Danger, risk just part of the X-Games
experience for Chatfield native
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 3:21 AM
The 2013 Winter X-Games in Aspen, Colo., will go be remembered as the weekend when freestyle snowmobile competitor Caleb Moore suffered a tragic accident and died as a result of his injuries.
Chris Heppding takes to the air in his adaptive Sno-X race, held during the Winter X-Games in Colorado at the end of January.
Chatfield native and adaptive Sno-X racer Chris Heppding, who participated at this year's Winter X-Games, said, "It affects everybody."
Heppding was racing in his second X-Games and shared his thoughts on the tragedy. "The whole snowmobile community is very tight knit. If you follow it, you know everybody that's in it," he explained.
Moore died on Jan. 31 from complications of injuries he sustained in an accident during the Snowmobile Freestyle Finals event on Jan 24. The death was the first one that had occurred from injuries in an X-Games event.
Heppding shared, "It put a gray cloud over the entire event. It's definitely not what you want to take away from the experience."
However, for Heppding, his second X-Games experience was much more memorable and positive than his first in 2011.
Having flown down to Aspen in time for the beginning of the competitions on Jan. 24, Heppding, his wife, Colleen, and his two children, DJ, 6, and Danica, 4, were able to spend all the time they wanted around the extreme winter sports world.
"They always enjoy it," stated Heppding. "My son DJ understands more of what is going on, so he loved it."
One of the scarier moments Heppding was a part of, took place during the Snowmobile Best Trick competition. Competitor Jackson Strong's best trick attempt went wrong; he jumped from the sled, which then raced away toward a crowd of people, of which Heppding was a part.
He was able to dive away under a truck to escape the sled and nobody was seriously hurt by the runaway sled, but the event, along with Moore's accident, highlighted the danger in extreme sports.
"There is an inherent risk," stated Heppding. "Humans make mistakes and eventually something is going to go wrong."
He mentioned he thought freestyle snowmobile events will quiet down for a little while, but will still remain popular.
Even with the heart pounding events of the weekend, Heppding still raced. With the expertise of the Arctic Cat factory team behind him, his snowmobile was "top-notch" and his practice runs went well. He and his fellow adaptive racers pulled up to the starting line at 2:15 in the afternoon and according to Heppding, "Everybody brought their A-game."
"The riding was far better than two years ago," Heppding recalled. "The first couple laps were a fight."
Off the course, he said that all the guys are really cool and everybody gets along pretty well, but once the race starts, they are out to win.
The five-lap race for Heppding started off pretty well, with him running in a consistent fourth place for the first three laps. Then, he started to experience something called arm pump. This condition happens when the muscles prevent blood from leaving the arm, which lowers oxygen levels and increases lactic acid buildup.
"I got extremely winded," shared Heppding. "I couldn't brake the entire last lap and my arm was so dead I couldn't take my helmet off when I finished."
The sensation faded and he regained use of his arm, but it taught Heppding a couple lessons. "I need to work on my training for higher elevation."
Heppding isn't sure if this is his last time competing in adaptive Sno-X. "I think my Sno-X days are winding down. Other thing are taking priority," he shared. "I might go back again if they have it again at the X-Games, because this year's experience was phenomenal."
Until next season, Heppding will be spending his time with his family on camping trips in the summer. He plans on going to the motocross tracks as well.
It seems one can't get Heppding to ever stop loving extreme motor sports.