ASPEN - Aspen, Lake Tahoe, Park City and Quebec.
All are North American contenders to host ESPN's Winter X Games starting in 2015.
With final preparations for X Games at Buttermilk well under way - the event's 12th edition on Aspen snow takes place Thursday through Sunday - ESPN this week announced that more than 20 cities have qualified as contenders to host the summer and winter versions of the games once existing agreements with host cities Aspen and Los Angeles expire. Aspen Skiing Co. has an agreement to host the winter games at Buttermilk through 2014; the deal to hold summer contests in Los Angeles expires after this year's event.
Not all of the cities, including some winter sites, were revealed in ESPN's announcement, which listed 13 places that have met initial qualification guidelines for the Summer X Games and four that are contenders for the winter event.
Winter sites identified and the host entities include: Aspen/Snowmass (Aspen Skiing Co.), Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. (Lake Tahoe Sports Organizing Committee), Park City, Utah (Park City) and Quebec City and Le Massif de Charlevoix, Canada (Quebec Snow Sport Events Inc. and Gestev Inc.).
Prospective hosts submitted letters of intent, according to ESPN. Two cities will be selected as hosts for three consecutive years once the existing agreements expire. The next step in the process involves submission of the detailed proposal to be a host.
The cities that qualified to submit a bid proposal all met four basic criteria, according to Danny Chi, a spokesman for ESPN. They include having the ability to meet the event requirements and having the experience and capability to host the games.
"Obviously, we know Aspen Skiing Co. does," he said.
The overall commitment of the host city and the "marketplace growth potential" for action sports and the X Games franchise also are criteria, Chi said.
"The aim is to explore different options and determine what is best for the progression and growth of the X Games franchise," said ESPN in its announcement of the potential host cities. Official proposals from the qualifiers are due April 2.
ESPN and Skico announced in May that they had reached an agreement to hold the Winter X Games at Buttermilk in 2013 and 2014. When the sports network announced in October that it would seek proposals from other hosts, Skico officials said the company would enter the bidding process in hopes of keeping the event at Buttermilk.
"As of next week, we'll have a 12-year track record of being outstanding hosts," said John Rigney, Skico vice president of sales and events. "I think ESPN has a great partner. I also think they've become part of the fabric of the community at this point."
Last year's games drew an estimated 108,000 people to the base of Buttermilk over the four days of competition, including 45,600 for the Saturday contests, a single-day record for the event. Overall attendance set a record in 2011, with 114,200 people over four days.
For Skico to lure ESPN back to Aspen for 2013 and 2014, it had to get local government entities and the business community to buy in.
"There's a lot that goes into hosting it. We do what it takes to get it done right," Rigney said. "You can just see by looking at the course build - the course and the events themselves evolve every year."
Aspen/Snowmass is the only Colorado area on ESPN's list of qualifying potential hosts, but not every potential host city wanted to be revealed in ESPN's announcement, according to Chi.
The summer group includes Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Long Beach, Minneapolis, Montreal, New Orleans, Pasadena and Philadelphia.
ESPN expects to announce the 2014 site this summer and the 2015 location by the end of the year.