X Games boasts fame, money

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Erin Simmons has a chance to make $20,000 for minutes of work this weekend in Aspen.

Winter X Games officials on Thursday announced the $20,000 purse for the winner of the women's Snowboarder X, and the base of Buttermilk Mountain was abuzz about the cash reward.

This is Simmons' fifth year at the Winter X Games -- ESPN's growing snow sports extravaganza -- and each year brings its own excitement.

"The made-for-TV thing puts a different spin on it," Simmons said Wednesday en route to Aspen from Steamboat Springs. "We're in their hands instead of us being in control. It's not a relaxed atmosphere. It's all geared for TV. In that respect, it seems so quick. We don't even have quarterfinals. We have two heats. Because it's live, they've cut it down so small."

Simmons is coming off an 11th-place showing at the World Championships less than six months after reconstructive surgery on her right knee. It was just her second race back, and while she hoped to finish higher, the top-16 finish guaranteed her funding from her home country of Canada as she pursues a spot on its Olympic team.

Simmons is a coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club when she's not competing. Simmons expects the Snowboarder X course on Buttermilk Mountain to be tougher than the one she competed on in Canada at the World Championships.

"There will be big gaps so if you don't clear them you're inside it," Simmons said. "In the X Games, they put in scarier, more crazy features to weed out the girls that don't want to do it."

Don't expect Simmons to bow out early. The petite boardercross competitor has made a name for herself as much for her fearlessness as her results. Last year, Simmons won the consolation round, placing seventh at the Winter X Games to get an invitation back.

The Snowboarder X is essentially a race down the course. Fastest woman wins.

Thursday was training day for many of this year's 230-plus athletes. Simmons will be competing in Friday's seeding rounds. Should she advance, her races begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.

ESPN and ABC are broadcasting this year's event live, including 7 p.m. nightly broadcasts on ESPN. ESPN's SportsCenter also is broadcasting live from Aspen.

In addition to Simmons, the following athletes with Steamboat ties have been invited to compete in this year's Winter X Games: Pep Fujas, freestyle skier and former student at The Lowell Whiteman School; Brett Buckles, Skier X racer and former Lowell Whiteman student; and Suzan Dole, Skier X racer and former student at Lowell Whiteman. Dole also is a Winter Sports Club coach.

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