Get ready to rumble |

Get ready to rumble

Allyn HarveyAspen Times Staff Writer

You might liken it to the ultimate monster truck rally.Big sports. Big arena. Big crowds.Only instead of monster trucks, its monster athletes on skis, snowboards, snowmobiles and motorcycles looking to catch the most air and stick the best trick.And instead of a domed stadium, the arena is the entire base of Buttermilk Mountain.And instead of fans who are all into same thing, namely monster trucks, the crowds at the X Games include the historically unlikely combination of motorheads, skiers, snowboarders and motorcycle fans.Welcome to the show. Live and ready for prime time. ESPN Winter X Games VIII.This is the third consecutive year the Buttermilk base has been given over to the X Games. The parking lot is filled up with trailers and equipment for athletes, media and support crews. The area around Bumps Restaurant is lined with vendors tents and, more importantly, prime spots for spectators.And despite it all, the mountain is open for business.Much about Winter X Games VIII is exactly the same as Winter X Games VII. Theres no parking at either Buttermilk or the Inn at Aspen. But theres remote lots and lots of public transportation to get people to the games. (See related story.)The competitions are essentially the same, as well. Boardercross, snowboard slopestyle, snowboard superpipe; skiercross, ski slopestyle, ski superpipe; snowmobile snocross, snowmobile hillcross and Moto X best trick.The Moto X best trick competition is, in fact, the same deal as last years Moto X big air.The Moto X big air has been renamed now its Moto X best trick, explained ESPNs Chris Stiepock. The athletes said they wanted it to reflect what it really is.Another change that fans may notice is that the slopestyle course has switched places with the race course, or X course, for boardercross and skiercross. Stiepock, general manager of the Winter X Games, said the change eliminates two problems: A lack of pitch in slopestyle and the narrowness of the race course.The biggest physical change of all, however, is the relocation of the superpipe downslope toward the main viewing area. The Aspen Skiing Co. dug a trench into the hillside last summer to bring the event one of the Winter X Games most popular closer to spectators.I think people will notice a lot of the subtle things, Stiepock said. Weve added a Jumbotron screen at the top of the superpipe.Even bigger than all of that, however, is the fact the ESPN is broadcasting the games live to audiences around the nation and the world for four nights beginning Saturday at 7 mountain time.Its the first time the games have been broadcast live, and it was the impetus for shifting the schedule to Friday through Tuesday. Last year, the games ran Thursday through Sunday.The fact that Buttermilk is open for business to anyone interested in skiing or snowboarding continues to be a difficult message to convey amid all the hype around the games.In fact, the mountain is open for business and is offering some special deals to placate customers who are more interested in recreating than spectating.For those willing to wade through the 50,000-or-so fans at the bottom of the mountain, the Buttermilk Ski & Snowboard School is offering 2-for-1 small group and beginner lessons through Feb. 1, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle.Off sight, there are parties running every night, some open to the public, some not.On Saturday, theres a fund-raiser put on by the group Boarding for Breast Cancer (see story, page 3). On Monday, the band Fishbone will be performing at Iguanas at the base of Aspen Highlands. And on Tuesday, three blocks of downtown Aspen are being closed for a free concert by the punk rock band Offspring. The show is scheduled to start around 6 p.m., following the conclusion of the Aspen Rail Revolution rail riding contest.For those looking to get away and stay away from it all, its probably a good time for a hike up Highland Bowl.[Allyn Harveys e-mail address is]