This article was originally published by Jason Cook, AVSC Snowboard Director, in AVSC's Aspen Times Column, Clubhouse Chronicles.
At Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, there are many reasons to be excited about X Games. First and foremost, the athletes at Buttermilk this week are the best in the world.
AVSC freestyle and snowboard athletes are given the opportunity to get up close and personal with their idols. X Games has a different feeling than other big-stage events; the athletes are open to interacting with kids and are relatively accessible.
The enthusiasm is unmatched; local kids' jaws drop as their heroes dole out high fives and sign their helmets, a signature that they will look at every time they suit up for the remainder of the season.
Under the bright lights and with the roar of the crowd in the background, our athletes have the chance to slip the halfpipe, slopestyle course and big air jumps. Over the years, AVSC has even had athletes forerun events (running the course before the athletes compete). Torin Yater-Wallace foreran the men's halfpipe when he was 10 or so years old.
As a forerunner, not only do you experience the venue during competition, you attend training days and prepare for the competition side-by-side with the best in your sport. This is where dreams are born and goals are cemented.
These high-level athletes are incredible ambassadors for their sport; most remember when they were a young kid looking up to those on the cutting edge. In spite of it being such a busy and high-stakes time in their season, they'll make time to share their passion with local kids.
Over the past few weeks, U.S. freeski team members Taylor Seaton and Aaron Blunck have trained alongside AVSC athletes, refining their quarterpipe hits on AVSC's airbags. Just last weekend, Jamie Anderson, the most decorated snowboarder in X Games slopestyle history, stopped by a USASA competition AVSC was hosting to say hi and good luck to the competitors. No matter how old or accomplished you are, it's pretty cool to have a two-time Olympic gold medalist stop by the halfpipe to wish you luck before you drop in.
Beyond the impact of the athletes, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club is grateful for the X Games venue, an invaluable resource to our athletes and coaches. We had pre-event access to the halfpipe and look forward to the opportunity to train on the jumps after X Games.
Toward the end of the season, as the weather warms up and the snow recedes, the massive amount of snow piled up from X Games will be converted into the beloved Buttermilk Glacier, where we reshape the snow into a training ground of jumps, rails and airbags. The "glacier" grants our athletes the ability to continue their on-snow progression into the warmer months right here at home, saving significantly on travel expenses.
The X Games Aspen atmosphere creates the perfect environment for our athletes to dream big. They ski and ride world-class venues. They interact with the best in the world; some of whom grew up in the exact program that they're progressing through as athletes themselves. The X Games fosters a deeper passion for the sport and drive to succeed. It creates a sense of wonder about what their career could look like if they continue to work hard.
Will they be the next Alex Ferreira, giving high fives from the other side of the fence in a few years? Time will tell. Thank you to X Games and Aspen Skiing Co. for making it all happen, and of course thank you to the athletes for making time for the next generation.