A view of the X Games from the inside

Stacy Pokrywka

Like many of you, I’ve been watching X Games for as long as I can remember.  We all have watched the perennial X Games athletes like Shaun White or Kelly Clark on national television in awe of the physical skill, mental preparation, and pure guts it takes to soar 20+ feet out of that Superpipe.  Now we are seeing new faces that are pushing our sports to incredibly high levels like Hailey Langeland, Chloe Kim, and Marcus Kleveland.  So when my husband suggested we go watch the X Games in person, it was an obvious no-brainer to me!  Of course I would want to see these amazing athletes do what they do best, live and in person.  Clearly, there was no arm twisting needed for me.  And so the trip began…

Whew!  For anyone who hasn’t flown into Aspen’s tiny airport, it is quite an experience.  The airport has a mountain just off the side of the runway (looks like the wing could touch it!) and a short runway.  We got our luggage, grabbed a cab (or Uber) and headed into downtown Aspen where we stayed at a 1 bedroom condo right at the base of Aspen Mountain (Aspen Square Condos.)  While it was quite expensive, the location couldn’t have been better if you like to experience the food, drink, and culture of where you are.  It was also close to the bus line, so no car needed! Downtown Aspen was absolutely beautiful with snow-covered streets and trees it looked like it was right out of a winter painting.  We were lucky and had beautiful bluebird skies the days we were in Aspen.  Additionally, there are a lot of restaurants, bars, and tons of high-end shopping for anyone who is interested in that (although it was window shopping for us!)

Now, during any normal ski week, I’m told the visitors coming to Aspen are a bit… shall I say… high maintenance?!  However, since this was X Games week, I didn’t really see much of the fur coats and such.  This was a much younger crowd (X Games target audience is the 13-24 year old.)  The college-aged crowd was super fun, sometimes dressing up in animal onesies, and different groups of friends were super friendly to others.  Everyone mixed together on the bus system, which takes everyone to and from the four different mountains in Aspen, including Buttermilk where the X Games were being held.  This is probably not an event to bring younger kids to, as the bus rides tended to get a bit rowdy with groups that had been drinking or doing other completely legal activities.

X Games Enterance

I have to preface my X Games experience by saying that we had what they call a “Platinum Pass” which is something you can purchase for individual days or the entire X Games.  The pass gets you into the Tower at the bottom of the SuperPipe, which is enclosed, heated, and has its own set of restrooms (no standing in lines outside!)  With a Platinum Pass also comes unlimited food and drink – continental breakfast, light buffet style lunch (soups/salads/etc.) and small buffet style dinner with desserts.  Also, this pass comes with free beer, wine, cider, water, and Monster Energy drinks, which is one of the major sponsors.  Oh, and by the way, the views from the Tower are really good.  We had a first-hand view of the Super-pipe, the Big Air jump, and the bottom of the Slopestyle course.  We could also see the Snowmobile Best Trick contest and some of the other snowmobile and snowbike events.

View of the superpipe

Additionally, this Platinum Pass allowed me to access athlete signings every day and a tour of the Super Pipe.  This is how I got a selfie with Big Air Gold Medal winner Hailey Langeland!  Hailey was super nice and I got to spend about 5 minutes with her, where we talked about her Gold medal-winning 1080 in the Big Air contest, knee and elbow injuries she has had to recover from, and how inspiring some of the more experienced athletes are for her.  She was super sweet and we talked just as if we were hanging out.  I also accidently ran into Kjersti Buaas coming out of the restroom in the Platinum area so I was able to get a selfie with her.  I let her know the Shredbetties group loves her and that I really enjoy her Instagram feed, which brought a huge smile to her face.  After the selfie she wanted to see it and make sure it looked okay, since she had a black eye from the Big Air contest the night before!  The music acts (like G-Easy) and their crew also come up into the Platinum Tower as well.  With this pass you also get one full day ski pass for any of the four mountains and a free gift (ours was an X Games beanie) plus access to all the music concerts.  If you can afford it (even for just one day,) I would highly recommend getting this pass.

Platinum passes                                                                                                                                                                 Hailey Langeland

If you don’t splurge on a Platinum Pass, all the X Games events are actually free to watch.  However, you are outside the entire time and there are long lines for the restrooms.  There were people standing outside for as much as 2 hours to watch a single contest in -2 degree F weather… brrrrrr!!!  Keep in mind some contests start as late as 10pm.  Additionally, there are not bars or restaurants open to the public at the base of Buttermilk Mountain and there is no alcohol served at the X Games unless you are in the Tower.  The concerts do cost extra and you can buy a weekend pass or purchase tickets for those individual shows. 

If you want to see the athletes up close, the best bet is to get there early for their practice runs and the beginning of the contest to get a good spot at the base of the spectator area.  You can definitely give the athletes “high-fives” at the bottom of the Superpipe, and get video and pictures of them as they go by as well.  I was able to “high five” Chloe Kim, Kelly Clark, and Arielle Gold.  The Slopestyle and Big air contests are set farther back from the spectator crowd at the bottom, but if you are there early for the practice runs, you are more likely to get a selfie or autograph. 

One great tip!!  On the days they have the Slopestyle contest, if you ski/board at Buttermilk Mountain that day, you can actually ski down to the top of the Slopestyle run, where they have a separate spectator area… shhhhh… there is NOBODY here!  Nobody knows about it!  So you can likely get selfies with athletes during their practice runs if you ask them, and get to see what happens behind the scenes, like board waxing, jumping off the snowmobiles, hiking up to the top of the slopestyle course, etc.  I was able to get a little extra access up there to people like Jamie Anderson and Anna Gasser, who were both doing practice runs but were nice enough to take a selfie me.  Jamie gave me a quick minute so I asked her how she was feeling after her Big Air fall (she had to be helped off the bottom of the jump two nights earlier!) and in typical Jamie Anderson style she said “I feel good… what’s not to feel good about?  The skies are blue, it’s a beautiful day, everyone is chill, and I’m looking forward to competing today!”  Needless to say, I was star struck and all smiles….

Anna Gasser                                                                                                                                       Jamie Anderson

Behind the scenes at the top of the Slopestyle course.  That is Jamie Anderson tightening her boots on the left, and Hailey Langeland trekking up to the starting area on the right. 

We watched the Women’s Slopestyle finals from the bottom of the course and were able to get some close-up access.  Being able to watch these ladies totally shred not only the rails, but also the enormous jumps at the bottom was incredible.  Seeing it in person really gives you a new perspective of how big and how high these athletes are going.  The talent on in the Slopestyle finals was amazing.  One of the highlights was when Julia Marino won the event (as a rookie!) the entire group of competitors were all smiles for her and ended up in a spontaneous big group hug.  I could really tell that while the other competitors wanted to podium, they were all really supportive of each other and cheered each other on.  It was fantastic to see! 

Group Hug

The entire X Games experience was extremely cool.  Seeing the enormity of the Superpipe, the Big Air jump, and the Slopestyle course up close was absolutely incredible.  Being lucky enough to meet some of these talented athletes and watch them perform on the big stage under the big lights was absolutely an amazing experience.  The opportunity to actually talk with some of the athletes was incredible and I have to say they were ALL so nice.  Our trip to the X Games far exceeded my expectations! 

Posted by Tarin O'Donnell on 02/07/17

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