ESPN submitted a special request permit to Pitkin County, CO to allow X Games Aspen to get the green light. The permit request details having a fenced-in area and no more than 500 people at the event. The 500 people will include athletes and event support. Buttermilk Mountain will only have skiing and snowboarding X-Games events and no motorsports.
The event permit request requires several specific COVID-19 specific procedures. These include COVID-19 testing available on-site and three-layer masks only to be removed when eating and drinking.
In 2020, most professional sporting events have not had spectators. With X-Games being no different in 2021, we will have to see if this impacts athlete performance. 12-time X-Games medalist Henrick Harlaut often compares his skiing to music. He looks at competition as the live performance and his ski movies as an album. Will live coverage on ESPN be enough to support athletes or will athletes struggle without the audience?
The permit request will go through several local agencies to ensure it is safe. First, the permit will have to get approval from the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners on December 15th. The permit will also be reviewed by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Pitkin County Community Development Department. In addition to county-level approval, the permit will also have to be approved by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. It was submitted to the state on November 30th for approval.
X Games Aspen is a major source of revenue for the Aspen Valley and hosting it on ESPN, ESPN 2, and ABC will likely help some of the economic loss. In the past, more than 100,000 spectators have traveled to the Aspen Valley to watch this event.
If the permit is approved, the events will occur from January 29-31, and the event permit would be valid for 6 full days. Since this will be a fenced-off event, skiing and riding will continue to be open to the public at Buttermilk Mountain. It is possible a reservation system will be enacted for these days.