A perfect fit: Aspen and Winter X Games
It’s difficult to imagine Aspen losing the ESPN Winter X Games, a possibility that stands somewhere between distinct and slim.The annual event, which is in its 16th year, has been held at Buttermilk Mountain on the outskirts of the city limits since 2002. Aspen Skiing Co.’s contract with ESPN to host the games is about to expire, and negotiations are under way to renew the arrangement. We hope and trust that Skico, the business community and local governments all will do their part in a combined effort to keep the X Games in Aspen for at least another decade without giving away the farm.The Aspen Times reported Wednesday that John Rigney, Skico vice president of sales and events, is the lead negotiator in talks with the international sports network. “We’ve got 10 years of history (as the host) and an incredible community on our side,” Rigney said. “This should work out.”Yes, it should, because Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley have the infrastructure, the high-quality work force and the good old-fashioned know-how to stage a world-class event.Sure, there are a few negatives associated with being the host city – Skittle-punk visitors don’t make the best tippers, and our municipal and county services are stretched to maximum capacity – but the positives far outweigh the problems. Occupancy rates for hotels and lodges during the event’s four days are about as high as they can be in Aspen, while Snowmass Village’s hot beds also are selling well. The exposure the community receives through national TV broadcasts is immeasurable. Amid a winter season with lackluster snowfall and skier visits that aren’t exactly on a record-breaking pace, the X Games are a nice shot in the arm and a reminder of why we need the event.Plus, think of all the excitement the event and its associated competitions have generated over the years. Who can forget 2006, when Jeaux Hall landed the 1080 in the halfpipe after 17 tries? What about the year that followed, when Peter Olenick revolutionized halfpipe competitions with the first-ever “whiskey flip”? Or last year, when Shaun White became the first four-peat superpipe champion in X Games history? Of course, these are but a few of the highlights. Anyone who regularly follows the winter event has their own fond memories of greatness.Will it get any better? History says “yes” because every year the athletes set new standards.Local residents certainly sacrifice peace, quiet and convenience on X Games weekend. The bright lights, public-address systems and rock music near the base of Buttermilk can be seen and heard far away from their sources well into the night. RFTA buses tend to fill up with rowdy riders and an almost unbearable stench. The usually well-maintained city streets display a light coat of litter on Monday mornings after the games finish Sunday night. Our clubs, restaurants and snack shops are filled to capacity, and despite Aspenites’ many connections, they still might not get served in the timely fashion to which they are accustomed.These are things we can deal with in the name of economic vitality. Let’s hope the X Games, like the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and Aspen Food & Wine during the summer, are here to stay. We need them, they need us, and it all works out quite well in the end.Put simply, the X Games and Aspen are synonymous. Let’s keep them together.
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