True or false?: A look at Aspen locals’ top complaints about the X Games

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

With a near two-decade history in Aspen, the X Games’ reputation, as with other longstanding events, often precedes itself.

As such, many Aspenites then think they know what to expect each year when the four-day winter sport event rolls through town.

While many locals love the X Games, others articulate similar-sounding qualms with the event as well as the visitors it attracts. The Aspen Times looked at three recurring X Games-related complaints that could be reviewed with data from the past five years.

While the weekend is undoubtedly one of Aspen’s busiest of the year, local officials embrace the event and the extra work it requires.

“Although we are busy, it’s fun when town is full and there’s a lot going on,” Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Thursday, “so it feels good.”

With that, here is the reality of those issues and the numbers behind them.

There’s a lot of traffic and the roads are jammed up

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority ramps up its services during the X Games like with no other event in Aspen, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said Wednesday.

But with all RFTA buses and drivers on deck and no parking allowed at Buttermilk, the demand from X Games-goers, commuters and locals exceeds the transit authority’s inventory.

Enter Aspen Skiing Co., which contracts an Estes Park-based shuttle service as well as the private charter group, “Ramblin Express.”

“There really isn’t anything (similar),” Blankenship said of RFTA’s services during the X Games. A comparable incident, he said, is when RFTA added transit services during the Grand Avenue Bridge closure, though even that failed to stack up to X Games’ ridership.

“We have no other time of the year where we transport as many passengers over four days as we do over the X Games,” Blankenship said.

One of those days last year set a RFTA record.

Saturday is typically the busiest day of the X Games, Blankenship said, and last year 59,000 passengers from Aspen to Rifle rode RFTA on that Saturday.

To put that number into perspective, New Year’s Eve — another one of RFTA’s most popular days of the year — typically sees between 23,000 and 24,000 riders.

thefts and assaults increase downtown

Since 2013, the Aspen Police Department has reported a total of 34 thefts and six assaults, according to APD records.

Police officials said the numbers are not highly unusual and reflect the volume of people in town more than the event itself.

Linn, who’s experienced many X Games with more than 24 years at the department, said the numbers “aren’t astronomical, they are a reflection of just how much busier town is at this time.”

Aspen Police Department records specialist Cathleen Treacy, who compiled the reports over the past five years, wrote in an email, “Assaults and thefts are not generally greater during X Games for (the Aspen Police Department) than Fourth of July or Labor Day or Presidents Day, etc.”

“We are busier (with theft and assault calls) than we are during normal weekends,” Linn said. “From a statistical standpoint, the difference between 5 and 8 might look like a percentage increase, but is still a pretty small sample.”

Town is too crowded

With occupancy averaging in the mid-90 percent range, Aspen and Snowmass Village have nearly maxed out during the past five X Games. The total combined occupancy for both resorts varies little each year, too, with a mere 3 percent margin, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich.

Occupancy traditionally peaks Friday or Saturday (like RFTA) throughout the four-day event.

Between Aspen and Snowmass, a “handful of hotels” Thursday had a limited number of rooms still available, Tomcich said.

While there is not an association like Stay Aspen Snowmass that tracks occupancy down valley, conversations Thursday with properties in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs indicated some, but not a whole lot, of availability, Tomcich said.

Hotels and inns are not the only types of lodging experiencing a surge in guests this weekend, either.

Airbnb, in a statement released Wednesday, said Thursday would be “the biggest night ever for Airbnb in Aspen.”

The company projected a 65 percent increase over last week, with more than 700 users in Aspen Jan. 25 to 28.


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