Aspen’s X Games party in full force this weekend, college-budget style
They’ve ordered a special supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys at New York Pizza. At Escobar and Bootsy Bellows, the lounges’ top-shelf champagnes are on ice. The J-Bar is stocked with Jagermeister — and Monster Energy drinks and Red Bull. Just add vodka.
All that’s left now is somebody to drink them.
That shouldn’t be a problem with the Winter X Games and its posse of fans and followers, along with the hordes of athletes and media members who are in Aspen this weekend.
“In terms of X Games and overall drinking, it’s still PBR strong,” said Jeremy Barbin, a representative for Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado. Barbin’s main clients are Aspen bars and restaurants. “Talk about a brand that has resurrected itself from the dead.”
Indeed, Pabst Blue Ribbon enjoyed a 71.5 percent sales growth from 2008 to 2013 for no apparent reason other than “the brand seems to have captured a coolness factor that sells beer quite well,” mused 247wallst.com.
New York Pizza has proven popular with revelers of the athletic spectacle’s now 14-year run on Aspen snow. Manager Emily Krenz VanAmburgh said they’ll likely run out of PBR — of which they specially stocked a bevy of 24-ounce tallboy versions — by the time the weekend ends.
“We love the X Games,” she said.
The J-Bar expects big crowds as well.
“We expect to sell a lot more Red Bull and Jagermeister for the weekend,” bartender Felipe Erligh said.
The Wine Seller, located inside Carl’s Pharmacy, typically sees college-age adults on a tight budget this week, said manager Fritz Mawicke.
“Fireball and beer,” he said, are the most popular beverages of choice for the X Games crowd. Like PBR, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky also is on the upswing thanks to the younger generation, totaling $126 million in retail sales in 2014, a 129 percent surge over 2013, according to published reports citing IRI, a market research firm.
The Winter X Games are held the weekend before the Super Bowl, usually in late January. Booze is banned at the Buttermilk venue with the exception of this weekend’s concerts. The city of Aspen doesn’t track alcohol sales for the week of the X Games, but January sales over the past three years have shown slight upticks.
In January 2012, Aspen cash registers rang up $899,262 in liquor sales. In January 2013, sales increased to $923,685, and last year they totaled $930,665, city finance data show.
Barbin, who said he sold some top-rate champagne to both the Bootsy Bellow’s and Escobar nightclubs for the weekend, said aside from the X Games crowds, the moneyed set has returned to its big-spending ways pre-Great Recession — whether it’s during the holiday weeks, Gay Ski Week or Presidents Day weekend.
“People have money in their pockets now and they’re not looking at the prices,” he said. “People are willing to spend again for good things.”
Those drinkers’ pleasures include sipping high-end tequilas, craft bourbons and locally made spirits. Flavored vodkas are waning in popularity, he noted.
“It’s interesting. For a lot of people I’ve talked to, it used to be vodka-soda. Now it’s tequila-soda,” he said.
Craft cocktails also aren’t in the high demand they once were, he said, “because people didn’t want to wait 20 minutes for a cocktail.”
“We’ve gone to a simple — in a good way — classic cocktails made really well, like manhattans and old fashioneds made with good ingredients, your primary spirit with two or three modifiers, tight and good,” he said.
Mawicke said the Wine Seller sold a bottle of Bordeaux this ski season “pushing $1,000.” He agreed with Barbin that consumers are spending more on higher-end beverages.
“Right after the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, people were more frugal,” he said. “But the last few years have been really good. And New Years was off-the-charts record-breaking.”
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”