Personally, I would go for the X1, Usually on bikes designed the next year, they take in all the reviews, and problems from previous bikes, and work on improving them, but they both look like great bikes, I guess it just relies on what looks best to you.
Escape is better to learn on, lets you do more things, outside of trail riding (urban, easier to commute with, etc. etc. etc.) and looks damn strong. Hardtails RULE!! Pick up the escape and join the hardtail club!!
Well personally i have a 2004 escape 8.1 that i bought for my girlfriend. I love this bike its so nasty looking and burly. Plus all the guys at my LBS love the fact that my hot ass girlfriend rides such a nasty bike its cool. Also a guy i work with has a 2005 X1 that i have ridden on the trail and its equally as awesome as the 8.1. The only thing is that it seams to have a little bobbel when out of the saddle pedaling compared to my Jamis Dakar.