Skico rival may help with X Games |

Skico rival may help with X Games

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Vail and Eagle County might ride to Aspen and Pitkin County’s rescue with transit service during the X Games Jan. 24-27.

The Aspen Skiing Co. has solicited buses and drivers from the transit departments in Eagle County and in the town of Vail to provide service that RFTA cannot. No deal was struck but it could be finalized Friday, according to David Perry, Skico senior vice president.

RFTA couldn’t meet the demand for service because of an expanded X Games schedule, which for the first time includes night events.

The last two years all events were held during the day, allowing RFTA to tap its fleet and staff to provide extra service between downvalley communities, Buttermilk and Aspen. The transit agency also ran a shuttle between Buttermilk and the Cozy Point parking lot.

This year RFTA will again expand its service during the days, but it cannot cover extra nighttime shifts without violating federal limits on the number of hours its driver can work in a day. That means RFTA cannot provide extra service between Buttermilk and Aspen and from Buttermilk to Cozy Point, said Paul Hilts, RFTA’s director of operations.

RFTA director Dan Blankenship hopes Aspen doesn’t suffer a “black eye” because of inadequate service, but said there is nothing else the agency can do.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said he was less than thrilled at the prospect of mobs getting impatient while waiting for buses and pedestrians flooding Highway 82 to get back into town.

But Braudis said his concerns were eased in a planning meeting with Skico and ESPN officials Thursday. He said they were closing in on deals to get eight and possibly nine buses from Vail and Eagle County.

A spokesman for the Eagle County transit system confirmed the agency is studying whether it can spare any buses and drivers to help with X Games service.

Braudis said issues regarding his department’s presence at the X Games were also resolved Thursday. He said ESPN has been easy to deal with and provided top-notch planning since the Winter X Games first came to Aspen three years ago.

The sheriff said all 11 patrol deputies on his staff will be working 12 to 14 hour days for the X Games. “I’m basically going to have all hands on deck,” he said.

ESPN will pick up the cost of that service to the tune of $60 per hour per person. “It costs the taxpayers nothing,” Braudis said.

The money is used to cover salaries, including overtime. Any extra revenues go to the county’s general fund ” not to the deputies or to the sheriff’s budget, according to Braudis.

“Part of my job is to protect the county treasury,” he said.

Last year ESPN forked over about $12,000 for the deputies to patrol the event and roadways around Buttermilk. That could increase to $16,000 with the nighttime events, Braudis estimated. The company also hires its own security firm at an undisclosed cost.

Last year was a peaceful event. A war protester who climbed the Jumbotran screen was arrested. Two women who took off their cloths to protest fur were shepherded by the friendly deputies. “We put their cloths on and put them on a RFTA bus,” said Braudis.

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