Record X Games crowd maxes out bus service
ASPEN – The athletes in the Winter X Games at Buttermilk last month weren’t the only ones pushing their skills to the limit.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority used all the buses in its fleet and all drivers on its staff to help haul the X Games record crowd Jan. 27-30, RFTA co-director of operations John Hocker said Thursday.
“Technically, everything we own was out on the road,” Hocker said.
That meant that between 87 and 94 RFTA buses were pressed into service during the four-day event to help shuttle the crowds. The Aspen Skiing Co. and X Games presenter ESPN hired two outside transportation companies to supplement RFTA. Rocky Mountain Transportation, a company from Colorado’s Front Range, supplied 12 buses. Ramblin’ Express provided another six.
“If X Games attendance continues to grow in the future, ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. will need to bolster the number of private buses they bring in to help support RFTA operations,” Hocker wrote in a memo to the RFTA board of directors.
RFTA alone transported 120,579 passengers on its routes during the games, Hocker said. To put that in perspective, the bus agency hauled 63,745 passengers on the same four days the prior week, he said. That indicates that almost 57,000 passengers boarded buses strictly because of the X Games.
Ridership figures weren’t available from Rocky Mountain Transportation, which provided shuttle service between the Intercept Lot at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82 to Buttermilk, and between some stops in Aspen and Buttermilk. Ramblin’ Express supplemented RFTA’s routes between Snowmass Village and the venue.
Hocker estimated that the two private companies combined probably hauled between 60,000 and 70,000 passengers during the X Games.
ESPN announced that the X Games set an attendance record with an estimated 114,200 spectators over the four days. A single-day record was set on Saturday with 41,800.
RFTA hauled 46,104 passengers on that day alone on its service in the Roaring Fork Valley and on its Grand Hogback route between Glenwood Springs and Rifle. While the bulk of the riders were headed to the X Games, other passengers were on their normal commute to and from work.
Hocker said flexibility was key to dealing with the throngs. For example, a bus filled with X Games passengers in New Castle on Saturday. Instead of stopping in Glenwood Springs and making 60-some passengers transfer buses, RFTA sent the full bus to Buttermilk and had a stand-by bus take over the Hogback route.
One glitch occurred on the Friday of X Games when a bus blew an engine in Snowmass Canyon. Oil and iron from the disintegrating motor littered the highway and caused some fender-benders among vehicles dodging the carnage, a RFTA official said.
“In summary, it is evident that RFTA once again played an important part in the continued success and popularity of the X Games,” Hocker’s memo said. “Our bus drivers, supervisors, information clerks and mechanics stepped up to the plate and made sure that everyone using RFTA during the event got to the games safely and in a reasonable time frame considering the record numbers.”
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.