At 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 26, the Winter X Games begin on Buttermilk Mountain at Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado. The first event of the games is Slopestyle, which is all about spins, grabs, grinds and flips. And, of course, amplitude, which is really what Winter X is all about. From Slopestyle to Superpipe, from Big Air to Skier/Snowboarder Cross, Winter X competitors send it, big time. You can watch the X Games on ESPN, but to really get an idea of what’s going on, and the incredible heights to which these athletes aspire, you gotta be there.
It costs nothing to watch the X Games on TV. But guess what? It costs nothing to watch the X Games in person. From the base, you can see a lot, especially the snowmobile events like FreeStyle and SnoCross. You can also watch the Big Air skiing and snowboarding competitions, most of the action in the Superpipe, Big Air, and the bottom of the courses for Slopestyle and Skier/Snowboard Cross. If you miss the TV feed, there are big screens at the base.
Everyone we’ve ever met associated with the X Games, from camera and sound guys to the ski patrol staffing the medical tent, is completely friendly and helpful. And why not? Winter X is a fun event. It’s competitive, but not Olympic competitive, so there isn’t that underlying layer of stress. It’s not uncommon to see the athletes wandering through the crowd and talking to admiring kids. As for the spectators? Well, they’re just having fun. Big fun.
While the crowds can be huge, the event pros at Buttermilk have the logistics down pat. Free shuttles and local buses run continuously during the games to transport fans to and from Aspen and outlying parking areas. Probably the most difficult part of going to Winter X is finding lodging and a seat in a restaurant on Saturday night. Finding a party? That’s much easier.
If lodging in Aspen is booked (or too spendy) check down valley in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Public buses run from these towns to the games, or you can drive, park and catch a shuttle from the Intercept Lot on Highway 82. As for dining, either plan on a long wait, or eat at Buttermilk. Vendors serve food in the X Fest area, or check out the on-mountain Cliffhouse Restaurant during the day, or Bumps, at the base, at night.
Get On the Mountain
If you’re at the X Games during the day, get on the mountain. This requires a lift ticket, which means the X Games are no longer free, but it’s worth it. In between competitions, you get to ski and ride Buttermilk. Check out the new Tiehack Express Quad chair on the more difficult, east side of the mountain, or test your skills in the progression terrain park off of the West Buttermilk Express. If you are on mountain, you can see the mass start and the top jumps on the Skier/Snowboard X course. Plus when you ride the Summit Express lift to the top of Buttermilk you’ll fly over the snowmobile venue to your left and the Superpipe and Big Air jumps to your right.
No Sure Thing
Whether you choose to stay in Aspen for the entire weekend, or just come up to Buttermilk for one day of the Winter X Games, come this year. ESPN’s contract with Aspen expires after these Games. Aspen/Snowmass is working with X Games to secure future years, but nothing has been finalized. While I can’t imagine the X Games finding a better home, this could be the last year at Buttermilk. If you can get there, do. This is a Colorado event you don’t want to miss.
If you can’t make it to this year’s games, be sure to check the TV schedule for your favorite event.