In 2019, X Games debuted the knuckle huck discipline for men’s snowboarding—a loosely structured contest in which riders “huck” themselves over the lower knuckle of the big air jump, avoiding the kicker ramp used in the big air competition and finishing in the landing area. Organizers added a men’s skiing iteration to the lineup in 2020.
Knuckle huck became a fan favorite almost instantly. In contrast to ski and snowboard slopestyle, halfpipe and big air, in which riders get a finite amount of runs to impress judges with tricks typically—but not always—involving as many spins and off-axis flips as possible, knuckle huck doesn’t encourage any one “ideal” way to do a run.
During a 20-minute jam session, riders take as many runs as possible and are dynamically ranked based on overall impression. (No scores are given out.) Judges consider execution and difficulty of maneuvers, variety, progression of attempt, originality and style.
The event has been a breath of fresh air within X Games’ programming. Riders love knuckle huck because they get to show off their personal style and get a respite from the repetitive tricks of their typical runs. Fans love watching it because it’s more similar to the things they do on the mountain with their friends than a triple cork 1440 is.
Streetstyle snowboarding and skiing has been moving back into the mainstream as of late; Dew Tour debuted a “super streetstyle” event this past February, and major sponsors like Red Bull have supported the discipline with rail jam–style events around the country.
While many of the smaller rail jam–style events have gender divisions, women didn’t have their own X Games knuckle huck event—until now. In 2024, women’s ski and snowboard knuckle huck will make their debut at X Games Aspen.
In 2021, snowboarder Jamie Anderson competed in knuckle huck alongside the men, but giving women their own medal events has always been the biggest catalyst for progression in action sports.
“This is a massive move for X Games; it has been a long time coming,” skier Taylor Lundquist, who is among the first wave of invited female skiers in knuckle huck, told me.
“For years, women have been pushing the limits of sport beyond belief. The level went up very high, very fast. I never thought I would see the day of double flips or 450-degree spins onto rails—and here we are! Making a women’s category is a no-brainer; it’s crucial because we need representation to progress the sport and help dreamers dream.”
The women’s ski knuckle huck first wave of invited athletes includes Lundquist; Olivia Asselin, the 2022 women’s ski big air bronze medalist; and Rell Harwood, making her X Games debut.
Women skiers and riders have been receiving more and more sponsor support to film video parts not only in the backcountry but on the streets. Streetstyle snowboarder Grace Warner signed with Burton and Red Bull in 2022. Lundquist is on the Dakine ski team and was voted Female Skier of the Year in 2019 and 2020 for her performances in Jyosei and Strictly’s Welcome and Bermuda films.
Not all skiers and snowboarders who make their living filming video parts want to participate in the competition circuit, and that’s fine. But women at least need to have the opportunity.
Sometimes the two career paths converge, such as in X Games’ Real Ski series, which invites riders to submit a video segment to be judged by a panel of experts. Lundquist was the first woman invited to submit a part in 2021.
“A female being invited to Real Ski was a step in the right direction, but women need a separate category, so I pushed X Games hard on that,” Lundquist said. “I was the only female skiing against the five best male street skiers in the world. There needs to be more space for women in action sports, and I will continue to fight for that.”
Ultimately, the ski and snowboard knuckle huck competitions have proven so popular with X Games athletes and viewers alike because they get back to the sports’ roots—with accessibility and enjoyment being core values.
“Skiing doesn’t have to be exclusive to a certain sex, class or color; it should be for everyone,” Lundquist said. “Events like Real Ski and knuckle huck take us back to the roots of freestyle skiing. You don’t need to be a trained athlete to have fun on knuckles of jumps or slide handrails in the city.”