Out of all of the four ski mountains here, Buttermilk is by far my favorite for one reason — it’s where I learned to ski and love the sport. And having the ESPN Winter X Games there every year for the past decade and then some is just cake icing. It’s incredible to me that the most extreme winter sporting event is held at what’s heralded as our beginner mountain. If you can’t get excited about the X Games, check your pulse — you may be flatlining.
My first memories of skiing Buttermilk are on the run Teaser. I started off skiing with both my parents, made a few snowplow turns and fell a couple of times. When I got toward the bottom of the run, I turned into the skier’s right-side hill, spun around backwards and started skiing what’s now known as “switch” for the remainder of the run. I thought it was clever. My dad was unimpressed, and my mom just laughed. The very next day I was in ski school. That was in 1974. I just now am getting comfortable skiing backwards again.
Whenever I’m going through a tough time in my life or feeling uninspired I go and ski over at Buttermilk. It hits the spiritual reset button for me every time. There’s no expectation, no pretension, no ego or vanity, no problem. It’s the safe haven of so many childhood ski memories. After a nasty crash on Ajax in my late 20s that left me with a blown up knee and three surgeries, I relearned to ski at Buttermilk and then graduated to Tiehack when I was good and ready.
But my all-time favorite is skiing with kids over at Buttermilk. Rediscovering and seeing the sport that you love through the innocent eyes of a child is pure magic. Think tree trails and jump runs. When you observe kids at the X Games at Buttermilk, you can see that same enchantment in their eyes.
I still to this day can’t understand why anyone would take their kid to ski Ajax when Buttermilk is right there. When we were young, being able to ski Aspen Mountain was a right of passage, not unlike reaching puberty. There was an understanding that Aspen Mountain was for adults. When I see kids on Ajax I cringe.
When it comes to the Winter X Games and ESPN’s relationship with Aspen, I can’t help but think of a marriage under duress, headed for couples counseling. Pretend for a second that Aspen is the woman and ESPN is the man. The man has told the woman he needs his freedom, and has said as much to all of their friends. He wants to date other women — in the U.S. and (gasp) Europe! The woman still wants the man and feels like she has been a big part of his success, but she’s only willing to go so far to keep him. This relationship is a marriage therapist’s dream. Regardless of what ESPN thinks of Buttermilk, I’ll never turn my back on her.
Did you see the story in the paper this fall about Shaun White getting arrested? He went on a mini-rock star rampage at a hotel and ended up with a black eye in the slammer. My first thought when I saw the story was what a relief — he’s finally behaving like a snowboarder. Apparently his sponsors were not as comforted, and made him get a haircut.
Everybody’s wondering what trick White will do this year at the X Games in Aspen. My hopes are that he’ll throw a triple cork fire alarm pull, and then follow it with a switch fire extinguisher discharge at The Little Nell, and really cement his legacy. After that he may finally be qualified to buy a house in Aspen. I know just the place too; it seems a certain former Tour de France winner may be putting his West End estate on the market.
There’s an interesting marketing concept with regards to the generation-X Games fans that come to Aspen each year for the event. It’s that someday they’ll get their act together, land a six-figure job, pull their pants up and come back here for vacation. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait until they get the public foul-mouthed drunkenness out of their systems as they cram 10 bodies into a hotel room full of cheap beer while the manager’s not looking. They aren’t exactly our target demographic, and are arguably worse than deadheads. I know — that’s a bit of an underhanded stretch, and they’re only here for a week so get over it.
Regardless, thanks to all the athletes and raucous fans who are here for the X Games. It’s undeniably the biggest rock show-style event our little town has ever seen, and will ever see in this strange lifetime. I hope everyone has a blast in Aspen, and thanks for making this the most exciting week of the whole ski season, hands down. But please, be gentle with my beloved Buttermilk.
Email Lorenzo at email@example.com.