Skico, ESPN working on what X Games Aspen 2021 could look like this winter

Fans enjoy musical artist Bazzi on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, on Buttermilk’s Geico Music Stage for the last day of X Games Aspen in Aspen, Colo. (Liz Copan/Summit Daily News)
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News

Aspen Skiing Co. is moving ahead on tentative plans to host X Games in 2021 at Buttermilk Ski Area and is requesting $115,000 for transportation services from local governments in the event that patrons will be allowed in person.

In a memo last month to the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, which comprises the city of Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village, Skico Senior Vice President John Rigney asked for the funding, just as the company did in 2020.

“We are currently 20-plus weeks out from the scheduled start of X Games, and much could change between now and then, especially with respect to spectator access and corresponding transportation needs?” he wrote in the memo. “Because of the uncertainty regarding spectator volume this year, the money can come in the form of a reimbursement instead of an upfront commitment. This reimbursement may be drastically reduced in scope in this particular year if spectator access ends up being restricted.”

The EOTC is scheduled to meet Oct. 29 when it will consider Skico’s request. Aspen City Council and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners spent time during their work sessions on Tuesday preparing for next week’s EOTC meeting.

ESPN spokesman Danny Chi wrote in an email Tuesday that he was limited in commenting, adding that he hopes for more information will become public later this year.

“We continue to work with Aspen Skiing Company and local officials as we evaluate X Games Aspen 2021,” he wrote via email.

Skico officials were unavailable for comment as staffers throughout the company have the week off.

Rigney in his memo explained that Skico, along with the county, the local board of health and ESPN, the presenter of the X Games, are looking into several scaled-back options that “provide a safe event that generates the same broad-based promotion of our resort while remaining flexible and fluid in our new reality. … This very well could mean limiting spectator access and modifying the on-site programming this year.”

In February 2020, which was the 19th year of Skico hosting the Winter X Games, there were an estimated 111,500 attendees over the multi-day event.

This year’s X Games also garnered 16 hours of live TV, reaching tens of millions of people in original programming, and more than 500 million homes across 197 countries had access to televised and packaged for rebroadcast content, according to Rigney.

On social media platforms, there were over 18 million views across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, which is an 18% increase over 2019, his memo states.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the made-for-television event will likely draw even bigger numbers next year.

Skico is under contract with ESPN to host X Games annually through 2024.