ESPN will bring testing, contact tracing teams for Aspen X Games in January |

ESPN will bring testing, contact tracing teams for Aspen X Games in January

Network that hosts annual Buttermilk event will have bubble-like protocols for 2021 edition

ESPN will attempt to create a bubble for staff, athletes and crew at next month’s Winter X Games at Buttermilk.

That means the network will bring in its own medical staff, testing program and contact tracing capability for the 500 pre-approved people expected to pull off the televised-only, no-spectator event this season, Vanessa Anthes and Danny Chi of ESPN told Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.

“We will do our own contact tracing,” Anthes said. “And we will work to provide the public health department with all the information we” learn about any positive cases.

Tiffany Greenlee with Pitkin County Public Health confirmed to commissioners that ESPN’s medical staff will work closely with local public health staff on any necessary isolation and quarantine measures. If an X Games athlete tests positive for COVID-19, he or she will be placed in isolation and not allowed to compete, Anthes said.

Positive cases will not, however, cause the network to cancel the competition, set for Jan. 29 to 31, she said. The safety plan recently approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not contain a threshold metric that would cause the Winter X Games to be canceled, Anthes said.

Besides testing and contact tracing, the X Games staff and athletes will comply with Pitkin County’s traveler affidavit program, which requires a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of traveling here, she said. Face masks will be required at all times, attendees will be regularly monitored and screened and social distancing will be observed, Anthes said.

Athletes will only be allowed to bring one other person with them — generally a coach or manager, she said.

Chi said the event will be very different than previous years, with the usual party atmosphere and concerts and village eliminated. The network also will bring in catering for the crowd, though it will be take-away type food, he said. Also, those staying at other hotels besides the Inn at Aspen will have designated shuttles to take them to and from Buttermilk.

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies will be on-hand if needed, though they will not be onsite for the most part. A private security company will be part of the bubble.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said at Tuesday’s meeting that ESPN officials have “bent over backwards” to protect X Games participants and the Aspen and Pitkin County community.

Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said she was concerned about holding such an event in the middle of a pandemic, but hoped for the best.

“Let’s aim for a zero COVID case event,” she said.


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