Viewer’s guide to the games |

Viewer’s guide to the games

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The best way to watch the ESPN Winter X Games? Go to the base of Buttermilk Mountain and look up. You can’t miss the action.

Seriously. The X Games producers have created a viewer-friendly venue that makes it easy to catch most of the action simply by standing in one spot at the base of Buttermilk.

One reason it’s so easy is the giant television monitors that show the athletes as they speed down the hill or fly off the jump or cartwheel out of the pipe. It’s a snap to turn from the tube and watch the live action at the finish line.

Still, some moving around the base area can help you focus on a particular event. And some spots put you right in the middle of the five-ring circus.

There are five courses, most of which do at least double duty as ski and snowboard course.

Looking up the hill, the slopestyle course is on the far right, where the Crazy T?rain Park is normally. This course works for both ski and snowboard slopestyle events. Men and women compete in snowboard slopestyle, but so far only the men compete in ski slopestyle.

The slopestyle course has a big jump at the bottom, so get close to the jump and watch the upper-course action on the big screen.

Next to the slopestyle course and uphill a bit is the halfpipe, or superpipe. The X Games crew has set up bleachers at the end of the pipe with room for 1,400 spectators. These will be the “Jack Nicholson seats” for Friday’s star-studded day of men’s and women’s snowboard competition.

Spectators will also be allowed to stand on the deck on the left side of the pipe (the media gets the right side, as you look up the mountain). This spot truly shows how much air the athletes get as they soar out of the pipe. Skiers get their turn in the halfpipe Saturday.

The left deck of the halfpipe is also a good spot to catch the action on the skiercross and boardercross course, just to the left of the halfpipe. There will be action on the X Course both Friday and Saturday during the halfpipe contests.

Another bonus to being on the rail of the pipe is the view over the Moto X big air jump, just to the left of the Summit Express lift on the once-innocent Panda Peak.

The Moto X event is a crowd favorite as the best stunt riders in the world catch huge air off the jump. And this year the crowd expects to see the first rider-and-motorcycle flip on snow. Moto X practice is Friday and the final is Saturday.

On the far left side of Panda Peak is the snowmobile snocross course, which is set up like a motocross course, with plenty of jumps and banked turns. A great spot to watch the snowmobile action is on the far left side of the course by the biggest jump. It’s nearly unbelievable how much air these racers catch as they blast off the jump.

The snocross course is the one course location where it is hard to see any of the other action at the same time, but the noisy action is worth checking out up close and personal.

Be prepared to stand around in the snow all day at the X Games. Dress warmer than you think you should, and wear warm shoes or boots with soles that will help you climb hard-packed snow. Bring the sunscreen, a warm hat and gloves.

There are a number of sponsored booths this year, including a few food booths. There is also a free snowskate park on Panda Peak.

The X Games are free, but they have some hurdles at the gates. No cans, bottles, coolers, chairs, umbrellas or weapons are allowed inside. Plastic containers full of nonalcoholic beverages are allowed. There is no smoking at the games, and law officers will be on hand to discourage the use of illegal substances.

Buttermilk Mountain ski area is open for skiing throughout the X Games, and there are locations along the skiercross and boardercross course where skiers can catch some of the action. It’s fun to ride the lift over all the action at the base area, but it’s really an event made for pedestrians.

Probably the No. 1 X Games-spectator tip is that there is no parking at Buttermilk.

Free event shuttles run from the Cozy Point parking area at the intersection of Brush Creek and Highway 82, and from downtown Aspen. The shuttles run from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Take the bus to ButtermilX and have a most excellent time!

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