Let The X Games Begin!

X Games Aspen 2021

Everyone knows the baddest, most rebellious letter in the alphabet is X. Not only a convenient abbreviation for the word “extreme,” X is the mark of danger, of treasure, of the unknown. This Friday, for the 20th consecutive year at Buttermilk, the world’s finest boarders and skiers will launch themselves into that unknown as 480 million viewers across 198 countries and territories hold their breath.

Breath, a new “X” factor in our lives, prevents us from cheering in person this year, but is being mitigated by one of the most expertly produced events in the wide world of sports.

“If we didn’t have the history with Aspen Snowmass, I don’t think we could have pulled this off,” notes ESPN producer Danny Chi who has been working on the X Games in one form another since 2003. “Safety has always been one of our top priorities. We invite the best athletes to put on their best show and they expect the best safety behind the scenes.”
From course testing to X Games medical teams to offering the best possible virus mitigation, there is no team better suited and equipped to execute a socially-distanced, international sporting event.

The Legacy Goes On

X Games Aspen 2021

X Games Aspen 2021

“X Games are absolutely a catalyst for the progression of sports and the athletes who lead them,” notes Olympian Gretchen Bleiler. “When I think back on my competitive career, X Games moments are definitely the highlight where I learned so much about myself.”

The Same (But Different) This Year

The lack of crowds and concerts will be a compromise, but did that give athletes pause? “Listen I can’t speak for them,” Chi says. “But I can tell you anecdotally that typically when we send out the invites it takes a while to receive a reply as each athlete has a lot to consider. But this year — and keep in mind this is an Olympic qualifying year — the yes’s flew in faster than I have ever seen.”

One thing that has not changed in the months since the pandemic is the training, commitment and passion that the athletes bring to their sport, and this event each year.

There is perhaps no better metaphor for the growth of the Winter X Games than the mighty halfpipe at the base of Buttermilk. Those swooping curves of adrenaline have come a long way from the abandoned swimming pools of California where skateboarders first discovered the thrills of manmade inclines. Indeed, the Buttermilk halfpipe, dug physically into the side of the mountain, has become something of a monument to extreme sports — its line of white snow lasting well into the summer. Among other things, our pipe is smoother, more extreme and requires much less water to create.

The Continuation Of A Legacy

“When X Games first arrived on the scene here at Aspen Snowmass, we were unsure how long the partnership would last,” explains Deric Gunshor, Aspen Snowmass’s Director of Event Development. “No one really knew how big and long-lasting the event would become.”

Looking back, it all tracks with Aspen’s long history of celebrating the greatest in athletics. From the FIS and the World Cup ski racing and now with the X Games, Aspen continues to inspire the next generation of skiers and boarders by hosting world class athletes to compete in elite ski and snowboard events.
Alex Ferreira
“X Games are absolutely a catalyst for the progression of sports and the athletes who lead them,” notes Olympian Gretchen Bleiler. “When I think back on my competitive career, X Games moments are definitely the highlight where I learned so much about myself.” Of course, back during her first X Games in Crested Butte, she recalls how the athletes had to hike up the then much smaller pipe. “It’s a slightly different vibe today!” she jokes with a bit of nostalgia for the more intimate days.

Aspen local and X Games gold medalist, Alex Ferreira was 6 years old when the event first came to his hometown. “I remember sneaking out of class in middle school with my fellow competitor Torin Yater-Wallace just to get a glimpse,” Alex recalls. In fact, when the events were still held during the day, so many kids were skipping class to get a sneak peak at their idols throwing down in their backyard, that the Aspen school district decided to turn the X Games into a sort of holiday and give the students the day off to spectate.
Buttermilk's Half Pipe for X Games

Let The Games Begin

Alas, no one will have to skip school to watch this year. No matter how you choose to interact (ESPN, ABC, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, telegram, etc) the X Games, in particular the athletes, will be waiting for you and your digital love. Tune in January 29–31 to see the action come to life in the comfort of your home.

While life has changed for all of us this year, the X Games embodies much of our collective experience: pushing ourselves, lifting each other up, overcoming our struggles and celebrating our victories, no matter how small, or big they might be. When speaking about his gold medal run at the 2019 games, Ferreira notes, “You didn’t know if you could do something and then you just do it.”

That pretty much sums up what we have all been going through over the past year. With that in mind, it’s time to push off, keep that core tight and launch into that great unknown. Let the games begin!

About The Author

Author David Meyer

DAVID STILLMAN MEYER

David Stillman Meyer is a journalist, novelist, editor and copy writer. A contributing writer to Architectural Digest, Aspen Peak Magazine, Du Jour and The Aspen Times, he specializes in art, entertainment, fashion, food and nightlife. David’s family has been in Aspen since the '40s. David moved here in 2017 from New York City and loves skiing, skinning, swimming, and tennis.

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