Skico hopes to get games for good
Aspen Skiing Co. officials hope X marks the spot permanently at Buttermilk.The Skico has the ESPN Winter X Games locked up contractually for the next three years, through 2007. But Skico Senior Vice President David Perry said yesterday he believes Aspen can keep the popular event for much longer – if it works hard to stay ahead of competing resorts.”We’re going to have competition banging on our door and trying to steal them from our back pocket,” Perry said.But the Skico believes it has a distinct advantage because it operates four ski areas within eight miles of each other. There is power in numbers.”We can essentially give them free rein at Buttermilk and not decrease the experience for our guests,” said John Rigney, Skico managing director of event marketing.The Skico gladly trades a decrease in skier visits at Buttermilk during the three weeks of preparations, practice and games in return for the national and international publicity it gains from the event.Other resorts don’t have the flexibility to turn over a mountain or part of a mountain. Buttermilk also offers the right kind of terrain to host all events in a compact setting.Nevertheless, Rigney said he would guess that 10 to 15 other resorts are throwing money and all sorts of incentives at ESPN to try to land the X Games. Despite that competition, he said he believes Aspen can control its destiny as host of the X Games by being a gracious host.”I’m focusing on what we can control and that’s our own back yard,” Rigney said. The Winter X Games have been a meteoric success for ESPN. The sports network is showing an increasing number of hours of the event live and viewership has skyrocketed by between 20 percent and 30 percent per year in recent years, Rigney said.”It’s becoming their Olympics, as they like to say,” he said.At an Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors meeting yesterday, Rigney and Perry sounded a word of caution against Aspen taking the X Games for granted by assuming they are here to stay. Perry issued a carefully worded warning or plea to avoid “price gouging” of ESPN, which books a substantial number of hotel rooms for its staff during the event. It’s not happening now, Perry quickly noted, and he said he hopes it won’t in the future.Rigney said after the meeting he wouldn’t expect any negotiations on a possible contract extension until next year. He said Aspenites’ eager embrace of the event helps the chances of keeping it.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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