The X Games were originally supposed to be a biennial event, but they became so popular that they're now held every year -- the Winter X Games in late January, and the Summer X Games in August. Locations change, but the Winter X games will be held in Aspen, Colo., until 2012, while the Summer X Games will be held in Los Angeles through 2009.
If you tune into the Winter X Games, you'll catch events like these:
- Snowboard SuperPipe: Snowboarders ride from one side of a U-shaped pipe to another. As they catch air, they do spins and jumps. (Skiers also have their own SuperPipe competition.)
- Snowmobile SnoCross: Snowmobilers race each other around a track filled with obstacles and jumps.
- Slopestyle: This is a type of freestyle skiing in which the skier has to navigate through an obstacle course.
- Skier X: A competition in which skiers go head to head, competing to be first while perfectly executing jumps and other tricks.
- Big Air: Skiers gain momentum on a big ramp, then leap off it to perform amazing midair tricks.
At the Summer X Games, fans see events like these:
- Supermoto: Motorbike racers compete around a combination dirt-and-paved track dotted with small jumps.
- Bicycle Dirt Jumping: BMX bikers try to outdo each other while performing tricks on huge dirt hills.
- Skateboarding Vert: While riding up and down a U-shaped ramp, skateboarders perform amazing flips and spins.
- Wakeboarding Freeride: Part surfboarding, part waterskiing, competitors use the boat's wake to get in the air and do a variety of tricks.
X Games events may be unorthodox, but the prizes are just like those at the Olympics. For the winner, the top reward is a gold medal, followed by silver and bronze. There's also a much coveted cash prize. In past X Games, the prize money wasn't much to brag about. In fact, many extreme athletes complained that they were underpaid compared to athletes in more traditional sports. At the 2001 Summer X Games in Philadelphia, skateboarders went so far as to threaten a boycott. But in recent years, ESPN has grown deeper pockets. In 2008, the X Games doled out $3 million in prize money for the first time [source: Snowboard Magazine].
Winners can earn $50,000 for taking top prize in an event, but the money drops the lower a competitor places (10th place only pays $1,000 -- barely enough to cover the athletes' travel expenses) [source: Longman and Higgins].