Pitkin County says it’s ready for Winter X Games
This week marks the 14th year Winter X Games will use Buttermilk ski area as its venue, which has law enforcement and transportation officials feeling confident about logistics and public safety.
Members of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the event’s title sponsor ESPN gave county commissioners an overview Tuesday of their preparations for the event that starts with the Women’s Ski Superpipe Final tonight and concludes with a concert late Sunday afternoon.
A few changes will be evident this week. The Sheriff’s Office will use the new Mountain Rescue Aspen facility as its incident-command center, the concerts will be held at the Buttermilk venue instead of Wagner Park in downtown Aspen and Buttermilk’s bus-passenger drop-off area will have a new look.
“It’s going to be our first year to use the Mountain Rescue building and we’re looking forward to that,” said Brad Gibson, the Sheriff’s Office’s incident commander for the X Games. “It’s very well set up for incident control.”
The new building, which opened last year, is located roughly a quarter-mile downvalley from Buttermilk off Highway 82.
Officials also are expecting big crowds for the three concerts, which include Snoop Dogg hitting the stage at 6:15 p.m. Friday, Saturday shows by Chromeo at 4 p.m. and Skrillex at 9:30 p.m., and a 4:30 p.m. Sunday performance by Wiz Khalifa.
“Because of the venue with concerts at Buttermilk and because ticket prices are fairly reasonable, we may see more people coming from the Front Range not for the X Games, but they want to see the concerts at these venues,” Commissioner George Newman said.
The general public is prohibited from consuming booze at the athletic events, but it will be sold at the concerts.
“There will be alcohol at the concerts, but we’re not planning on it to be a big issue, or an issue at all,” Gibson said.
John Hocker, RFTA’s co-director of operations, said that in past years the bus agency has ferried upward of 40,000 people on the X Games’ busiest days. He expects the same volume this year and said the relocation of the concerts should bode well logistically.
“We think it will work better for us having the concerts at that venue,” he said. “In years past at Wagner Park, running those customers in town and back out put a strain on our services.”
But with Buttermilk serving as the site for both the concerts and the X Games competitions, attendees likely will be more self-contained, he said.
Hocker said his primary concern is the service at the base of Buttermilk, which no longer has the loop where buses dropped off and picked up passengers.
“It’s a linear bus stop and that itself should work fine, but the road going into Buttermilk is narrower,” he said.
Buses will be stacked on the shoulder of Owl Creek Road and the service road of Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
“We’re fully staffed, and we’ll have every piece of equipment we own on the road,” he said.
The X Games competitions start at 11 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 9:45 a.m. Sunday. Hocker said bus service will begin at 8 a.m. at the Intercept Lot, located at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82, and ramp up from then.
The X Games are one of the Aspen area’s biggest events of the year, and that means outside agencies will be on hand to provide aid. Among them will be the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Glenwood Springs Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, National Guard and the Colorado Department of Revenue, which in the past has monitored bars, restaurants and liquor stores for sales of booze and tobacco to minors. This is the first year Aspen will have recreational marijuana shops open for the X Games, and the revenue department also has the authority to inspect them.
Gibson said the State Patrol will monitor Highway 82 for stragglers on the road’s shoulders, and it also will have officers stationed at key intersections such as the one at Owl Creek Road and Highway 82.
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