From the get-go, there always has been an undercurrent of condemnation towards the X Games by old-time Aspen locals. For a while it seemed like people were actually afraid of any of that sentiment coming to the surface for fear of some kind of retribution by ESPN, or panic that we would lose the event and all of that stinking money and advertising on TV.
When the games come back next year, I have a feeling it’s going to be the last time. ESPN’s bidding process for different resorts to host the Winter X Games reminds me of the TV show the “Bachelor.” I don’t think we’re getting another rose.
As excited as I get every year, I’ve actually started to resent the Winter X Games and all of the jive that comes with them. The advertising, the hype, the junk, the crowds and associated jackass-ery, the cases of hideous energy drinks and gaudy advertisements left lingering in our stores, and the Vegas-ization of our town. The fact that there’s 20 inches of snow on top of Ajax, and its 30 feet deep at the bottom of Buttermilk — 60 million gallons of waters worth, it’s estimated. Is there another event for which we have to run a front page story in the newspaper reminding people that it’s not OK to drink alcohol and smoke pot in public? It shows that we’ll do anything for money.
The thing that really got to me this year was the death and all of the injuries, as if there isn’t already enough carnage and death in this town without a sensationalized extreme winter-sports event to boost our totals. It’s nature’s way of telling us something’s seriously wrong. Some said that these horrible wrecks that happened in this year’s X Games were freak accidents. I would argue they were anything but — the courses are designed perfectly for these to take place with frequency, and they do.
I’d like to suggest a new rule for the Winter X Games: if you fall off of your snowmobile and the throttle sticks on and it goes into the crowd and hits someone, you’re disqualified! And another rule: If you’re in charge of the snowmobile event and you let an inexperienced rider whose machine hits a spectator and is obviously at fault go again, you’re fired! The sad irony is that it will only boost ratings.
What do you do if a horse or cow goes crazy on the farm and injures someone or other animals? You take it out back and shoot it. The episode involving the runaway snowmobile was downright negligent. The announcers were boasting the competitor only had something like four hours of experience on a snowmobile, so when I saw his snow machine race into the crowd unmanned and hit a kid I was horrified. The crazy thing is that it almost happened again after the snowmobiler was rewarded with a second run.
We got the coverage we wanted — our town is finally rich and famous beyond our wildest dreams because of the Winter X Games. Are we happy and can we now rest on our spoils? My thought is that when the contract expires, quietly urge ESPN to take their show to another resort. We need to start slowly distancing ourselves from this event and its mentality; much like the “Bachelor” does to a girl he doesn’t want to marry.
We have been put over a barrel and threatened by a huge corporation, whose demands are becoming more and more each year. ESPN has a net worth of $7 billion and they get discounted room rates. Why do we give discounts to people who need them the least? We’re being played, all in the name of advertising and publicity. Since when is our town so enthusiastic about big corporate-sponsored events? We used to shy away from that behavior. Do I make money from the X Games? Yes. Is it money I could live without? Yes. Big clients come and go. They, like us, and the Winter X Games, are expendable. Call me a radical, but I’ve always had a problem with demanding corporate business and the expectations of discounted rates.
I miss the days when our emphasis was on skiing, then relaxing. Turn left, turn right, repeat if necessary. When it was satisfying enough to see a guy do a helicopter, a backscratcher, a huge twister-spread combo, or pound a mogul line on the Ridge of Bell. We’ve gotten so far from that it’s distressing. Some say the sport has evolved. I beg to differ. There is a relevant nationwide dialogue about brain injuries in football, and it’s now spread locally with our own kids skiing and snowboarding in what have been nicknamed “trauma parks.”
Will someone give me a good reason to have the Winter X Games here when the contract expires? If your answer contains the words money or advertising or any reference to them, you can politely excuse yourself from the conversation. The Winter X Games makes me long for reasonable, modest events like the men’s World Cup downhill and the 24 Hours of Aspen. That’ll be the day.
Reach Lorenzo at email@example.com.