Security lined up for the X Games
Ryan Summerlin January 23, 2013
ASPEN – As usual, local law enforcement agencies plan to beef up their presence for the ESPN Winter X Games this week in anticipation of many thousands of spectators at Buttermilk Mountain and hordes of youths carousing through downtown Aspen from Thursday through Sunday.
And they are stressing the following, for those who don’t know the rules: Drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking pot at the X Games are forbidden and likely will result in an official escort out of the venue.
The message is the same for those wanting to party on the streets of Aspen: No boozing and no toking allowed. By the way, that’s a rule that’s in place 365 days a year, not just during the four-day event.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said his X Games incident team will consist of 12 deputies, four officers from the Aspen Police Department, two bomb experts from the city of Grand Junction’s bomb squad, 30 Colorado National Guardsmen and 10 members of the Department of Homeland Security.
Several observers from the Vail Police Department will be on hand. They are seeking to observe local crowd-control techniques in preparation for the 2015 World Ski Championships. And 10 Colorado State Patrol officers will be in the area, mostly working along Highway 82 near Buttermilk, DiSalvo said.
ESPN has hired PES Security, of Tempe, Ariz., to provide a 100-member combination of security officers and what the company calls “event safety stewards” for the event’s four days, DiSalvo said.
Meanwhile, the Aspen Police Department is planning to have an increased presence on city streets, said Chief Richard Pryor. Instead of three to four officers on patrol duty in the evening and night hours, there will be seven or eight.
For those who appear to be unable to handle their drug or alcohol intake, there will be a remote detoxification facility in the Rio Grande Meeting Room next to the Pitkin County Jail at the northern end of Galena Street, behind the county courthouse, Pryor added.
At last year’s event, authorities took nine people to the acute-intoxication center on Friday night and eight on Saturday. The unit – a partnership involving the Aspen Hope Center, Aspen Ambulance, the Aspen Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office – made its debut during the 2012 Winter X Games.
While local authorities say they are preparing for anything and everything that could possibly happen when up as many as 45,000 teens and young adults stream into the area on a single day, they also stress that the event is typically free of major problems.
DiSalvo said those caught drinking or smoking pot at Buttermilk probably won’t be arrested, but they’ll likely be sent away.
“Over the years, the Buttermilk venue has been a no-smoking, no-alcohol, no-drug zone,” he said. “If we see someone lighting up a bowl, we’ll say, ‘Put it out, and leave.’ No, I’m not going to write tickets at the X Games for anyone caught smoking tobacco or smoking a joint in public.
“It’s an alcohol-free event,” DiSalvo continued. “Alcohol by far is a much greater problem. We historically do not take a lot of weed off of people. We smell it and know people are using it. But go out there, and you will see garbage cans full of beer and whiskey and vodka and everything else.”
Pryor said that contrary to reports of those who have witnessed it over the past few weeks, he hasn’t heard of people smoking marijuana on Aspen’s streets since the Nov. 6 passage of Amendment 64, the statewide referendum to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
He pointed out that Amendment 64 doesn’t allow for public smoking of marijuana. However, if police notice someone smoking pot in public during the X Games weekend, or anytime for that matter, that person will be contacted, Pryor said.
“Our approach to that will be an educational one,” he said. “We are going to explain to them what the amendment says at the moment. Obviously, we’re all waiting to see how the (Colorado General Assembly) addresses this as well.
“It’s not a high priority for us,” Pryor said of curtailing public marijuana use. “At the same time, some parameters have been established, so we’ll probably just educate people if we run into that. That’s the message that has gone out to the patrol staff.”
Neither the Sheriff’s Office nor the Police Department recorded any arrests at Buttermilk during the X Games last year. During the four-day period, police made three arrests involving underage drinking, an offense that occasionally surfaces in the city on weekends during ski season, even when there is no major event.
Last year, total attendance at Buttermilk over the four days of X Games was estimated at 108,000, a 5.5 percent decrease compared with 2011’s record high of 114,200. This year’s event will mark 12 years that the event has taken place at Buttermilk.