X Games Aspen will return to Buttermilk Mountain next month with plenty of big air, but without any big-name musical acts.
According to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners’ packet of materials for Tuesday’s work session, the annual winter sporting event put on by ESPN will have “no concerts” in 2022.
It isn’t immediately clear why live music was scrapped from the three-day competition’s lineup or if the decision had anything to do with the ongoing pandemic — after all, 7,000 spectators and another 1,500 staff members, athletes and vendors will be allowed to access the fenced-off event, set to occur from Jan. 21-23.
“They just came to us and said, ‘We’re not having concerts this year,’” Suzanne Wolff, Pitkin County Planning and Zoning assistant director, said.
With the exception of children under the age of 12, all X Games Aspen attendees must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination.
Attendees under the age of 12 may still attend the competition but must wear a mask at all times, except when actively eating or drinking, and be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.
ESPN submitted a special event permit application to host the three-day event, on which the BOCC will provide feedback during its Tuesday work session.
“I really appreciate the fact they’re coming in really early. I guess they’re trying to look at the issues — address the issues rather than feeling under pressure just to approve the event — which I think is important for the board of commissioners,” Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “You come in a week ahead, and how do you cancel? You come, you know, in December … a month, six weeks out, that gives us time to fine tune things, which I think is important.”
A spokesperson for ESPN declined to comment until after Tuesday’s BOCC work session.
Clapper commended ESPN’s handling of the sporting event in years past and was confident its 2022 installment would run just as smoothly.
“For whatever reason … they’ve chosen not to do concerts is probably based on a good reason,” Clapper said.
X Games Aspen still occurred in 2021, but without any on-site spectators or concerts as a result of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, artists such as Lil Wayne, The Chainsmokers, LCD Soundsystem, Twenty One Pilots, Nas, deadmau5 and others have performed at Buttermilk Mountain as part of the X Games festivities.
Last month, 10 people were killed as a result of a crowd rush at Astroworld Festival in Houston during rapper Travis Scott’s set. The pandemic has also forced many music festivals across the country to either reschedule or cancel their dates altogether.
“There are just multiple issues that surround concerts. … I don’t think the board is going to push them to have concerts,” Clapper said, later adding, “Some of the concern is going to be RFTA buses.”
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority provides shuttles for people heading to the X Games from multiple locations, including the Brush Creek Park and Ride.
According to RFTA Communications Manager Jamie Tatsuno, the transportation authority will continue to operate its buses at 100% seated capacity for X Games Aspen but with various protective measures in place, including increased ventilation and requiring passengers to wear masks.
“Typically, on Fridays and Saturdays during X Games, most of our buses dedicated to the venue are operating at maximum capacity with standees. This means we will usually have 55-60 passengers on board for each trip,” Tatsuno said in an email. “With 100% seated capacity and no standees, that number will be reduced to [a] 35-39 passenger range.”