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X Games Aspen plan calls for fenced-in venue, no spectators

ESPN’s permit request to Pitkin County states just skiing, snowboarding events over three days at Buttermilk

The sun sets behind the X Games superpipe at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

This winter’s version of X Games Aspen would go on without fans and no more than 500 pre-approved people (athletes to event support) inside a fenced-in venue, according to the special events permit request submitted to Pitkin County by ESPN, which hosts the annual event at Buttermilk Mountain.

There will only be skiing and snowboarding events, no motorsports, and the competitions will be over three days, not the normal four, according to the request. The permit asks for six days for the event with three days of competitions (Jan. 29 to 31).

The permit details are scheduled to go in front of the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners at its Tuesday work session and will get final approval from the county’s Community Development Department as well as the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.



In a statement sent to The Aspen Times on Monday evening, an ESPN representative said: “We look forward to sharing information in the near future.”

The plan has been reviewed by numerous other local agencies, including Pitkin County Public Health, Aspen Ambulance District, the Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Fire Department, according to a memo in the county commissioners’ agenda.



Since X Games is a professional sports event, the plans also must be approved by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for review of the event’s COVID-19 mitigation plan. That request was submitted to the state Nov. 30 and a decision has not been made.

A CDPHE representative said Monday in an email to The Aspen Times that the agency is “reviewing the application and will make an announcement once a decision has been made.” They did not give a timetable for that decision.

The only people allowed inside the competition venue will be about 90 athletes, 50 athlete support people and approximately 345 staff supporting the event (television production, medical/safety personnel, ESPN event staff and security), according to the 17-page permit. There will be no concerts and no public transit to the area.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, state and county restrictions, the event will be closed to the public in 2021,” the permit request states. “Only pre-approved staff, vendors and athletes who are in our COVID-19 Testing Protocol will be allowed within our venue perimeter.”

Three-layer face coverings are required at all times inside the venue and can only be removed when eating or drinking. A private COVID-19 testing facility will be established at Buttermilk “where all pre-authorized individuals will undergo … COVID testing,” according to the request.

Since the X Games will be a self-contained venue and separate from Aspen Skiing Co.’s winter operation, skiing and snowboarding will continue on Buttermilk Mountain during the event, the memo states. Skico officials said last month that a reservation system is likely coming this season among pass holders and advanced daily ticket sales can be limited.

Fans enjoy musical artist Bazzi on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, on Buttermilk’s Geico Music Stage for the last day of X Games Aspen.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News

Most recently, the four-day X Games Aspen, which included competitions and concerts, drew more than 111,000 in January and a record 117,000 in 2019.

A daily competition schedule has not been announced for the 2021 X Games, which have been at Buttermilk since 2002.

ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. in 2019 signed a five-year contract extension that would keep the event at Buttermilk through at least the 2024 edition. This year’s competitions will be carried live on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

Neither ESPN nor Skico has released information on the economic impact of X Games Aspen, but it’s believed to be in the millions of dollars.

dkrause@aspentimes.com


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