With large special events becoming an increasingly important part of Aspen’s tourism economy, community leaders this year completed negotiations to keep the Winter X Games in Aspen at least through 2014, and landed a stage of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race for the third year in a row.
Buttermilk has hosted the high-flying X Games since 2002. ESPN, which puts on the event, had continually renewed its contract with the Aspen Skiing Co. to hold the games here, but the previous contract expired with the close of the 2012 X Games with no announcement of where they would be in 2013. Other resorts — notably Whistler, British Columbia — were hoping to take the games from Aspen and had made bids to ESPN, increasing the stakes of the negotiations.
Local government agencies increased their financial support of the X Games to sweeten the deal, which was announced in May. The city of Aspen stepped up its annual commitment from $100,000 to $125,000; the town of Snowmass Village invested $170,000 instead of $85,000; the Elected Officials Transportation Committee doubled its contribution from $50,000 to $100,000. The new contract also includes money from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which is contributing $150,000; it was not a funding partner in the past.
The USA Pro Challenge had its inaugural run in August 2011, which included a stage finish in Aspen. This summer, there was a stage finish and a next-day start here. Next summer, it was announced this month, the seven-day event’s overall start will be a circuit race on area roads between Aspen and Snowmass, and the next day’s stage will start in Aspen on its way to Breckenridge.
The city has supported the race with six-figure subsidies in its first two years, although the local organizing committee sells VIP tickets, sponsorship packages and space at a race-day expo to offset the logistical expenses. Local hotels also donate hundreds of free or reduced-price rooms to the cause. The race produced a festive atmosphere in town when it came through in its first two years, and city officials believe the PR value far exceeds the tax-dollar contributions.