Caleb Moore had medalled four times as a snowmobile rider going into this year's Winter X Games, ever since he moved from all-terrain to snow terrain. True to form, he found himself in the freestyle finals on Jan. 24 at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. On the last leg of the run, he'd have a crash, the kind they'd play in slow motion enough times for you to call your roommates in to join in your wincing oh's and ah's.
In a trick he's landed several times previously, Moore's backflip was under-rotated, and he was knocked off when the sled's ski tips spiked the landing ramp. The sled flew into a full 360 and landed, skis-down, on its 25-year-old rider.
Moore lay trampled in the snow unconscious surrounded by medical staff. But he allowed fans to maintain dignity in watching modern winter gladiators when he awoke, answered a few simple questions, and walked off the hill. He had a concussion, on top of the previous 10 he had estimated in a New York Times interview after the race.
ESPN ran the rest of the competition--Moore was the first competitor to ride. Risk is what makes actions sports what they are and what makes the X Games such a large draw in terms of competitors and fans alike.
But with the same grace he used to walk off the hill, exactly one week later, Moore made his final exit. When he was being examined for his concussion, doctors had found bleeding around his heart and he was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. Thursday night, attempting to recover from emergency surgery, Caleb Moore passed away.
Put a revved up ATV on some skis and these crashes are not hard to picture in your imagination. After all, our ever expanding and increasingly graphic imaginations are what powered the idea of rotating a 450-pound sled 360 degrees off a snow ramp. The problem with snowmobile freestyle is that it is still in an infant stage, a stage where awe far outweighs notions of regulation.
ESPN released a statement Thursday night offering condolences to the Moore family and promising a thorough review of snowmobile freestyle as a discipline.