Steamboat snowboarder Matt Ladley preps for Winter X Games |

Steamboat snowboarder Matt Ladley preps for Winter X Games

Luke Graham

Matt Ladley

— Like most aspiring snowboarders, Matt Ladley grew up playing the Winter X Games video game and watching the Aspen staple unfold on ESPN each winter.

After spending the past two years as an alternate for the X Games SuperPipe event, Ladley — who is having his best season yet — now has a full invite for Winter X Games 15's marquee snowboard event.

"It's cool just being in there," Ladley said in between training runs Tuesday. "Now, I'm part of it. It's cool to look back and see I made it. I'm pumped to finally be a part of it."

The elimination round begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, with ESPN slated to broadcast live from 7 to 10 p.m. The top eight make Sunday's finals, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ESPN's live Sunday broadcast is from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Ladley, who battled a collarbone injury last season, has been on a tear this season. In addition to a fourth-place finish at a Grand Prix event, Ladley is third in the Winter Dew Tour SuperPipe standings, thanks to second- and sixth-place finishes in two events.

"He's growing up and he's physically stronger," said Jon Casson, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's snowboard director. "He's injury-free and he's not in the pressure of an Olympic year, which was brutal on the riders last year. I know he's having a blast because every time I see him he's smiling. He's consistently been up there with the top riders in the sport."

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Ladley said his first goal at the X Games — where he'll be competing with the likes of Mason Aguirre, Scotty Lago and Shaun White — is to make the top eight and qualify for Sunday's finals.

Although he didn't have a trick list finalized Tuesday, he said his set most likely will be determined by what other competitors do and what score he thinks he'll need to advance.

After the X Games, Ladley will continue on the Dew Tour and Grand Prix circuit.

He also hopes to attend the U.S. Open in March and the European X Games in France.

Until then, his focus is in Aspen, where he'll be living out a long-standing dream.

Getting on the podium "would mean the world," Lad­ley said. "It's something I've always dreamed of."

Former Winter Sports Club member and 2010 Olympian Callan Chythlook-Sifsof will compete in the X Games snowboard cross event.

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