Every year, I write about our adventures at Winter X Games. With four snow-loving kids, three of them risk-taking boys, this kind of event is right up our alley—and right down the road from our town. Even if you don’t live in Colorado, it’s worth a second look if you’re seeking out a winter vacation destination with your family next year. It’s always on a reliable date, held the weekend between the last NFL playoff games and the Super Bowl (the weekend of the Pro Bowl). That gives you plenty of time to make plans to attend next year. Need more convincing? Here are the top 14 reasons why this GeekMom loves Winter X Games:
1. It’s free! How can you not love something that will impress your kids, make great family memories, and cost you nothing?
2. It’s becoming more ADA accessible every year. As an amputee myself, every year I report back to one of the top ESPN guys in charge of Winter X Games, and tell him what they are doing right and what still needs work. This year, you could check out a souped-up, off-roading-type wheelchair, to navigate the tricky terrain between events (also free). There are dedicated ADA viewing areas that are well protected and actually very close to certain events. It’s exciting to see X Games become more and more accessible to adults and children with disabilities.
3. You can watch world class Paralympic athletes using the same courses as the able-bodied athletes. Every year, X Games includes more and more adaptive competitions. It’s great for people to see the incredible level of ability these athletes have, and makes watching the Paralympics a lot more relative. One of my favorite athletes, Mike Schultz, was a repeat gold medalist in Snowmobile at X Games, then lost his leg in an accident. In just a few years, he’d designed a new kind of leg, custom-made for athletes, and is now competing in Adaptive Snowmobile, as well as Adaptive Snowboard.
4. Staying a few days is an option. You just have to know the trick. If you’d like to spend $800 to $1,000 for a hotel room, go ahead and book one in Aspen, which is just a few miles away. But if you book early and are willing to drive a half hour, you can secure a clean, comfortable room in Glenwood Springs, for 50 bucks and up. Add that to the fact that the event itself is free, and you’ve got yourself a pretty budget-friendly vacation.
5. It’s full of fun photo ops. Whether you’re on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, there are many places to stop and catch a shot of something unique. Much like Disneyland, half the fun is going through the fun pictures once you get home. Also remember that the event takes place in the heart of the Colorado mountains. Just about every picture you take, at any time of the day, will come out beautiful. Be especially alert at sunset, when the sky can turn amazing colors.
6. There are free shuttles that are well organized. Parking has never been a problem. By using a commuter lot a few miles away, there is plenty of parking, and the access to the shuttle buses is efficient and timely. If you stay in Aspen, you can catch a free city bus that stops at Buttermilk every half hour.
7. It’s motivating and inspiring. Watching these events on television will make just about everyone who walks in the room say, “Whoa!” Imagine standing underneath that athlete as he jumps over your head. There are many opportunities to stand right next to the action, including the public access to the sides of the SuperPipe. You can literally hear the athletes breathing as they fly over your head in the middle of a jump. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
8. With practice sessions open to the public too, you have twice the opportunity to see your favorite events. The jumps are just as high and just as exciting when the athletes are warming up and there are great opportunities to get crazy photos, like the one above.
9. The athletes are accessible—to a point. Last year, I was amazed to see the difference between the X Games and the Olympics, which were a week later. While they aren’t necessarily cruising around in the crowds, at Winter X Games, many of the events have the athlete pass through a path in the middle of the crowd on their way to the snowmobile ride back to the top. Little kids and big kids alike got to high-five their favorite athletes, and many times take a quick selfie with them. At the Olympics and most other professional events, athletes are kept far away from the public. And if you keep your eyes open, you just may see your favorite athlete walking around later in the day, which leads us to reason number 10.
10. The athletes love being there. Every year at the press events, the athletes bring up how they look forward to this date in January every year. They love the way the SuperPipe is perfectly groomed. They love the interaction with their fans. Even in the midst of serious competition, the mood is relaxed. The athletes talk about it like it’s a big family gathering, where there is as much going on on the slopes as there is after hours.
11. You can choose to ski in the middle of the venues. Buttermilk Mountain does not close down during Winter X Games. The lifts still run and the ski runs all lead to one path, which runs through the middle of the festivities. As you ride the lift up the mountain, you get an aerial view of the huge jumps and snow cross courses. On the way down, you’re flanked by the SuperPipe on your left and the Snowmobile course on your right. You can ski all morning, then watch your favorite event in the afternoon.
12. It’s crowd-friendly. Every year, the attendance records are broken, yet it never seems as crowded as it should. Maybe it’s the wide open spaces that happen on a ski mountain. Maybe it has something to do with how the venues are spread out, leaving plenty of viewing room for the public. Sure, there are a lot of people around, but it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. It just feels like you’re surrounded by 5,000 excited friends.
13. There is music everywhere. As a backdrop during competitions, you’ll hear electronic beats. As you walk around the village, you’ll catch free bands playing periodically. This year, the paid concerts were big names—as in Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. Maybe they aren’t your favorite artists, but I’m always excited to see who they’ve secured for next year’s Games. ESPN is determined to make X Games all about quality music events as much as athletic events. The concert venue is right on the grounds, so getting to the paid concerts is as easy as a quick walk after you’ve watched the last event of the night.
14. It’s one of those rare events you can share with your teenager, and both walk away with great memories. Winter X Games is very family-friendly (although I recommend a backpack carrier instead of a stroller for tiny people, because of the snowy terrain). But it’s especially friendly to teenagers. There are huge screens everywhere, showing constant clips of current and past events. The announcers are entertaining. There are many spur-of-the-moment “contests” while the athletes wait out commercial breaks (much like at a football stadium). The dance contest between three random people they pull from the crowd is a huge hit every year and even on the last night of X Games, there was a trivia-type contest being held on the mini stage, with the chance to win tickets to the immediate concert.
You may be wondering if I’m actually on the public relations staff for ESPN, as much as I gush about the Winter X Games every year, but alas, there is no such job on my resume. I’m just a mom who discovered this gem of an event and wanted to share it with as many other moms as I could. So get out your vacation planner for next winter and have a family meeting. Winter X Games could be just the unique family experience you’ve been looking for.