ASPEN — Everywhere he looks at the Winter X Games, snowmobiler Colten Moore sees little reminders of his older brother.
Some are subtle — Caleb’s number, 31, on a parking lot sign or a building — and some are heartfelt — Texas-shaped stickers plastered on windows that read, “Ride in Peace.”
Returning to this venue a year after his brother’s death hasn’t been difficult for Colten.
No, it’s actually beneficial, because here, riding his snowmobile, he feels close to Caleb, who died Jan. 31 from injuries he sustained in a crash during the snowmobile freestyle competition.
“I know Caleb is out there riding with me,” Colten told The Associated Press before his competition on Thursday night. “I’m riding better than I’ve ridden in a long time. I know it’s him helping me out.”
A year ago, the Moore brothers arrived at Winter X fully expecting a one-two finish. That wasn’t bravado. These two brothers had the talent after years of racing all-terrain vehicles, before converting to snowmobiles.
They pushed each other back home in Krum, Texas, on a course built by their dad, Wade, which featured artificial turf leading up to the ramp and a foam pit that resembled an expansive above-ground swimming pool.
Caleb crashed on the night of Jan. 24 while attempting a backflip. His machine caught the lip of the landing area, sending him flying over the handlebars. The 450-pound sled rolled over him.
Later that evening, Colten wiped out, too, separating his pelvis.
At first, it appeared as though Colten might have sustained the more serious injury, especially since Caleb walked off with help from his father after suffering a concussion.
Soon after, Caleb’s condition worsened. He developed bleeding around his heart and was flown to a hospital in Grand Junction for surgery. He died a week later from internal injuries he suffered in the crash, the first fatality in X Games history.
“I just continue to push on,” the 24-year-old Colten said. “I’m riding for him, with him. Like I’ve said before, if I tried to quit and if he could, he’d smack me.”
Following Caleb’s death, ESPN, which sanctions and televises the X Games, reviewed its safety protocols, leading to changes that were announced two months ago. The organization now requires riders to wear body vests.
The snowmobiles also have to be equipped with “ski springs,” which keep the ski tips facing upward to allow greater ground clearance.
In addition, there will be extra perimeter protection for fans, a move made after a newcomer in the snowmobile best trick competition last January fell off his snowmobile with the throttle stuck, sending it veering into the crowd. That event has been eliminated from the program, replaced by the snowmobile long jump.
“We try to mitigate as much risk as possible,” said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming and X Games.
After his training session at Winter X, Colten returned to the trailer of his sponsor with his family gathered inside. He estimated about 30 relatives will show up to support him as he tries to win another gold medal in this event.
His stunts felt good during the practice run, he said, no hesitation or holding back.
“Just took me a little bit to get comfortable on all the ramps and stuff,” said Colten, whose picture on his Facebook page is an image split in two, one side Colten’s face the other side a photo of Caleb. “As soon as I did, had a good time out there.”
Colten custom-designed a helmet to honor his brother. There’s a roulette wheel on the back of it, with the ball resting on No. 31 — Caleb’s number, of course.
On the side, there’s a message that reads, “In loving memory of Caleb Moore” with a picture of Caleb’s sled along with a pair of wings.
Around his neck, Colten also wears his brother’s necklace as a tribute. And when it flies out from under his shirt on a stunt, he takes that as a sign.
“I look at all these little signs all the time, as him just showing me he’s here,” Colten said. “Not only helping, me but helping everyone out there. Anytime anyone needed a hand, Caleb was there.”