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X Games have town extremely booked

Tim Mutrie
Keith Berkes of ESPN Production hangs lights on a tower near the Buttermilk superpipe yesterday in preparation for the X Games, which kick off Friday. Aspen Times photo/Jim Noelker.
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Inexpensive lodging in the upper Roaring Fork Valley for Saturday and Sunday nights is long gone.At the Buttermilk X Games venue, course workers and jump sculptors are busy buffing out the final snowy curves.The 200-plus athletes, the ones who don’t live here anyway, are making their way to Aspen, along with thousands and thousands of fans.ESPN Winter X Games Nine – the fourth consecutive Winter X at Buttermilk – is nearly upon us. Thursday and Friday are practice and preliminary days; the actual contests and races – the means by which all medals will be distributed – run Saturday to Tuesday.The events – all free and open to the public, and all at Buttermilk – include Moto X best trick and snowmobile snocross, and slopestyle, superpipe, skiercross, boardercross and ultracross for skiers and snowboarders. The 2005 X Games will also include a new disabled-skier demonstration event, slated for Monday, to be run like a skiercross.

“Everything’s looking good,” Ryan McGuinness, X Games marketing and communications coordinator, said Monday. “We’ve been able to blow a little more snow and now all the courses are in good shape.”About 95 percent of the ESPN production staff, a crew some several hundred strong, arrived last week.And apart from a decision to do away with the huge bleachers at the base of the superpipe, McGuinness said, fans won’t find any significant changes to the venue this year.”The bleachers blocked a lot of views at the base of the pipe,” he said. “And we think the base of the pipe will just be a natural amphitheater for viewing this year. We hope it’s an improvement.”Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the central reservation service for Aspen/Snowmass, said more than 90 percent of available lodging in Aspen and Snowmass was booked as of yesterday.

“It’s getting really, really close. All the inexpensive hotel rooms are pretty much long gone, but there’s still some condos and luxury homes available,” he said. “And that [90 percent] figure speaks to the fact luxury homes are still available.”We’re now booking as far away as Carbondale and doing everything we can to fill the condos and homes here in Aspen and Snowmass.”Tomcich said bookings are particularly tight for Saturday and Sunday nights; visitors hoping to catch the games may still be able to find lodging early on or later in the event.”The vast majority of the rooms are spectators coming up,” Tomcich added. “The rooms taken up by ESPN, the athletes and the media is a very small percentage.”Tomcich equated the lodging blitz with other marquee Aspen events such as the HBO Comedy Festival, the Food & Wine Magazine Classic and the Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival.

“This is about how busy it can get in Aspen-Snowmass,” he said.Last year, ESPN officials estimated 66,500 spectators attended the four-day event. That’s up from 48,700 in 2003, and 36,300 from the X Games’ Aspen debut in 2002.”Last year we were able to find lodging this late – there were still a few rooms,” said ESPN’s McGuinness. “But now it seems even more full.”I think we’ll have the same attendance numbers as last year, but hopefully more.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com


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