No outdoor concert venue, but there’s still some action off the slopes at the comeback X Games
In the beforetimes, going to X Games Aspen might not actually mean going to the X Games competitions at Buttermilk Ski Area.
You might not have seen a single skier or boarder on snow. You might have come for the A-list concerts, the bar-hopping, or because you scored an invite to one of the many over-the-top parties hosted by various Marleys and sponsors in venues around town, mansions on the hillsides or (in the case of the famed Monster party) on top of it all at the Sundeck. You might leave Aspen to head back to your college dorm at the end of the weekend trailing a cloud of Juul vapor and energy drink cans but not having cheered a single double cork or knuckle huck.
This year is different, with no events big enough to overshadow the sports, as vaccinated fans return to Buttermilk but where the off-piste action is slightly subdued. Most notably there is no music festival running concurrently with the comps and welcoming some 5,000 fans to see the hottest pop acts play in sub-zero conditions.
The events, the packed bars and, most likely, the crowds won’t be the size of those earlier years. Downtown, of course, many will want to pay respects at Eric’s Bar, which has been the epicenter of late-night X Games partying for nearly two decades, and which is now set to close for good. At Buttermilk, ESPN is hosting a scaled-down X Fest with DJs and sponsor giveaways and the like, and Belly Up Aspen is hosting a four-night run of shows that’d rival any year’s X Games concert main stage lineup.
Amid the post-vaccine pandemic and the weariness of the omicron surge, it’s a hopeful sign for future X Games – a sort of X Games weekend in miniature, with the promising addition of an X Games/Gay Ski Week collaborations that may reshape both events in the years to come. Here’s what’s on the docket.
Friday, Jan. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 23 @ Buttermilk
Sponsor swag giveaways, a dedicated DJ stage where TJ Mizell will be ringleader, two beer gardens, athlete meet-and-greets are among the action a X Fest, running all day and through the comps each night just below the competition courses. Among the high points is Saturday’s #GirlsWillBeGirls day with Kari Traa.
GAY SKI WEEK MEETS X GAMES
Thursday, Jan. 20 @ Wheeler Opera House
Saturday, Jan. 22 @ Silver Circle Ice Rink
Sunday, Jan. 23 @ Buttermilk
An experiment that could reshape the X Games scene, the collaboration between X Games and Gay Ski Week has potential to reshape both events as they seek a boost after toned-down pandemic-restricted affairs in 2020.
The partnered events kick off on Thursday night at the Wheeler as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Monét X Change and Bob the Drag Queen take the stage for a stand-up performance and live recording of their podcast “Sibling Rivalry.” Expect to see a lot of the pair over the weekend. They will also be at Buttermilk serving as commentators for Saturday night’s men’s ski big air and Sunday’s men’s ski slopestyle comps (follow along on X Games social channels). And on Sunday night, when out and proud Gus Kenworthy is expected to compete in the ski superipe final, the Gay Ski Week crowd is expected to be out in full force as the festival will have a viewing area at the base of the pipe and has designated Buttermilk its mountain of the day sending the Gay Ski Week crowds to the ‘milk.
And for kids, X Games and Gay Ski Week are on Satuday hosing “Shred Hate, Choose Kindness” at the Silver Circle Ice Rink in downtown Aspen on Saturday
FERG, ILLENIUM, LOUIS THE CHILD
Thursday, Jan. 20 through Sunday, Jan. 23 @ Belly Up Aspen
Welp. The X Games music festival had become the biggest pop music event of the year here before the pandemic, with three or four days of chart-toppers on Panda Peak. Hopefully that’ll be back next year after two Games without it, but Belly Up is keeping the music playing. The music club, which normally hosts the X Games headliners for intimate concerts before or after the big Buttermilk shows, has booked three artists worthy of any stage: rapper A$AP Ferg making his local debut on Thursday, Jan. 21 ($85), Denver-based EDM superstar Illenium on Friday and Saturday ($180-$375 Friday, sold-out Saturday) and pop duo Louis the Child on Sunday (sold-out). Illenium and Louis the Child, it’s worth noting, are alumni of the X Games main stage, having played well-received sets in 2020 and 2019, respectively. These are hot tickets for people who are doing inside things these days. Bring all three back to Buttermilk next year and nobody would complain.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.