The X Games franchise, which started in 1995, broadened both the audience and the participant pool for these sort of spectacular but high-risk events.
Impressed by the highlights, to say nothing of the young audience they draw, the Olympics has added several disciplines over the past 15 years — namely snowboarding, in race form, on the halfpipe and, beginning in 2014, on the slopestyle course.
As those events have grown into the mainstream, their respective industries have grown through equipment sales, vacation packages and lift tickets. A bad week on snowmobiles at the X Games, however, does not concern leaders in the industry, who say recreational riders recognize the clear demarcation between a casual weekend with friends and what the competitors try in the X Games.
“You never see it where we go,” said Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association. “That’s just pushing it to the extremes, which is why they call it the X Games.”
Buoyed by steadily growing success since his X Games debut in 2010, when he earned a bronze medal, Moore had a full schedule planned for this season, in an attempt to earn his share of the still-limited prize pool competitive snowmobiling generates.
Moore’s death will leave a gap in the sport, depriving it of a man LaVallee called “a fierce competitor” with a “very creative mind” — the sort of traits that keep daredevils pushing the envelope and entertaining fans for pennies on the dollar compared to what NFL players or NASCAR drivers can make.
The risks they take, however, are every bit as serious, and now their sport is in the spotlight.
“It does look bad for the sport in general,” said Tucker Hibbert, a winner of six straight X Games snowmobiling titles in SnoCross, who skips the more dangerous freestyle event. “But at the same time, when you see someone doing something amazing and cool, and record-breaking on a snowmobile, it sheds good light on what we do. It’s the nature of sport in general. You have to deal with it. For me, I love riding snowmobiles, enjoy racing and riding. You have to do everything you can to be safe and take precautions you need to avoid injuries and crashes.”