X Files: Don’t fight it, just drop in
The Aspen Times
A marching band, a giant bunny, and Shaun White’s mom were all standing at the bottom of the pipe for the men’s superpipe finals on Monday night.
“Hey bunny! Your ears are blocking our view,” Kathy White said. “You need to kneel down or do something.”
Mrs. White couldn’t help but laugh with the rest of us, watching her son being interviewed on the big screen. The bunny’s giant frozen blue eyes staring into the camera from behind Shaun in the crowd was an overwhelming distraction.
After watching her prodigal son grow up in the skateboard, surf, and snowboard climate of Southern California, White has seen it all.
“Be safe, be safe, be safe,” she chanted as Shaun came down the pipe. “Let’s get through this so we can get to Torino.”
She cheered on all her son’s competitors like they were her own and talked excitedly about her upcoming trip to Europe. She and her husband would spend some time in Barcelona, cruise down to the Riviera, drink lots of good wine and indulge in Europe’s finest. “We’re planning to eat our way through France and Italy,” she said.
The crowd was abuzz with plans for the Olympics in Italy. “When do you leave?” one industry insider asked the other. “Where are you staying?” There were snow reports: “They’re having a record year,” one said. “I saw photos on the Internet, so much snow it’s insane!” said the other.
The marching band, comprised of two guys from the Volcom crew named Ryan and Gerard, wore blue uniforms with brass buttons and matching caps they bought on eBay. Gerard played a beat-up tuba he bought at a second-hand music shop in So Cal. “He’s getting pretty good,” Ryan said. He mastered the riff for the fighting cry, “Charge!” but instead, the crowd yelled, “Shaun!” He also learned to play “Louie, Louie” for the other Volcom team rider, Louis Vito.
Teenage kids ” girls mostly ” managed to sneak their way into the front row reserved for friends and family, armed with Sharpie markers and shrill, high screams for their favorite riders. “I love you so much, I’m going to DIE!” screamed Ari Bibby, 14, of Aspen.
It used to be the kids were satisfied with autographs or stickers, but these days, it’s goggles. “Can I have your goggles?” they’d ask whenever a pro was in shouting distance. The pros would unhook their expensive eyewear and chuck it into the crowd like it was candy. From on top of the podium, they’d throw a few more, feeding the calls of greed and hunger of their fans for more, more, more.
Consumption isn’t exactly discouraged at the X Games. Really, that’s what it’s all about.
To anyone over 18, it’s an overwhelming sensory experience: the loud music, the buzzing of motorcycle and snowmobile engines, the bright lights, the big TVs, the constant commentary echoing through our otherwise quiet little valley.
It’s also full of life and character, the only time of year you’re likely to see marching bands and bunnies and 19-year-old superstars with flame-red hair spinning through the night sky with a propeller strapped to their feet.
In that regard, the Winter X Games brings us back to the Aspen of old, before designer boutiques and luxury police cars, when it was just a small, liberal, eccentric Colorado mountain town where people who didn’t fit into the rest of the world came to get away.
The Aspen Winter X Games tradition is sort of like the new generation’s contribution to Aspen’s odd little history: first the miners, then the Chicago intellectuals, then John Denver and the New Agers, Hunter S. and Sheriff Bob and now this: the Winter X Games in all its punk, adolescent, extreme glory.
Sure, it’s a different crowd, but that’s exactly what this town needs. So don’t fight it: Just drop in.
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.