With a week to go until the new owner of X Games is announced, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what changes will come to Aspen in January and beyond.
The 2023 edition of the games is starting to come into focus, with an “improvement” to the site and the return of music in the works, according to new X Games CEO Steve Flisler, newly hired by MSP Sports Capital, a development company. sports investment that bought the majority of X Games from ESPN, as announced on October 26.
But the future is much less clear, except that the former executive of web streaming platform Twitch wants to see more digital content creation around the X Games brand.
“We want to put our heads down and deliver a world-class event to as many people as possible,” Flisler said in a Zoom interview with Aspen Daily News. “We want to make that as accessible and as broad as possible, so that’s what we’re going to focus on over the next two months and then how can we level that out as much as possible through 2024.
“The hope is that the consumer can’t stop watching the X Games and the X Games athletes and watch eight days a week.”
Flisler said it was not wrong to compare the steps he wanted to take to those of brands such as Red Bull and GoPro, which have a large presence in digital content, although he said he wanted to. “in our own way”. Much like the rest of X Games’ future, the concept of creating additional content is on an abstract level, although he added that creating an “expanded schedule and event system” is a priority.
“In the mobile era GoPro plus, plus, action sports are becoming more and more a visual medium and the more you can capture and enable the creators, the athletes, and then the community who are storytellers around them to tell that story and share epic achievements with more people, it creates a whole [another] dimension to what action sport is,” said Flisler.
Which brings the discussion back to Buttermilk. Flisler said the 2023 edition will see a three-track layout, separating the Big Air ramp from the Slopestyle course as designed the previous two seasons. Flisler said some of the motivations include more training time for athletes without having to share a track, but also being able to optimize the track’s ability to respond to the specific event, rather than making concessions to integrate it into another course. He also thinks it will lend itself to a better viewing experience and also create flexibility with sponsors.
Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President John Rigney spoke with Flisler for the first time on Tuesday. Rigney said the two had spoken at length and was optimistic about the new owner’s “new perspective” on games.
“I’m excited to see their vision for the X Games in general and specifically where they want to go with Aspen,” Rigney said. “I think that will play out over the next few months and I’m sure it will be a fascinating discussion.”
Rigney said that while there will be new organizers at the top, “boots on the ground” will be largely ongoing from previous X Games iterations. Much of the prep work for the event is done by SkiCo staff.
That’s why he’s confident about the prospect of concerts returning, even on short notice. Rigney said SkiCo usually gave an August deadline to decide whether to provide music, but they wanted to see what the new owner wanted to do.
Turns out they want music. Flisler has confirmed that bringing music back to the Aspen X Games is “a priority” for this month of January.
“Music is an integral part of X Games and culture,” Flisler said. “We want to bring the music back in a way that makes sense and over time and how do we align tours and all of those elements and work with a local community, that’s a priority for 2023 for January and how we execute, when we announce, ticketing, all these other things that we’re working hard to put in place.
Flisler added that he will speak with “the people who do a lot of our musical work” on Thursday to discuss the details in more detail.
Concerts have been absent from the X Games for the past two years due to COVID-19.
Regarding the overall future of the X Games, Rigney said the subject of the contract expiring after the 2024 event has yet to be discussed, saying all parties are just trying to get to know each other. with others and get through the event of 2023.
“It was a two-decade partnership,” Flisler said. “We want to do things well. We want to have smart conversations and do it early. It’s a partnership, we’re going to want to be smart. Again, I want to make sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the events and we have a lot of good momentum over the past two decades.
Aspen has been the exclusive home of the Winter X Games since 2002. The Summer Games change location each year.
“I think Buttermilk is the ultimate venue because that’s it,” Rigney said. It’s the team on the ground, it’s the place itself, it’s the support of the whole community and it’s the fact that we celebrate this event. I think it’s the right size.
The 2023 Winter Games are scheduled for January 27-29.