Skier X. PHOTO: ESPN

In a relatively unexpected move, ESPN pulled the plug on three Winter X Games sports, pushing Skier X, Snowboarder X, and Mono Skier X off the docket for 2013 and leaving many in the ski world scratching their heads.

“[The athletes] are all bummed. [The] X Games brought a ton of exposure and good prize money into the sport[s],” says Daron Rahlves the 2008 Winter X Games Skier X Gold medalist. “With it gone now it’s going to really hurt…the athletes. X was the proving ground.”

Over the past decade the Winter X Games put the three sports on the map. From the X platform, Skier X and Snowboarder X became World Cup and Winter Olympics events. Snowboarder X was one of the first events added to the X Games bill in 1997, with Skier X joining the next year. Mono Skier X made its debut in 2005.

With the announcement, the future of the sports is up in the air. While FIS still considers Skier X and Snowboarder X World Cup disciplines and Olympic sports, the move by the X Games has potential to effect the core of the sport.

According to Skier X athletes, the Winter X Games was the catalyst that pushed the boundaries of the sport.

“FIS tamed down the discipline from the X Games level,” says Rahlves, a former Olympian in both alpine and Skier X disciplines. “I hope [they] take what X Games has done…and progress the sport with track builds to show off the best skilled athletes.”

For now, the future of the sport lies in FIS’ hands. And while the X Games’ decision won’t kill the sport on the international level, the move could be a domestic death sentence.

“I don’t think it will change the following for the sport in Europe for the World Cup and Olympics, but the U.S. will lose interest,” says Rahlves. “Out of sight, out of mind.”