Jan 25, 2024 - News

Winter X Games looks at future without Aspen as the backdrop

The superpipe at the 2023 X Games on Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

The superpipe at the 2023 X Games on Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Winter X Games returns to Aspen on Friday for what may be its final weekend in Colorado.

What's happening: The contract to host the ski and snowboard competition expires this year, and the New York private equity firm that purchased the franchise from ESPN in 2022 has not committed to keeping the event at Buttermilk Mountain, its home for more than two decades.

  • Before landing in Aspen, the Winter X Games took place in California and Vermont, along with two years in Crested Butte.

Why it matters: The X Games stands apart in the competition space because it fuses technical tricks with high-flying creativity — a combination that draws thousands of spectators and the world's best riders each year, highlighting Colorado and Aspen Snowmass as a winter destination.

Details: Parent company MSP Sports is currently in negotiations with Aspen Ski Company about the event's future, one that may look different regardless of where it lands.

  • So far, there's reason to hope X Games will stay put. Cara Williamson, vice president for marketing and brand strategy, told us Buttermilk Mountain "has been a perfect location."
  • "Aspen has provided X Games such a unique home," she said in an interview. "The community is so welcoming and supportive in a lot of ways."

Between the lines: This year's competition won't include the free headliner concerts from previous iterations, and for the first time, organizers are charging for tickets for prime spots to see certain competitions.

  • Pitkin County and Aspen officials expressed dismay that fans will need to pay for some viewing areas but still approved the permit for this year's event.

The intrigue: The winter spectacle has inspired a generation of Colorado skiers and riders who went on to compete in the Olympics, like two-time ski halfpipe medalist Alex Ferreira. The 29-year-old from Aspen first competed in the X Games at age 18.

What he's saying: "It's incredible as a kid to see your idol come and do these crazy tricks," he said ahead of the competition. "It's 1,000% shaped my life."

  • He can't imagine the competition anywhere else because it combines one of the world's greatest ski mountains with the pinnacle of snowsports competitions. "The two together are synonymous," he said.

What to watch: Ferreira is eyeing a podium spot Sunday in the halfpipe, where he plans to attempt double 1620s (two flips and four and a half rotations) spinning both directions.

  • He's one of only two competitors who can land the tricks.

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