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Aspen fighting to remain host of X Games
ASPEN — After 12 years, the Winter X Games here are more than a business boom. Yes, the event fill hotels and restaurants. It bolsters the reputation of resort operator Aspen Skiing Co. The busiest weekend of the winter, the snowy bacchanal fires an economic engine that fuels a valley.
But more important, Aspen X has become a vital tradition, a high-profile, youthful gathering of the tribe where goggle-tanned lovers of winter celebrate stars, mourn losses and randomly fist-bump parka-swaddled strangers.
The idea that ESPN might move its snow-sports circus from Aspen after the 2014 games — there are at least three other locales vying to host the event from 2015-17: Utah's Park City, California's Lake Tahoe resorts and Canada's Quebec City — is equivalent to a sort of amputation.
"Think of it like losing the December holidays, Presidents Day weekend or the Fourth of July," Michael Goldberg said as he wrapped up an atypical Wednesday night where the band Bloc Party shook his intimate Belly Up nightclub in downtown Aspen. "But the loss of the tradition — one of the things that makes living here so special — would be felt well beyond the business community. We will survive if they leave, but it won't be nearly as much fun. Or as profitable."
The 200 competing athletes draw more than 100,000 visitors for the four-day festival at the Buttermilk ski area, with the peak show Saturday topping a record 45,000 last year. The Roaring Fork Valley's lodges, hotels and inns swell to 98 percent occupancy during the X Games. That's as big as the New Year's Day and Labor Day holidays.