X Games here until 2007 | AspenTimes.com

X Games here until 2007

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Skiing Co. and ESPN have reached a deal that will keep the Winter X Games in Aspen through 2007, sources from both the network and resort told The Aspen Times on condition of anonymity.

“There will be an announcement [today] concerning the future of the X Games,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said last night.

Hanle declined to confirm the information from the Times’ sources. However, when asked directly if the world’s premier extreme snow sports competition would remain in Aspen another three years, he said, “We’ll confirm that tomorrow.”

Last spring, Skico and ESPN reached a deal that returned the games to Aspen for an unprecedented third straight year. Capturing three additional seasons would be a major coup for the Skico, solidifying the resort’s growing reputation as an international center of extreme skiing and snowboarding.

The joint announcement will be made at 1 p.m. today in Denver at the ESPN Zone store on the 16th Street Mall.

The list of attendees includes David Perry, Skico senior vice president of marketing; Jack Weinert, executive director of the ESPN X Games; Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud; and Rob Perlman, president of Colorado Ski Country. The press conference will be hosted by Aspen’s Chris Davenport.

Skico CEO Pat O’Donnell and ESPN media director Melissa Gullotti also declined comment. “If you don’t have anything from an official source, it’s just speculation,” Gullotti said.

O’Donnell broke out laughing when reached last night in his office. He said Perry would “have him by the gonads” if he said anything other than “I know nothing.”

O’Donnell did confirm that Skico and ESPN have been in negotiations to continue staging the games at Buttermilk.

“We’ve been talking for a long period of time, trying to negotiate a long-term deal,” he said.

Part of those negotiations no doubt dealt with terms offered by other resorts, including Mammoth in California and Whistler in British Columbia, that have expressed a strong interest in hosting the games.

When they announced last spring that the X Games would be staged at Buttermilk for a third year, Skico officials said they made several concessions beyond those contained in the original two-year deal that first brought the games to Aspen in 2002.

ESPN and Skico officials have been quoted in past years saying that Buttermilk is an ideal venue for hosting the spectator-oriented competition, allowing all the events to be staged in close proximity to one another and the crowds.

The inaugural Winter X Games was held in 1997 at Snow Summit Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, Calif. Over the next four seasons, the games were held for two years each in Crested Butte and Mount Snow, Vt.

This year’s games begin Saturday and run through Tuesday.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]