The X Games will remain in Aspen through 2019.
X Games owner ESPN and the Aspen Skiing Co. announced Wednesday a deal that would keep the winter carnival of now-Olympic athleticism at Aspen's Buttermilk ski area for another five years. The X Games launches its 13th year in Aspen this week. By 2019, the Roaring Fork Valley will have hosted the iconic contest for 18 years.
"It's amazing how X Games has seemingly become part of Aspen/Snowmass' identity over the years," said Aspen Skiing Co.'s John Rigney, who spent countless hours negotiating renewal contracts with ESPN in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013, in a statement released Wednesday. "I can't think of a single event that resonates so well with kids and young adults as X Games does."
Aspen beat out several other bidders to host the snowy bacchanal. Park City in Utah initially expressed interest but wanted the event to reschedule to April. Two Lake Tahoe ski areas in California — Squaw Valley and Heavenly — submitted a joint bid that would have separated X Games events into two venues across the lake. Whistler in British Columbia pondered hosting, but local officials demurred at the idea of flipping and racing snowmobiles, a lucrative staple of the X Games. Quebec City in Canada also submitted a bid.
But Aspen emerged as a clear favorite. The four-ski-area valley provides an entire ski area — family-friendly Buttermilk — to ESPN for months as the network assembles the venue infrastructure and technical networks required for hosting the sprawling event.
"For the last 13 years, Aspen/Snowmass has been a fantastic location for the Winter X Games, and we're excited about extending our stay in Aspen/Snowmass and continuing our great relationship with Aspen Skiing Company," said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming and X Games, in the statement.
The X Games draws about 120,000 visitors every January to Aspen, swelling the valley's lodges and hotels to capacity and mirroring the valley's New Year's Eve and Labor Day holidays.
While the network and privately owned ski area don't discuss the economic impact of the X Games, Aspen's city sales-tax reports reveal healthy bumps in lodging, restaurant and bar spending during the X Games. But the cash is only part of the benefit.
ESPN splays snowy Aspen into more than 260 million homes in 200 countries, a marketing boon that is hard to quantify for a ski company that thrives on powder-hunting visitors.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasontblevins