Preparation X begins at Buttermilk | AspenTimes.com

Preparation X begins at Buttermilk

ASPEN ” Every year at this time the Aspen Skiing Co. wages an effort to convince customers there is no need to fear a condition best described as Preparation X.

Skiers and riders assume that the Skico’s preparations for the Winter X Games makes a mess of Buttermilk, the host ski area, so many stay away. It’s a misperception, said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. The Winter X Games 12 will be held Jan. 24-27.

The Skico delays the majority of advance X Games work until after the holiday rush. A small section of the parking lot is needed to store materials and some work on structural features needed for the games is under way on the slopes. But Hanle estimated that 96 to 98 percent of the ski area is undisturbed right now.

“We’re really not sacrificing skier visits or anything else during the holidays,” Hanle said.

Some observers felt preparations started early this year and compromised safety on the slopes. There were numerous snowmaking piles, informally called “whales,” scattered on the mountain this week.

Hanle said that’s just a byproduct of the strange weather this season. Warm conditions allowed virtually no snowmaking in November. Several dumps covered the slopes this month, but snowmaking crews still had to add to the base. Hanle said most skiers and riders are familiar with snowmaking operations and aren’t intimidated by the snowmaking guns or piles of man-made snow.

Recommended Stories For You

The lower slopes also were affected by work on the superpipe, which opened Friday. That work is necessary regardless of the X Games.

There may also be confusion that the beginners’ area called Panda Peak is affected by X Games work. A portion of the area was off-limits to the public. Hanle said a private company held a Christmas party at Bumps recently and rented part of Panda Peak for tubing. The tubing area was left intact because Mariah Carey was bringing in some underprivileged children from Denver for a party last Friday.

Skico officials felt it was worth using part of Panda Peak for a charitable cause. “It’s not a big Hollywood party,” Hanle said.

Buttermilk will feel the effects of Preparation X to a greater degree after the holidays as infrastructure needed for crowds, competition and coverage is erected.

However, a skier or rider will be able to use 90 percent of the terrain without being affected, Hanle said.

The ‘Milk hosted its first X Games during the 2001-02 season. Customer visits there fell each of the first three seasons it hosted the event. Business bounced back a bit in the next two seasons, but dropped again last season.

A case can be made that the X Games hurt the Skico’s business at Buttermilk for two weeks, Hanle said. But the Skico is more than willing to try that loss of skier visits at Buttermilk for “the exposure it generates for the resort as a whole,” Hanle said.

An estimated 75,000 people attended last year’s four-day event, and a study by the city finance office said the 2006 X Games pumped $3.37 million into the town’s economy.

scondon@aspentimes.com