Editorial: New deal for X Games good for Aspen-Snowmass brand

Wednesday’s announcement by ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. that the Winter X Games will return to Buttermilk Mountain for at least five more years comes as a bit of a surprise. A lot of people in the community thought the sports network would take its event elsewhere despite the fact that Skico and local governments have bent over backward for many years to accommodate it.

The extension reportedly was made possible because of the close collaboration between ESPN and John Rigney, Skico vice president of sales and events. But as Rigney pointed out during the official announcement, the event “takes a village, a city and a county” ­— a reference to Snowmass Village, Aspen and Pitkin County. He also thanked many other entities that work hard on behalf of the big show, including the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Valley Hospital and local hotels and law enforcement agencies.

And so, those who believe that the Winter X Games benefits the Aspen-area economy — it has been a staple of the winter event lineup since 2002 — can breathe a sigh of relief. And those who think the effects of the games are overrated can continue to complain about traffic and litter while attempting to avoid the massive throngs of teens and 20-somethings who flock to Aspen for the outdoor concerts or the foot of Buttermilk to catch a glimpse of their favorite skier, snowboarder or snowmobiler.

The Denver Post reported that Aspen beat out several other bidders. Park City, Utah, expressed interest but wanted to reschedule the event for the spring. The resorts Squaw Valley and Heavenly, on separate sides of Lake Tahoe in California, would have separated the X Games events into two venues. Whistler in British Columbia pondered hosting but wasn’t crazy about the snowmobile component. Quebec City in Canada also submitted a bid, the Post said.

We agree with the general consensus, that the X Games in the big picture helps to reinforce the Aspen brand on a national and international scale, but doesn’t do all that much more in the way of a direct economic benefit. Pizza shops and bars with inexpensive offerings will make a lot of money this weekend; we don’t see the high-end retailers and lodges in Aspen or Snowmass Village garnering any greater sales than they would during a normal midwinter ski week.

It also doesn’t help this year that a perennial staple of the event, Shaun White, has opted to skip the X Games so that he can continue to recover from a series of injuries in time for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Oh well — let’s try to stay positive about this. The event will be here another five years, and it’s largely a good thing. Let the games begin.


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