Paul E. Anna: High Points
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
As the sun rises in the east and winter turns to spring, so too in the natural order of things here in Aspen, the lights fade out on Gay Ski Week giving way to the glare of Musco’s bright bulbs on Buttermilk as the X Games take over.
For many, this is the most exciting time of the year as the carnival-like circus comes to town and the cameras tune in to capture it all, beaming it globally on the multiple networks of ESPN. Aspen and Winter X have been synonymous and the two have become symbiotic partners, each feeding off the other to the extent that neither can afford to break the bond.
Oh sure, I know that ESPN and the Aspen Skiing Co. are once again in negotiations to extend the current contract that brings thousands to this town each year and provides ESPN with the perfect outdoor studio to hold their ever evolving roster of daredevil events. But I have to believe that both sides recognize that the value to each is so strong that any suggestion of a change in venue would be silly and a blow to both.
Moving the X Games to say, Crested Butte or Big Bear or even Tahoe, would be like moving the Rose Bowl to the blue turf of Boise where the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is played. Doesn’t make sense for ESPN, which would lose the cache of holding an event in what is considered globally, by skiers and non-skiers alike, as the premier ski resort in the world. Ask a Frenchman, a Brazilian or an Australian what one resort they would like to visit in the Rockies and see if Aspen is not the answer nine out of 10 times.
They could consider going corporate and taking the event to Vail. See how that would go over with the athletes who trek here each year as the highlight of their season. There is value in “soul” and the backdrop shots of trucks rumbling past the half-pipe on I-70 don’t evoke that soulful feel.
Still, ESPN could play hardball and up and move. Or they could make it just too hard for Aspen to play along. They have shown the ability to bully cable operators and, despite their denials, no one can argue with a straight face that they are not the major force in the realignment of the college football landscape, which has resulted in oddities like San Diego State joining the Big East.
For Aspen, there is little doubt that the event has had a significant impact on the community, mostly positive. Heads are brought to beds, restaurants are full and the worldwide exposure of a sunny day at the ‘Milk is beyond compare. But even though it is good business in what in the past has been a slow time of year, we would soldier on if the circus left town. There was an Aspen 11 years ago, before the TV trucks arrived, and no doubt there will still be ski town if they leave.
Still, let’s all have a good time out there and hope, most importantly, that the athletes stay safe and healthy. Because at the end of the day that is the most important thing.
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