and he’s been on a roll ever since. Now twenty-four, the Kalispell, Montana, native is in his freeskiing middle age, and he finds himself drawn to big-mountain backcountry skiing. “It’s not giving up on competition,” he says. “It’s just opening my mind. I want to experience the most you can on skis. There’s nothing like flying in a heli and reaching a sketchy spot. It’s the final frontier.” Give Hall a lot of credit for skiing’s comeback against snowboarding. After years of being the dorkier sport, skiing is back. And yet Hall has only love for boarding. “Snowboarders paved the way for us,” he says. “It took too long for us to say, ‘Why can’t we do that stuff with skiing?'”

SIMON DUMONT, FREESTYLE SKIER
Raised in the backwoods of Maine, Simon Dumont has been on skis since he was three. He showed up at the X Games at fifteen, won the first of two gold medals at seventeen and almost died in a failed jump at eighteen. The video of that crash – he plummets eighty feet to the ground – became an Internet phenomenon. Dumont admits that he’s lucky to be alive. He fractured his pelvis and ruptured his spleen, but just six weeks later he returned to the slopes. Dumont, 21, figures he’s got five years of freestyle left in him. “Then I’d like to go backcountry and start landing in powder,” he says. “It doesn’t hurt so much.” At the moment, he has one goal: to reclaim what he feels is rightfully his. “The X Games are coming, and I’m gonna get my gold back.”

EDDIE WALL, SNOWBOARDER
Eddie Wall doesn’t need a mountain. Hell, he doesn’t even need real snow. Just give him a pile of ice shavings and some stairway railings, and he’ll kill an afternoon. Wall, 26, is one of the most fearless men in a sport full of nut jobs, where every rider is only as good as his last trick. And though the Pennsylvania-born Wall has yet to win a medal at the X Games, he has won nearly every major rail competition, including last year’s Union Square Street Sessions, held in downtown Manhattan. He was so hung over, he puked before his run. Which he claims is a good thing: “For filming, I can’t be hung over, but at contests I seem to ride better, maybe because I don’t think about it. I don’t recommend this all the time, though, it’s just happened to work out a few times for me.”

JULIA MANCUSO, DOWNHILL SKIER
The best American female skier of her generation, Julia Mancuso, is what you might call an attention magnet. The twenty-three-year-old Lake Tahoe, California, native’s gold-medal win at the Torino Olympics was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal American performance. Then there was her tiara. As a gag, Mancuso wore a prom crown for her slalom runs, prompting U.S. pro Picabo Street to say she was “unprofessional.” So Mancuso named her blog “Kiss My Tiara.” The tiara also inspired Mancuso’s forthcoming underwear line. “It’s lingerie meets long Johns,” she says. “Underwear is my calling.” Which explains her posing for cheesecake photos in red lace. “I want to show the world,” she says, “that it’s OK to be a pretty girl and kick some ass.”

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