By Devon O'Neil
ASPEN, Colo. - Iron River's Nick Baumgartner and snowboardcross will return to the Winter X Games.
Iron River’s Nick Baumgartner, a champion snowboardcross racer and off-road truck driver, is a member of Team Wheaties.
“Our Team Wheaties family includes a diverse group of athletes from a wide range of sports and seasons,” said a General Mills spokesman. “Each of these athletes was selected because of their ability to inspire others and because they exhibit championship behavior both on and off the field of competition. We look forward to sharing Nick’s inspiring story and being a partner with him on his journey. There are so many remarkable athletes from who are deserving of honor and recognition, and we congratulate them all. “
Baumgartner, via his Facebook page, said it’s “so cool to be a part of Team Wheaties. They are going to play a big role during my Road to Sochi (and the Winter Olympics).”
As the world's best freeskiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers prepare to compete in central Colorado on Jan. 23-26, ESPN this week announced the sport disciplines and initial wave of invited athletes for X Games Aspen.
Two familiar disciplines, snowboarder X and snowmobile long jump, return to this year's X Games after brief hiatuses - snowboarder X last appeared in 2012 while snowmobile long jump (then called Knockout) last appeared in 2010.
Adding intrigue to X Games Aspen, the competitions will serve as the final major snowsports event before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Ten of the 17 events to be contested in Aspen also will be featured in Russia when the Olympics start two weeks later.
Among those events, longtime X Games disciplines ski and snowboard slopestyle and ski superPipe will make their Olympic debuts. They'll join existing Olympic disciplines snowboard superpipe and snowboarder X as events that made the leap from the X Games to the Olympics.
"We're excited to showcase the talents of over 200 world-class athletes at X Games Aspen," said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN senior vice president of programming and X Games. "Since 1997 the Winter X Games has become the pinnacle event for the world's best, and this year many of these athletes will also be representing their countries at the Olympic Games in Sochi right after X Games Aspen."
Among the first wave of invited athletes are Seth Wescott and Baumgartner. Wescott, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, will vie for his first X Games gold medal in a career that has seen him win four silvers and three bronzes, many of them behind longtime rival Nate Holland.
Baumgartner, in addition to competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics, owns World Cup and X Games gold.
ESPN and ABC will televise a combined 16 hours of live X Games coverage from Aspen in high definition, with an additional 10 hours of competition being carried live on ESPN3.
Baumgartner is now preparing for the World Cup snowboardcross season, opener Friday, Dec. 6, at Montafon, Austria.
"Great day training in Austria," Baumgartner reported Friday on Facebook. "I worked on rollers, jumps and some methods to keep the stoke alive.
"Snowboarding is fun. I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do. Thanks everyone for your support."