January 25, 2007
X is here, and all the papers say that it is the greatest thing ever to happen to this town.And it surely is. In a normally quiet time of year it brings thousands of folks to the valley. It gives us international face time on ESPN and its global tentacles. And it injects a shot of youth into our local persona, which can seem somewhat geriatric at times.But if every good business relationship is a two-way street, a win- win as they say, what does the mighty Disney and its sports arm ESPN get out of the deal they have struck with the town and company which share the name Aspen?I’d say a lot.Aspen offers so much on so many levels to ESPN that it is hard to imagine Winter X would be better anyplace else. Start with the accommodations in town. There is no better place for the folks from Bristol, Conn., to settle each year for a week or two. I mean, come on, most people pay to come here; these guys do it on an expense account. Where else do they go in their sports travels that provide the luxuries of The Little Nell? Darlington for NASCAR? Lexington for hoops? No, for the ESPN elite it does not get much better than this. For the staff – the folks who stand in the cold manning cameras, holding microphones and striking sets – the short walk to the Inn at Aspen is a welcome commute after a cold day.Buttermilk itself provides a perfect setting for the events. Contained and colorful and equipped with what is the Yankee Stadium of halfpipes and skiercross courses, Buttermilk has become synonymous with extreme winter sports. It is easy to light, easy to shoot, and always in excellent condition.Crowds are not an easy thing to deal with in the mountains. Look at how difficult it was to get folks from Torino to the slopes at Sestriere during last year’s Winter Olympics. Here we have a smooth operation with a parking lot at Cozy Point and a bus system that runs straight to the venue. It means that we can get crowds in and out quickly and easily without bogging downtown in traffic.Then there are the concerts the event-marketing folks put together each evening at Wagner Park in the center of town. Big-name acts love to come to Aspen, and the X crowd loves to see them. It is all part of the sports-and-entertainment mix that the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) also loves.But the biggest thing ESPN gets from hosting in Aspen is the credibility that is part and parcel of the Aspen name. We are “recognized around the world as the leader in winter sports” (to paraphrase a phrase). The relationship is indeed a win-win. But let’s not forget that we give every bit as much as we get.
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