Five more years for X Games in Aspen |

Five more years for X Games in Aspen

Dale Strode
The Aspen times

Make it V more years for the Winter X Games in Aspen.

ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. announced Wednesday that the X Games will return to Aspen for five more winters.

The announcement of the contract extension led off the introductory news conference for the 2014 Winter X Games at Buttermilk, which begin in earnest today.

“We’re going to be here another five years,” said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of ESPN programming and the X Games. “We have agreed to extend our deal here in Aspen.”

He said the Winter X extension was possible because of the collaboration with John Rigney and his team at Skico.

“It became very clear that this is the place for (Winter) X Games well into the future,” Guglielmino said.

Rigney and Skico agreed.

“Buttermilk is a perfect venue for a lot of reasons,” Rigney said, calling the Winter X Games production at Buttermilk a “massive, massive undertaking.”

Rigney cited the cooperation of the entire community and the cooperative relationship between ESPN and Skico.

“This is fabulous news for our resort,” Rigney said. “ESPN does an unbelievable job of showing off our four unique mountains and our very vibrant community. This is not only great for Aspen — it’s great for the state of Colorado; it’s great for the industry.”

He thanked all of the working partners in Aspen Winter X: the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Valley Hospital, the regional lodging community and law enforcement agencies, among others.

“This is an event that takes a village, a city and a county,” Rigney said of Snowmass Village, Aspen and Pitkin County. “But the thanks go beyond that.”

The five-year extension also means snowboard legend Shaun White might compete at Buttermilk again — but it won’t be this week.

White announced Wednesday that he had decided not to compete in Aspen Winter X this year after all.

He reportedly took a practice run at Buttermilk on Wednesday morning, evaluated the X Games schedule and decided to opt out to prepare for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in two weeks.

Last week, White had said he was skipping the Winter X Games this year.

Then Tuesday, White changed his mind and told ESPN officials he would compete in Aspen.

On Wednesday, there was another reversal as White continues to recover from a series of injuries he suffered over the past two months.

Other 2014 Olympians will compete in Aspen this week before heading to Sochi.

“For me, the best practice for big events is big events,” said Kelly Clark, another living legend in snowboarding. “There’s no greater way to get ready for the Olympics.”

Clark, an 11-time X Games medalist, said she’s looking forward to her women’s snowboard superpipe event, with the finals scheduled for Friday evening at Buttermilk. She will be riding for a possible four-peat in the superpipe at Winter X.

Originally from Vermont, Clark will represent the United States in the women’s halfpipe at the Winter Olympics — her fourth Olympic Games.

The most decorated female halfpipe rider ever, Clark has 60 pipe victories in her career.

Fellow Olympians Kaya Turski and Rox Groenewoud, who will represent Canada at the Olympic Games, also will compete this week at the X Games.

“For me, X Games was always my biggest goal,” said Groenewoud, who is a four-time Winter X Games medalist. She won gold in the 2012 ski superpipe; she was a silver medalist in the event last year.

She will compete in Sochi in the first ski halfpipe Olympic event.

“It’s awesome to be here before we head to Sochi,” Groenewoud said.

Turski, her Canadian Olympic teammate, is the only woman to medal in every X Games Aspen ski slopestyle event.

She won six golds in the event and a silver last year.

Turski is just five months removed from a radical new reconstructive ACL surgery — her third ACL repair in six years and second on her left knee.

Turski opted for the new procedure that uses a synthetic ligament in conjunction with a cadaver graft for her new ACL.

“I’m thrilled to be here five months after ACL surgery,” Turski said. “My hard work has paid off.”

And she’ll follow up a trip to Aspen with a trip to Russia.

Other Olympic qualifiers were spotlighted Wednesday as officials kicked off the 2014 Winter X Games.

Superpipe skier David Wise, of Reno, Nev., featured recently in The New York Times, will go for three consecutive wins in Aspen.

A dedicated family man, Wise said the X Games led to the Olympic Games.

“It’s an amazing thing, getting a spot into the Olympics,” Wise said. “A huge shout-out to the X Games. X Games gave our sport the support we needed.”

Olympians Nick Goepper and Sage Kotsenberg also are looking forward to competing in Aspen before Sochi.

Kotsenberg, from Park City, Utah, just clinched his Olympic berth last weekend with a victory at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

“The last few years have been amazing. Growing up in the Midwest humbled me,” Goepper said. “I’m ecstatic to hear (the X Games) are sticking around here for five more years.”

“I’m living my dream,” said Goepper, who hails from Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Aspen’s own Gretchen Bleiler, a former Olympian who just missed the 2014 U.S. team, announced Wednesday that this will be her final X Games in her hometown.

She previously had said this likely will be her last competitive season.

“I’m so fortunate to call Aspen home,” said Bleiler, who moved to Aspen with her family when she was 10. “The community embraces adventure (sports). This is a very, very special place.”

Bleiler is a five-time Winter X medalist in snowboard superpipe — four golds. She won a silver medal in women’s halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. She just missed the 2002 Olympic team — by a tiebreaker.

Bleiler, in 2004, was selected as the Colorado female athlete of the year.

“The X Games are the biggest event in action sports,” she said. “I’ve had some of my all-time career highlights here.”

She said her success followed a rough X Games start.

“I completely choked the first couple of years (of X Games),” Bleiler said. “In 2003, that was the first X Games where I figured it out — just compete.”

She’ll compete Friday in her final Winter X Games.

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