It’s official: X Games Aspen set to return to Buttermilk in January with no fans
Snowboard icon Shaun White, Aspen gold-medalist Alex Ferreira among invited athletes
Buttermilk, it’s time to get sendy, and no, we’re not talking about Friday’s opening day. ESPN made the official announcement Tuesday morning that its annual snowsports spectacle, Winter X Games, is slated to return to Aspen for the 20th consecutive year from Jan. 29 to 31.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event will look and feel decidedly different this winter. ESPN is sticking with only the skiing and snowboarding events, meaning mainstays such as snowmobile and snowbike contests will not take place.
The entire event will be closed to the public and on-site staff will be limited, although ESPN will push the virtual experience to keep fans engaged.
X Games Aspen 2021 is set to include nearly 100 athletes in 14 disciplines, with ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC airing 13.5 hours of live competition from Buttermilk. Events will include ski and snowboard superpipe, slopestyle and big air for both men and women. Also making its return will be knuckle huck for skiers and snowboarders.
What’s certainly not lacking are star athletes, with ESPN’s initial list of invitees including the who’s who of the snowsports world. This includes snowboard icon Shaun White, who has not competed at X Games since 2017, when he finished 11th. His last competitive event period was the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he dramatically won halfpipe gold on his final run.
Also set to return this winter is halfpipe snowboarder Chloe Kim, who sat out last year’s event at Buttermilk. Aspen’s Alex Ferreira, the two-time reigning X Games champion in halfpipe skiing, is also back. He’s the only local athlete confirmed as of Tuesday morning.
All athletes will have to fill out Pitkin County’s Travel Affidavit, ESPN officials told the county’s board of commissioners during a meeting Tuesday, and they are allowed one other person, either a coach or a manager. ESPN’s staff also will have to fill out the affidavit and bring proof of testing with them.
“With the difference in the event this year, the athletes will not be coming with the large groups that you might have seen in the past,” said Vanessa Anthes, ESPN’s associate director for X Games. “They are here to do a job, and they will be coming with a manager or a coach. … It will not be an athlete plus 10.”
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.
Aspen City Council approved a contract with Daniel Joseph (DJ) Watkins during Tuesday’s regular meeting to move forward with his intentions to operate his proposed “Aspen Collective,” which is currently occupied by Mia Valley’s Valley Fine Art.