Joe Parsons and Heath Frisby both believe they’re well prepared for another run at X Games hardware.
And should either reach the podium this week in Aspen, Colo., they’ll have the other to thank.
For the second straight year, the long-time friends, going back to their earliest days racing snowmobiles, have been working together up in the hills near Tieton — this year with fellow competitor Cory Davis — to prepare for their snowmobile events in ESPN’s annual showcase of extreme winter sports.
In such an individualized sport, where competitors strive to gain any little edge on an opponent, teaming up with a fellow combatant seems counterproductive.
Parsons and Frisby see it differently.
“It’s hard to be on your own,” Parsons said. “It’s more fun to be out with people on your own level than to get up in the morning and try to push yourself.”
“We’re super-close friends. It just works well,” Frisby said. It’s fun to do what you like with someone else.”
There’s a simple reason why they believe their method works.
Although both compete in all three snowmobile events at X Games — freestyle, speed and style and best trick — each excels in a specific event, Parsons in freestyle and Frisbee in best trick. That helps one achieve his full potential in their best event without jeopardizing the other’s specialty.
“We have niches,” Parsons said. “He’s focused on the one event I don’t do as well in and vice versa. We watch each other, see what we’re doing and give pointers.
“We help each other. We’re not worrying about the other.”
“We balance training with advising,” Frisby said. “I like that (best trick). I feel I get so much more done when I focus on one thing. Joe’s much more skilled in freestyle. He’s so smooth on the sled. His moves are crisp and calculated. I have more faith in him to win that event and if I can help him train to do it, great.
“I know where he needs to be in his event. I feel I can help him get where he wants to be and he can help me get to where I want to be.”
That was the case last season when Frisby won best trick for the second time in three years by performing the first-ever front flip in X Games history, with the Middleton, Idaho, rider calling his practice time with Parsons crucial in pulling off the unprecedented flip.
“Joe really helped me through it,” he said. “I wanted to be the first person to do it and I achieved my goal.”
Both riders say such teamwork, while unusual, has almost become a necessity.
“As far as competition,” Parsons said, “I may give an edge to one of these guys but the feedback I get from them may help me beat everyone else out there.”
Which, the Yakima rider adds, is becoming increasingly more difficult.
Improved competition has increased the need for innovation and for riders to continually upgrade their tricks.
“There’s never a stopping point,” Frisby said of pushing limits. “There’s a stopping point for riders, but someone is always going to try something different.”
Parsons, who believes this will be the toughest year to medal in freestyle since he began competing at X Games in 2008, said that puts added weight on their two months of preparations.
“You have to come up with something new,” Parsons said. “We cram in new tricks and see what works.
“The key is to find a balance. You have to go to the edge and do something new but not to the point where you’re uncomfortable or potentially get hurt.”
Developing something new can be a real challenge, especially when a 500-pound snowmobile is involved.
“You can build on something you know or dream something up,” said Parsons, noting that his bronze-medal winning Best Trick last year, a move called the “Gator Wrestler,” came to him during an exhibition in Union Gap, about a week before the games.
“I pretty much came up with that out of the blue,” he said. “I was going to do one thing but my body went into a position I had not done before and it just evolved from there.
“Some days, you get pretty beat up and feel like crap, and other days, you find a new trick (like that) and you do feel great. It all depends on where your comfort level is.”
Continually developing and refining new moves is particularly important in Parsons’ signature freestyle event, a 1 1/2- to 2-minute ride in which riders perform eight or nine tricks.
“I have two or three new tricks I’ve put into the freestyle run,” he said of this year’s routine. “You have to do something different. The judges will notice if you did not change your routine (from the previous year).
“You have to cycle out the older tricks. The hard part is integrating them into the run.”
After settling on the tricks and their order, Parsons works tirelessly to become as comfortable with them as possible.
“You have to make it all second nature in your head,” he said. “If you start to focus on one thing (in the routine), it’ll all go wrong. Everything has to be pretty flawless.”
Ultimately, overcoming those mental pressures, rather than the physical demands, is the toughest challenge, he said.
It’s stressful,” he said. “You push yourself further and further and wonder why. It’s a real mental struggle.”
Now, just five days away from the start of X Games, the pressure to prepare has waned and Parsons and Frisby are comfortable knowing they’ve put themselves in the best possible position to succeed in Aspen.
“At the end of the practices you feel the pressure to get it all done,” Parsons said. “These last few weeks, I’m fine tuning stuff and feel pretty good. I’ll just try to put my best foot forward and see what happens.”
“We compete to be the best in the world and every one of the best in the world is there at X Games,” Frisby said. “I really see us doing well. We just have to focus and step up our game.”
It’ll certainly help having a friend at their side.
Yakima’s Joe Parsons has won nine medals in the Winter X Games snowmobile events since 2008.
2011 speed and style
2009 speed and style
2012 best trick
2008 speed and style
NOTE: Parsons will compete in the freestyle, speed and style, and best trick in this year’s event, Jan. 24-27 in Aspen, Colo, de