ESPN and the Winter X Games have signed on for two more years in Aspen.
Officials with the television network announced Tuesday morning that Aspen will continue to be part of an expanded X Games lineup. Beginning in 2013, the action sports extravaganza will also host events in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil; Barcelona, Spain; and Munich, Germany. Existing X Games franchises in Los Angeles and Tignes, France will also stay put.
Tuesday's announcement, keeping the winter's largest event in town through 2014, marks the fourth time ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. officials have extended the games' stay in Aspen since they first came to Buttermilk in 2002. The last contract, from 2009, expired after this year's event with no extension announcement, leaving many to speculate that the Winter X Games would be leaving Aspen, perhaps for Whistler, British Columbia, which had put in a bid to host the games.
“ESPN is thrilled to extend its relationship with Aspen Skiing Co., the city of Aspen, Pitkin County and town of Snowmass Village for two more years,” Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming and X Games, said in a press release. “After 11 fantastic years of world-class competition and progression in Aspen, we’re delighted to move into the new phase of X Games growth towards a global youth and lifestyle brand with one of our most long-term and valued relationships.”
John Rigney, SkiCo vice president of sales and events, said Tuesday morning that both the ski company and public sector agencies "increased the value of the deal" to keep ESPN in town. The city of Aspen stepped up its annual commitment supporting the games from $100,000 to $125,000; the town of Snowmass Village is investing $170,000 instead of $85,000; the Elected Officials Transportation Committee is doubling its contribution from $50,000 to $100,000. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is contributing $150,000, while it gave no money in the past.
Rigney added that he cannot disclose the details of SkiCo's financial contribution to the event, but that it is increasing. Hotels and lodges also contribute to the games in the form of free or discounted rooms for X Games personnel.
"This is a huge statement on behalf of the entire Aspen/Snowmass community," Rigney said.
The X Games, which take place over four days in late January, brought a record 114,000 spectators to Buttermilk in 2011, and 108,000 this year. They return in 2013 Jan. 24-27.
Rigney speculated that the contract extension took longer to be announced this time around because ESPN wanted to package news about Aspen with the new X Games host cities.
"You try hammering out six different contracts in multiple languages," he said.
This story will be updated.