It's official, Andy Party is retiring from X Games. "It's always good to go out on top, brah" shouted Party, the Editor of AspenSpin.com. After 13 years (3 as a fan, 10 Winter X Games and 2 Summer X games as credentialed media) the partier is finally stepping down. It hit me like a lightening bolt during the X Games 2016 press conference, I realized that "I couldn't go anymore, the desire was not there".
X GAMES 2016 (The Sick Pix) Click 4 Pix
Winter X games celebrated their 20th year in 2016. A milestone, no doubt. A-Spin has watched the evolution of X Games and extreme sports from the press box...and it's been a wild ride. We witnessed the metamorphosis of X Games from a programming after-thought, that included shovel racing... into a humongous entertainment property owned by Disney and operated by ESPN. The progression, the amplitude, the money booters, the commercialization and finally the festivalization has made X Games a gigantic business. I cannot even estimate the cost involved with presenting the greatest show on snow. Each year Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen is transformed into a giant city devoted to X Games. The competition courses have grown to a size beyond my imagination. The tent city that's erected at the site is amazing. The Athlete's Lounge, the VIP tent, the 5 story VIP viewing tower, the music venue and even X Games medical has become super-sized.
The athletes are getting younger and the handlers and hangers on are getting older. The X Games field has gotten more and more international over the years. Competitors come from all over the world. The fans mostly come from Boulder and Fort Collins. There are distinct sub-sets. You have the freestyle skiers (pipe, slope-style and big air) the freestyle boarders (pipe,slope and big air) as well as the X racers skier X and snowboard X participants. The adaptive athletes have grown in number and stature. And of course the sled-heads (snowmobilers). The guys who love to go braaaap, braaaap, braaaap.
The past two years X Games added on site festival-like concerts with big name talent. The lineup in 2016 included Deadmau5, Nas and Twenty One Pilots. Heard of 'em? The crowds were massive. Also on the program...e-gaming. An entire tent was constructed to house the Halo World Championships which became part of the broadcast schedule. It was clear as a media member that special emphasis was put on the music and the video gaming. I knew my X Games days were over when I declined to attend any of the music shows or even peak inside the gaming venue.
I had a great run covering X Games over the years. Sick parties, awesome swag, teen-aged athletes agreeing to interviews, hot young chicks wanting exposure on A-Spin, agents looking for coverage and an unlimited supply of energy drinks I could handle. In the last few years the sponsored events included weed safe houses a.k.a The Tree House with open bars, catered meals and more free sh*t than you can imagine. It's been fun. My booty said yes, but my mind and my body said no.
There were plenty of highlights at X Games 2016. This year a 13 year old from Estonia, Kelly Sildaru, won ladies ski slope-style to become the youngest Gold Medal winner in X Games history. Chloe Kim a very mature and savvy 15 year old took Gold in snowboard super pipe...her second consecutive win, making her the only athlete under 16 to win 2 golds. Gus Kenworthy a grizzly veteran at 24 won two Silvers in Ski Super Pipe and Ski Slopestyle. Kenworthy "came out" in a cover story in ESPN The Magazine in October. He has received tremendous support for his decision to go public with his sexuality. His boyfriend was even highlighted during the TV coverage...a first for a major sporting event. Gus almost snagged the Gold in pipe...only to be bested by Kevin rolland who put down an extremely clutch pipe run as the final competitor. Skiing Super Pipe used to be considered a marquee event at X Games. In 2016 pipe was relegated to Thurday night and only shown live via streaming on ESPN 3...or "The Ocho" as it's known inside the tent. Jossi Wells, an X Games competitor for 10 years finally snagged his first Gold in Skiing Slopestyle. Wells who began his X Games career at 15 is now one of the older competitors. With his full beard and his beautiful wife...he is one of the oldest competitor. Tucker Hibbert once again dominated the SnoCross snowmobile event winning his 9th Gold. Lindsey Jacobellis won her 10th Gold in Snowboard X. Mark McMorris topped a stacked field in snowboard slopestyle and nabbed a Silver in Big Air.
I did attend a few parties and events...which are always great. But time has finally caught up to me and I just couldn't go anymore. I went to bed early. I rested up for the 3 feet of snow that dropped on the final 2 days of competition and partying. I slept through the last two days of X Games and there was no FOMO. I was rewarded with two of the best POW days in a long time. It's good to go out on top.
I want to thank Danny Chi and his team at ESPN and X Games for always treating me with class and respect. I had some fun times and excellent experiences covering X Games. I got a few scoops and met lots world class athletes. I snapped some sick pix and scored some grade AAA swag. it's been a fantastic ride with plenty of amplitude. But now, it's time to take a seat and let the others blog about X Games.
Thanks for a great run.
X GAMES 2016 (The Sick Pix). Click 4 Pix