Whatever it takes: How young, frugal X Games visitors afford Aspen

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

It’s safe to say the Winter X Games attracts a vastly different demographic of visitors than most Aspen events.

Each year, a tried and true recipe that fuses extreme sports and athletic talent with parties and performances from some of the most popular artists in the industry continues to lure thousands of young people to town.

But how is the average teenager, college student or young, financially strapped adult able to afford a visit to one of the most expensive resorts in the world?

For starters, many of these folks fail to venture any farther upvalley than Buttermilk mountain itself.

Of the more than 20 attendees ages 30 years and younger interviewed by The Aspen Times at the X Games on Thursday and Friday, all but two visitors reported lodging downvalley, mostly in Glenwood Springs, for the weekend.

The two visitors staying in Aspen, Mary Allen, 24, and Catherine Hoy, 30, said they are crashing on the couch of a friend of Hoy’s from high school back in Charleston, West Virginia.

“It’s a far stretch, but we’re still doing it,” Allen admitted, with a laugh.

“Otherwise we would never be able to,” added Hoy, referring to Aspen’s high costs across the board.

“If we didn’t have a place to stay, we would maybe stay in our car. We’ve done it before,” Allen said. “You just have to treat it like a camping trip.”

In typical camping fashion, Hoy said they traveled to Aspen with a huge Thermos filled with soup, a cooler of beer, portable stovetops and packs of ramen noodles.

Both women agreed they “don’t rely on eating out” in Aspen and “try not to spend money on anything but booze.”

Not surprisingly, ramen also was on the menu for several college students, whose X Games setup sounded far less glamorous than that of Allen and Hoy.

On Friday, University of Colorado at Boulder freshmen Jakob Siegel and Arjun Singh said their meals so far consisted of Subway sandwiches in Basalt and burritos from a gas station in Carbondale.

Singh explained that they “timed (the meals) out” to avoid purchasing food at the X Games venue.

As for dinner that night, he said they “hadn’t figured that out” yet.

“Maybe ramen. Maybe gas station food. Maybe potato chips,” Singh said.

“We hope we’ll just fall asleep without having to eat,” Siegel said. “And then we’ll just eat the free breakfast (at the hotel) in the morning.”

Siegel, Singh and five other friends from college are sharing one hotel room in Carbondale for about $170 per night.

“It’s not amazing,” Siegel said. “And that’s me booking it in August.”

Like ramen noodles, making the most of the complimentary hotel breakfasts was another common theme among young, price-conscious X Game-goers.

Twenty-one-year-old Noah Garnett said he and his four friends, all visiting from Kentucky, are “stacking up” on the breakfast served at their hotel in Glenwood Springs.

This includes stashing granola bars in his pocket for later, he said.

To save money, the five college students drove to Aspen from Kentucky, which cost about $200 in gas, estimated Trevor Edmaiston, one of the friends in the group.

The young men said they departed Kentucky at 3 p.m. Thursday and arrived to the Roaring Fork Valley at 9 a.m. Friday morning.

In considering distance traveled versus time spent at the X Games, their journey is comparable with that of high school seniors Nick Anderson and Max Wolfe, who drove four hours from Winter Park to Aspen on Thursday and four hours home later that night.

Eliminating hotel fees is a “cost effective” move, said 30-year-old Lynn Anne, who rented a cabin on Airbnb with four friends in the south side of Glenwood.

Subway also was on the menu for Anne and company, along with a “good little breakfast place” in El Jebel and pizza delivery.

Anne’s cost-cutting advice?

“Book at least 2 to 3 months in advance,” Anne said. “We’re already trying to talk to the (cabin) owner about renting it next year.”