It’s like the X Games on the road | AspenTimes.com

It’s like the X Games on the road

Ian CroppVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

Nate Holland catches air over a Jeep during the King of the Mountain snowboarding races in January at Beaver Creek. (Preston Utley/Vail Daily file)

For more than a decade, theres been one big weekend in the heart of winter where skiers, snowboarders and fans gather ESPN’s Winter X Games a fixture in Aspen through at least 2010.This winter, a hybrid tour is hoping to become a four-stop X Games, though with a different feel.Recently, The Honda Ski Tour, which jumped onto the scene last season, merged with the long-standing Jeep King of the Mountain Tour.Its really the best of all worlds, said Henry Schneidman, president of Eclipse Television and Sports Marketing, which promotes the King of the Mountain Tour. Not only for The Honda Ski Tour and for us, but for the athletes, consumer and the resorts.After some conversations early this summer, the two tours came together as Kipp Nelson, a former investment banker who started The Honda Tour, bought Eclipse.It was born out of looking at the marketplace and saying, Here are two really good ideas, one that has a rich tradition and longevity and one that came onto the scene with a different level of excitement and entertainment than we had contemplated, said Schneidman, who serves as the chief executive officer of the new company.On the competition side, the King of the Mountain has put on mens and womens skiercross and boardercross events on a Y-shaped, head-to-head course, while The Honda Tour had four-person mens skiercross and mens skier halfpipe. This years JKOM has mens and womens skiercross, boardercross, skier halfpipe and snowboard halfpipe events. All four of the venues this winter will have ski cross and snowboard cross, while two will have the pipe events. The Y-format for the cross events will be replaced with the four-person, Olympic-style format.The minute ski cross became an Olympic sport (in 2006), we had already made the decision to go to (four-person) for this year, anyway, Schneidman said.Although the two tours never were held on the same weekend last year, Schneidman thinks this years super-tour will make it easier to bring in the top athletes.

One of the reasons we married these two programs is because they are Olympic events now, … and the probability of weekends that athletes will be available for everyone was getting smaller and smaller, Schneidman said.Music for allAlong with the competition, the King of the Mountain Tour will have tons of music performances all weekend.With traditional on-snow ski events … you do the best you can to garner peoples attention to see it, but were going a step further, Schneidman said. Were spending a tremendous amount of money and resources to build the live show. Its combination of music, an announcer with a Jumbotron, with all the elements to create a live show on snow.King of the Mountain is banking on big audiences.At night, well have tents that will hold 2,500 to 3,000 people, and we expect to sell those out, Schneidman said. Not only do we have huge headlining acts, but were also integrating with resorts, and well have four to five club shows.Schneidman feels that the tour will offer a different feel to that of the one-stop X Games.The idea with this new program is unlike the X Games, which is fairly exclusive, Schneidman said. ESPN comes into (Aspen) and takes over and throws the party, and its their party. What were trying to do and Telluride (the tours first stop) is a good example were building a street party for locals, or for whoever is in town. Everything were trying to do is inclusionary.Including the events. The tour will have open qualifiers for the events. For mens skiercross and boardercross, there are 32 total spots, 16 of which will be reserved for those prequalified. On the womens side, there will be 16 total spots, with eight open to qualifiers. Pipe events will have similar opportunities for qualifiers.

Much like The Honda Tour did last year, King of the Mountain has already booked some big-name performers. For the Telluride event, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Macy Gray Ivan Nevilles Dumpstaphunk and Swollen Members will be playing in tent shows, while Blackalicious is slated for one of the many club shows.The four events will be held in Telluride (Dec. 15-16 ), Park City, Utah (TBD), Squaw Valley, Calif. (Feb. 9-10), and Sun Valley, Idaho (March 15-16). Vail and Breckenridge were considered as sites, Schneidman said.We went to Vail and Breckenridge and tried to get them to be players, and unfortunately it didnt work out, he said. Hopefully next year we can do Vail. When you look at Golden Peak, for example, thats a great venue for the circus, so to speak, that were bringing to town.For those who wont be able to see the events in person, there will be plenty of opportunities to see King of the Mountain on TV. There will be six hours of footage on CBS and nine hours of Coxs high-definition channel. The series, which continues to boast last years Mountain Culture branding, will produce a half-hour, monthly TV show hosted by former freestyle skier Jonny Moseley.