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January 15, 2014
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It's the waiting game on X Games' future in Aspen

Aspen Skiing Co. once again is in a contract year for the Winter X Games and hopes to secure the event with a multi-year contract.

The X Games will return to Buttermilk for the 13th straight season Jan. 23 through 26. A two-year contract for the event between ESPN and Skico expires after these games.

“We have bid on an extension, for certain,” said John Rigney, Skico vice president of sales and events. He is Skico’s point man in negotiations with ESPN.

Rigney said he believes Skico has a great track record as host of the event to sweeten its bid. Audiences continue to grow. Television viewership continues to grow. More people are accessing information on the Winter X Games via a growing universe of online options.

Few other ski resorts have the flexibility of devoting a ski area’s base to the event, Rigney said. Skico has the flexibility because it operates four ski areas. The base of Buttermilk remains open to skiers and snowboarders during preparation work, but the focus is building the halfpipe and various courses for competition as soon as holiday crowds disperse. Some of the work starts before the holidays, and then it shifts into a feverish pace after New Year’s Day. Rigney said he is proud of Skico’s expertise in preparing for the event and the community’s ability to provide the army of volunteers needed to pull it off.

“I think we can stand pretty tall here,” he said. “I feel good about our bid.”

Rigney declined to discuss how much money Skico invests each year in hosting the X Games. He said the needs vary a bit from year to year.

ESPN hasn’t announced if other resorts have placed bids for the X Games contract or when a contract will be awarded.

“We look forward to making an announcement in the near future. Until then, we’re very excited and focused on the upcoming X Games Aspen event later this month,” ESPN spokesman Danny Chi said in an email.

That was consistent with Rigney’s information about the status of awarding a contract.

“There’s no word,” he said. “We’re focusing completely on next week.”

ESPN eliminated X Games held in other countries this year. It now is concentrating on one X Games in the winter and one in the summer, both currently in the U.S. That puts the remaining two events squarely on “center stage,” Rigney said.

Skico believes the event continues to boost the exposure of Aspen-Snowmass to skiers and snow-sports fans around the globe.

The X Games first were held at Buttermilk in 2002 after bouncing around during the first five years of their life between Big Bear Lake, Calif.; Crested Butte; and Mount Stowe, Vt.

Rigney’s records indicated Skico started with a two-year contract and then went to a three-year deal followed by a four-year deal. The last two contracts have been two years each.

A multi-year contract for the event would be most beneficial to Skico for planning and efficiency, Rigney said. He acknowledged that ESPN has to make decisions based on what it believes is best for the event.

Rigney said there is no guarantee that Aspen will retain the X Games, but it won’t be for lack of desire on Skico’s part or lack of effort to keep the event.

“I don’t think there’s a better place,” Rigney said. “I’ve heard nothing out there that makes me think there is a better bid than ours.”

“I’ve heard nothing out there that makes me think there is a better bid than ours.”
John Rigney
Aspen Skiing Co.

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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 16, 2014 02:24PM Published Jan 16, 2014 07:16AM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.