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Winter X Games keeps snowmobile freestyle event

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — The Winter X Games will keep the snowmobiling freestyle event as part of its program, adding extra safety precautions following Caleb Moore's death from injuries he sustained in a crash last January in Aspen.

ESPN, which sanctions and televises the X Games, announced Wednesday that one of the new requirements will be that riders wear body vests. Moore's 450-pound sled rolled over the top of him after a backflip gone wrong. He initially walked away from the crash, but developed bleeding around his heart and later died on Jan. 31. It was the first fatality in X Games history.

In addition, the snowmobiles also must now be equipped with "ski springs," which keep the ski tips facing upward to allow greater ground clearance. There will be added perimeter protection for fans after a newcomer in the best trick competition fell off his snowmobile with the throttle stuck in January, sending it veering into the crowd. That event has been eliminated from the upcoming Winter X program, which will be held Jan. 23-26.

ESPN said in a statement that changes for the competition came about after working "closely with athletes, risk management specialists and sport organizers in making this determination." Soon after Moore's death, ESPN scratched a snowmobile freestyle demonstration in Tignes, France, so organizers could review their safety procedures.

The Moore family recently said they didn't want to see Winter X cancel any snowmobile events. Colten Moore, the younger brother of Caleb, also competes in snowmobile events. "He (Caleb) wouldn't want them to stop doing what they were doing just because of that," Caleb's father, Wade, said in a recent interview. "That's what has kept Colten going. When I asked him, 'Do you still want to ride?' He was right quick to say, 'Yeah, I want to ride, because Caleb would want me to ride. When I ride, I feel closer to Caleb.'

"Caleb was just a happy-go-lucky kid living his dream and getting to do the thing that he loved to do basically as his job." There will now be four snowmobile events at Winter X — freestyle, snocross, snocross adaptive and the snowmobile long jump, which will make its return.

Another event being brought back is Snowboarder X, which features snowboarders flying down a course filled with jumps and bumps with plenty of jostling. Among the athletes already invited to Winter X include: Snowboarder Kelly Clark, seven-time Snowboarder X medalist Seth Wescott, slopestyle skiers Kaya Turski and Jamie Anderson, along with snowmobiler Tucker Hibbert, who's the most decorated snocross rider in the history of X Games.

Shaun White has been invited, too. He frequently uses this competition as a tuneup for the Olympics. The Sochi Games take place just a few weeks after Winter X.

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