The X Games Factor

How loud music, bright lights and thousands of adrenaline junkies are saving Aspen…from itself.
Publish date:
Jon Olsson at X Games

Aspen and the X Games.

Even after 11 years, it’s a marriage that strikes some as odd and potentially, presumably strained. After all, when most of us think of Aspen, we think of old money, fur coats, heated streets and a, shall we say, mature crowd that must shudder at the thought of another two years of Winter X Games shenanigans. But as it turns out, most of us are dead wrong. There’s nothing Aspenites love more than the hordes of pant-sagging, culture-countering gen-Yers who—for four days every winter—pull the mountain town out of its glitzy, stuffy shell. The announcement earlier this week that ESPN has renewed Aspen’s contract to host the Winter X Games for two more years—through 2014—was bass-pumping, speaker-rattling rock music to the town’s ears.

Aside from the hefty cash flow the Games bring, locals say the event exposes a side of Aspen not normally seen. “People think of Aspen as only a chalet mountain town for people with private jets and Land Rovers,” says Andy Pappani, manager at Aspen’s Escobar nightclub. “If we keep pigeonholing Aspen into being an older people’s town, it’s going to die out,” he says. “But the X Games show that there’s a young crowd here, and they know how to have a good time.”

            George Michael Goldberg, owner of Aspen’s popular bar and live music joint Belly Up, agrees. “The town was in need of a youth movement and the Games brought it,” Goldberg says. “It brings people to town that might not come otherwise, and they’re a boon to the economy.”

As the 20- and 30-somethings roll into town, the scene changes from Grey Goose martinis and Bogner one-pieces to Jager bombs and rail jams.

“Celebrities usually show up, and it’s great because people get to interact with them in a much smaller, intimate setting than they would in a big city club,” Pappani says.

So for two more years at least, rowdy kids and party hearty ski bums will turn this posh resort town on its head. And the best part: You can bet several locals will be there to tap the first keg.


Shaun White wins fifth halfpipe gold

The X (Games) Factor

Once little more than a fringe element of mountain culture, the Winter X Games is now the biggest—and maybe the most important—sporting events on snow.


Game of Drones

Drones are coming to resorts, which want them for everything from vanity videos to rescue efforts. But don’t expect to fly your own drone on the hill soon.