GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. It's been 17 years since the Winter X Games inaugural year back in 1998, many of the 2014 athletes weren't even alive at that time. It's been 13 years, however, since the Games made Aspen its new home, and it's only continued to grow.
"First year we did it, we had 36,000 people, last year we had 116,000. That's significant," said John Rigney, Aspen Skiing Co. VP of sales and events."
Crews are working hard to set up and groom the venues, and in just a few weeks, the best skiiers, boarders, and snowmobilers in the world will hit the snow here again.
"The cream of the crop are here for the X Games," said Rigney. "You'll see a lot of Aspen Snowmass flavor and certainly X Games flavor in Sochi this year."
Many competitors will use the Games as a tune-up for the Sochi Winter Olympics in February. That includes Aspen's own Gretchen Bleiler, a four-time superpipe gold medalist at the X Games, who is vying for one of the four spots on the national team.
"It's definitely a pressure-cooker kind of year because there's so much on the line," said 15-time X Games snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, "but if you can kind of let go of that and ride day-to-day that helps things be fun, as they should be."
This year will be Bleiler's 15th time competing at the X Games, and over that time, extreme winter sports has evolved in front of her eyes.
"The X Games has done so much for action sports and snowboarding in general," she said. "They've really dialed in how to show this sport to the world in a really digestible manner."
"The X Games gets watched live by one in three teenagers in the US, which is astounding," said Rigney.
Interest and the competition only continues to grow, making it all the more reason for folks to get out and make the trip down to the games.
For a full event schedule, follow the link below.