Brandon Cormier competes in the X Games Aspen 2020 snowmobile freestyle event on Jan. 24. Cormier, an X Games rookie, won gold in the event with an 88.00 score. (Olivia Duncan/Olivia Grace Photography)

Yukoner Brandon Cormier strikes gold at X Games Aspen

The 24-year-old rookie won gold in the snowmobile freestyle event

Whitehorse’s Brandon Cormier is the X Games Aspen 2020 snowmobile freestyle gold medal winner after an eventful second run propelled him to victory on Jan. 24 in Aspen, Colo.

In his debut at the X Games, Cormier came out strong with an 81.33 on his first run that was good for third place after all competitors had finished one 75-second run.

It only got better from there for Cormier as he put down an 88.00 on his second run to win the event, punctuated by a body varial on his final jump that Cormier managed to land and stick despite facing the wrong direction with both legs on one side of his sled as he hit the ground.

“It feels pretty unreal, actually,” said Cormier about his gold at the X Games. “(It’s) years and years of hard work and meeting the right people and meeting the right riders.”

His invitation for the X Games was originally simply as an alternate.

“I wasn’t even in the competition, I was just pretty much an extra rider they had,” said Cormier. “Someone ended up backing out of the comp, so I ended up getting into the comp.”

What stole the show for Cormier though, was his final trick.

Taking off from the jump, Cormier extended his body backward and shifted his right hand from the handlebars to the right side of his seat. Cormier then released his left hand and used his right arm to spin his entire body around once on its vertical axis before regrabbing his seat and landing.

That last step, though, is where things got interesting. After finishing the varial, Cormier was nearly perpendicular to his sled and with the ground fast approaching, he held on to the right side of the seat with right hand while tucking his legs under him from the left, where his body had drifted.

When he landed, Cormier had his left hand on his right handlebar, his right hand on the right side of his seat, and his legs on the left side of his sled. And his head was more or less facing the back of his sled.

“At the training camp at Camp H, me and (Brett) Turcotte were riding together and it was one trick we both thought of and we both tried it,” said Cormier. “We both had it pretty good and we were dialed with it. Then when we went to the show, Brett crashed on two of them and I somehow accidentally landed on the sled. It was kind of just a survival thing — it was an accident, but it worked out I guess.”

Cormier said his inspiration for the trick came from Chuck Carothers, a motocross rider who landed a body varial at the 2004 X Games on a dirt bike, and Caleb Moore, who did the trick previously at the winter X Games.

Neither one, though, had a landing quite like Cormier’s.

“I kind of just knew I could save it. Somehow I did save it,” said Cormier. “I knew it was sketchy, but it looked like it got everyone excited.”

While the event ended in gold for the Yukoner, he did face some challenges along the way.

Cormier’s sled was underpowered compared to the competition, since the elevation at Aspen saps as much as 30 per cent of the power from a sled, he explained.

“Everyone else had (modified) sleds and they’re set up for the elevation,” said Cormier. “I was a little underpowered, but I wasn’t complaining. I thought I would just try my best and work with what I had.”

Although he was third after his first run, Cormier’s sled did not emerge unscathed.

“On that first run — on the very first jump — I ended up breaking a pretty important part on my sled, so I kind of just had to improvise,” he said, crediting his mechanic for getting the sled back in order for run two.

“I knew what I wanted to do on the second run so I just went out there and winged it.”

Daniel Bodin finished second with an 87.33 and Willie Elam finished third with an 84.00.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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