ESPN shops future of Winter X Games | AspenTimes.com

ESPN shops future of Winter X Games

Jim Ryan/Aspen Times fileA crowd gathers at the base of Buttermilk during the 2012 Winter X Games. The future of the event in Aspen beyond 2014 is up for bid.

ASPEN – An ESPN announcement Friday cast uncertainty over the future of the Winter X Games in Aspen beyond 2013 and 2014.

The network said it’s launching a request-for-proposal process to determine what North American cities would be interested in hosting the Winter and Summer X Games in the coming years. The Summer X Games will be in Los Angeles in 2013 and 2014.

“The X Games has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, in large part due to the partnerships we have enjoyed in LA and Aspen,” said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming for X Games, in a statement. “As we embark on a year of unprecedented global expansion for the X Games in 2013, now is the perfect time to explore potential sites in North America for future X Games events.”

In May, after months of negotiations, Skico and ESPN announced that they had secured a contract to keep the Winter X Games at Buttermilk for two more years, which will mark the event’s 12th and 13th editions on Aspen snow.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Friday that ESPN’s announcement was expected.

“We’ve been in communication with them,” he said, “and we’ll be submitting a bid as we have every other time that our contract has been up. We still feel that this is the best partnership.”

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Hanle said ESPN’s announcement “doesn’t mean they’re not coming back, and it doesn’t mean they are coming back. Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess. We probably won’t know for a while.”

The Winter X Games has proven a boon for Aspen’s economy, filling up lodges, bars and restaurants during the duration of the event.

This year’s games drew 108,000 people to the base of Buttermilk over the four days of competition, including 45,600 for the Saturday contests, a single-day record for the event. Overall attendance set a record in 2011, with 114,200 people over four days.

For Skico to lure ESPN back to Aspen for the 2013 and 2014, it had to get local government entities and the business community to buy in.

Aspen City Council put up $125,000 to bring the X Games back, a $25,000 increase over its contribution in 2011. The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of members of the city councils of Aspen and Snowmass Village and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, put up $100,000 for transit service.

Also, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association committed $150,000, which comes from its bed tax. The Snowmass Village town government also put up $100,000.

Aspen lodges also agreed to give price breaks on guest rooms during the games.

The 2013 X Games in Aspen are slated for Jan. 24 through 27.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com