ASPEN, Colo. — Shaun White has always loved the halfpipe at the Winter X Games in Aspen.
Even though he’s skipping the competition this year to prepare for the Sochi Olympics, he’ll be able to ride on it for years to come.
ESPN and Aspen Skiing Company announced Wednesday a five-year extension that will keep the event in Aspen through 2019. This weekend will be the 13th straight year Winter X has staged snowboard, ski and snowmobile events in the ritzy city.
The fact it’s staying put will certainly be welcome news to White, who was going to participate but decided at the last minute to skip it in order to rest up for Sochi.
“It’s probably the best facility in world right now. The X Games does pull out all stops,” said White, who’s won more than a dozen gold medals at Winter X.
There was a time when the winter action sports event roamed from venue to venue every two years, staging events in Big Bear Lake, Calif., Crested Butte and Mount Snow, Vt., before arriving in Aspen in 2002, where it’s remained ever since.
With the deal involving Aspen set to expire after this weekend, ESPN explored other options, just to see what else was out there. The company made a similar move a few months ago with Summer X, eventually leaving Los Angeles for Austin, Texas, after an 11-year run.
In the end, the company decided a return to Aspen simply made “a lot of sense,” said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice-president of ESPN programming and X Games.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” Guglielmino said in a phone interview. “One of the things, from an Aspen perspective, was it really works for us. With the Winter X Games, it’s a little bit of a different animal than Summer X. We have a big footprint. When we show up, we take up quite a bit of resources, in terms of different hills we use, the personnel, the hotel rooms and all that.
“You put all that together and Aspen is a terrific fit for X Games.”
Aspen’s identity has been intertwined with Winter X since its arrival. It’s one of the high points of the season for the resort, a week when the lodges around town quickly sell out. To keep it in town was a coup for the city, said John Rigney, the vice-president of sales and events for Aspen Skiing Company.
“It’s hard to imagine Winter X not being here in Aspen,” Rigney said.