Highlands steps into X Games spotlight
ASPEN Aspen Highlands is poised to partake in the spectacle that is Winter X Games.The Aspen Skiing Co. will host the first “King of Quarters” quarterpipe competition at the base of Highlands during X Games, which will run from Jan. 24 through 27, Skico event marketing manager Deric Gunshor said Tuesday. The date of the competition, which will award prize money in both snowboarding and skiing categories, will be decided later this year when ESPN releases its event schedule.”It’s important to us as the Aspen Skiing Company to put on our own showcase while the spotlight is shining [at the X Games],” Gunshor said. “There’s so much going on at Buttermilk and in Aspen, so we thought it would be exciting to come up with something for Highlands Village. The venue over there is fantastic. We’ve always felt like it was a prime location.”While the purse might not entice top-caliber athletes to take part, perhaps another incentive will: “King of Quarters” will serve as the North American qualifier for The Oakley Arctic Challenge, widely regarded as the most prestigious and exclusive quarterpipe competition in the world, in Norway. The top snowboard finishers here will receive a coveted invite.In years past, Skico utilized the Aspen Mountain gondola plaza during X Games to host rail jam, wall ride and big air events. In January, in what was somewhat of a departure, Ajax was the site of an exhibit honoring the works of the 50 finalists in Red Bull Illum Image Quest’s worldwide action adventure sports photography contest. Among those showcased was Carbondale’s David Clifford.This year, in an effort to generate a unique idea, Gunshor said Skico took a wide look at the action sports landscape and talked with corporate partners.”We asked ourselves if it made sense to do a different type of rail jam or wall ride, and we decided we liked the idea of being able to do something new and exciting,” Gunshor said. “There hasn’t been a quarterpipe here. That appealed to us.”Then they targeted Highlands. The mountain, widely considered a favorite among locals, has hosted Town Race Series events and Freestyle Fridays – similar to Snowmass’ Big Air Fridays but included more disciplines – in years past. But its never tackled something of this magnitude, Gunshor said.Skico recently presented its proposal to Highlands mountain manager Ron Chauner, and his response was overwhelmingly positive, Gunshor said. Chauner is out of town and was unavailable for comment Tuesday.”He’s excited about getting into the X Games spotlight,” Gunshor said. “Obviously there’s a little area of unknown because he hasn’t worked with us on past events.”The quarterpipe’s tentative location will be uphill from ZG Grill – taking advantage of the hill’s natural pitch as the run-in – although snowmaking efforts will dictate its final location, Gunshor said. It is expected that Skico’s terrain park crew and representatives from Snow Park Technologies will collaborate on the project, much like they do in preparing Buttermilk’s X Games venues.Transportation and other logistical matters will be finalized in the following months, Gunshor said.”We’re excited by the opportunity,” he added. “The big show is X Games. We know that. But there’s a lot of people in town [in January], and we think we can put on a good, fun show. We hope the public embraces this.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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