The Winter X Games will see lineup, layout changes for the January 2024 event in Aspen

This winter will be one of the historic firsts for the X Games in Aspen — and not just because the athletes are breaking new tricks at Buttermilk Mountain.

The Jan. 26-28 lineup includes the debut of the women’s knuckle huck, along with the men’s event offered for both skiers and snowboarders to knuckle, or flip a larger jump. It is a milestone in gender equality and disciplines at the Winter X Games, where both male and female athletes will also compete in the usual Slopestyle, Big Air and Superpipe events.

“This is the first year it’s exactly one-to-one,” said Valerie Ryan, vice president of fan experience and hospitality for the X Games.

But to get close to the action, people will have to step up. Spectator enclosures at the base of the courses will require tickets ranging from about $25 to $70 for a day. (Rates are higher for night events than day events, and access to the base of the SuperPipe costs more than access to the base of the big air and slopestyle courses.)

Previously, these areas were free — and congested. The decision to charge for admission was partly driven by a desire for crowd control, Ryan said.

“The big driving factor for that is fans had to wait in long lines and hope they could get into the crowds,” Ryan said in an interview with Zoom. “Now they will actually be able to guarantee a place to go into the fence.”

Ryan said there will still be an open viewing area, but it will be located further back from the field. An X Games map submitted to Pitkin County as part of the Special Event Permit process indicates that these open areas may have some obstructed views of the Big Air, Knuckle Hook and Slopestyle courses, and visibility will be extremely limited for SuperPipe.

Paid access to the spectator enclosures is separate from the existing ‘SuperFan’ tickets for standing on the side of the SuperPipe; those looking for a more luxurious experience will have ‘XIP’ and ‘VIP Chalet’ options.

Other changes to the lineup and layout of the X Games will affect the event’s extracurricular offerings. There will be no live concerts at Buttermilk, but there will be DJs playing music throughout the day. Ryan said organizers want the focus to be on the race instead.

And the Special Olympics competitions, which have become a tradition at the Winter X Games over the past decade, will not be part of next year’s event. Ryan said this was due to time and scheduling constraints.

“We weren’t able to get it done in the time we had after we greenlit what we were doing for Aspen,” Ryan said. “But hopefully we’ll get them back again.”

Other community programs are in place, however, including a partnership with the Buddy Program to welcome local youth the night before the X Games officially kick off, Ryan said. According to special event permit documents filed with Pitkin County, organizers also plan to offer discounts to local students and Valley residents who wish to purchase a corral ticket.

This January will mark the 23rd consecutive Winter X Games in Aspen, but the future of the Buttermilk Mountain event is still unclear.

ESPN sold a majority stake in the event to a private equity firm, MSP Sports Capital, last year. And the contract with the Aspen Skiing Company to host the Winter X Games here expires in 2024.

Ryan said officials are still talking about what will happen next.

“We’re still having conversations to try to plan our future locations, and whether that’s in Aspen or somewhere else, we’re still figuring it out,” Ryan said. “But I will say that Aspen is and has been the best venue we’ve ever worked with for an X Games event.”

The X Games special event permit application with Pitkin County shows that other elements, such as parking, transportation and security, are largely the same as previous years. There will be no spectator parking at Buttermilk, but there will be spaces at the Brush Creek Park and Ride, as well as frequent shuttle service. And a security agency hired by the X Games will work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement to ensure the safety of the event.

The athletes’ lineups will likely look familiar, too. Organizers have invited athletes such as Aspen freestyle skier Alex Ferreira, a six-time X Games medalist, and Basalt freestyle skier Hanna Faulhaber, who won bronze in her X Games debut two years ago. However, the X Games have not yet announced which athletes have accepted their invitations. The final list of athletes could be confirmed in early January, Ryan said.

Note: The Arts and Culture Department at Aspen Public Radio is funded by the Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson Foundation.

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