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X Games have revitalized Aspen

If you’re one of those grumpy old-timers who thinks everything was better in the “Good Old Days” (whenever that happened to be for you), then you probably weren’t too happy with news Saturday that ESPN and the Aspen Skiing Co. had reached a deal to host the Winter X Games at Buttermilk through 2010.Given the symbiotic relationship that’s forming between the two companies, the deal makes sense. Aspen/Snowmass is one of the few resorts in North America that can host an event like the Winter X Games. Skico is empowered by the fact it has four mountains for skiers and snowboarders to choose from. ESPN can take over most of main Buttermilk for its huge terrain features without tripping over the snowboarding and skiing public.The Winter X Games are far from hassle-free, however, and it would behoove the Skico and ESPN to improve the experience of fans and non-fans alike. With construction of Base Village slated to interfere with access to Snowmass for years to come, the loss of Buttermilk for a month in the middle of the season makes it a lot harder on parents with young children who are learning to ski.Nevertheless, it’s a good thing overall that hordes of teens and young adults are guaranteed to ascend to Aspen each January through 2010. Yes, they’re a little pushy, a little over-the-top. They’re nothing like the staid, fur-clad masses that crowd town at Christmas, but perhaps that’s a good thing.Think back a few years when the Skico advertised the fact that nobody skied here with the slogan “Uncrowded by Design.” Snowboarders and their skiing parents avoided Aspen like the plague because many thought snowboarding was banned throughout the resort.No longer. The Winter X Games have done much to revive Aspen’s reputation as one of the premier ski and snowboard destinations in the world. It’s also done wonders for Buttermilk, which until ESPN showed up in 2002 was best known as a haven for adult beginners and children younger than 5. Now, “the Milk” is not only a superior beginner’s mountain (at least for most of the season), it’s also a jibber’s paradise.The X Games filled Aspen’s lodges and hotels for the last few days, but its overall economic impact is still unclear. For now, the Skico treats the event as a “loss leader” that benefits Aspen’s image and will hopefully hook a generation of new, young customers. This feels like a risk worth taking. And whatever the complaints about the hype and the fumes, the Winter X Games have added a whole new dimension to life in Aspen.


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