Creating an X Games Aspen world of competition and entertainment
Don’t be surprised to find Skrillex, Snoop Dogg or Wiz Khalifa pumping their beats through the X Games Aspen village. That’s exactly what designers envisioned from the merging of competition courses and a themed festival village on Buttermilk Mountain, host of the Winter X Games for 13 years.
Located in Aspen, southwest of Denver, Buttermilk will play host to the Winter X Games again this month, this time mixing the needs of competition courses with four individually themed festival villages aimed at merging the world of competition with the world of entertainment.
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“The festival villages allow the X Games to broaden our event scope and attract new fans by offering more entertainment between and during competitions,” Valerie Ryan, associate director for event development, tells Edge.
The Gaming Shack, set up in partnership with Major League Gaming, will serve as a hub for all things gaming. The Galleria area will provide a setting for fans to meet athletes during autograph signings, personalize their own records and enjoy live DJs. Not to be outdone in the music department, the Sound Factory will return to the base of Buttermilk Mountain with concerts. In the Playground, fans of all ages can enjoy a mix of games to keep them entertained.
“We created themed festival villages to help the fans better identify what is happening in each village,” Ryan says. “Having the competitions in the same location as all of our festival villages helps us package the event better as a whole.”
That four-day event also contains plenty of competition on the snow.
Crews spent 2,200 hours on machines building the courses on Buttermilk, Rich Bigge, director of sports & competitions and logistics, tells Edge.
With only two courses that stay essentially the same year to year, the SuperPipe—which is the X Games' signature event—and Big Air, every other course has a different look each year.
“Slopestyle and X Course are usually the ones that take more time to design,” Bigge says. “Working with the topography of the hill is always a challenge.”
With 40-foot stepdown and 50-foot stepup jumps, not to mention an intense rhythm section and steeply banked turns, the X Course alone requires enough designing to keep crews busy. Add in new jumps this year for Slopestyle, another long-run course full of features, and it becomes obvious why Bigge says topography plays a major part in the workings of each event.
The Slopestyle course can also be a challenge to construct just right, but maybe not as tricky as dealing with the Snomo venue, with the three different events all happening in the same area. “Once one event is over we wipe the canvas clean and start over with the next event that has to be built,” Bigge says.
X Games organizers have developed a layout they can trust each year, ensuring that the competition sites fit perfectly onto Buttermilk, even while the extra festival villages, spectator spaces and operational needs all seamlessly work together.
Call it a merging of Snoop Dogg and Sage Kotsenburg.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.