Aspen’s X Games crowds mostly well-behaved
Ryan Summerlin January 31, 2012
ASPEN – The kids were all right.
Local law enforcement officials and others involved in X Games crowd control say the thousands of teens and young adults who came to Aspen and Buttermilk Mountain to party during last weekend’s winter-sports event were mostly well behaved.
Of course, some of them were hopped up on energy drinks, alcohol and illegal drugs – or a combination of the three – but for the most part they maintained their composure, and there were no serious incidents to mar the celebration.
“I’d say we were busy, but there were no major crimes,” said Sgt. Mike Tracey, of the Aspen Police Department. “It was fairly normal.”
The games started Thursday and ended Sunday evening. Saturday was the busiest day in terms of spectators at Buttermilk, where the crowd was estimated at 45,000.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office only made one arrest at Buttermilk on Saturday. However, it reported 31 “contacts” with people at the X Games location who were related to excessive drinking. In most cases, the individuals who are seen as too drunk to handle the scene are asked to leave the premises and usually end up taking public or private transportation home or to downtown Aspen, officials said.
The Sheriff’s Office and Police Department recorded no X Games-related arrests at Buttermilk or in the city on Thursday, Friday or Sunday, according to information released Monday by Blair Weyer, community relations specialist for the Aspen Police Department.
Police made a total of eight arrests in the city from Thursday evening through Monday morning, said records specialist Cathleen Treacy. Those incidents were not directly linked to the X Games. However, Treacy said three of those arrests involved underage drinking, an offense that occasionally surfaces in the city even when there is no major event. Another arrest, classified as disorderly conduct, occurred at nearly 1 a.m. Monday at Eric’s Bar on East Hyman Avenue.
Total attendance at Buttermilk over the four days of X Games was estimated at 108,000, a 5.5 percent decrease compared with last year’s record high of 114,200. Still, this year’s crowd estimate was good enough to earn the distinction of the second-highest attendance over the 11 years the event has been held at Buttermilk.
“It felt to me that it was the same numbers of people in town as last year, with the same types of events and nothing really new that caused any issues at all,” Tracey said.
An acute-intoxication unit, an initiative involving the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation’s Aspen Hope Center, Aspen Ambulance, the Aspen Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, made its debut during this year’s X Games. It was set up at the Rio Grande meeting room just north of the Pitkin County Courthouse and staffed by medical professionals.
Authorities took nine people to the detox center on Friday and eight on Saturday, Aspen police records show. Some were transported from Buttermilk, while others were taken from downtown. The temporary facility was designed to give people a place to sober up in a safe environment and is expected to return for other major events and holiday weekends in Aspen.
Aspen Valley Hospital community relations director Ginny Dyche said the emergency room recorded 115 visits from Thursday through Sunday. Comparatively, during the four-day weekend of Jan. 19 through Jan. 22, emergency room personnel assisted 90 people seeking treatment, she said.
The downtown area was busy during the four-day stretch, and on Friday and Saturday long lines were a common sight outside the front doors of Eric’s Bar and New York Pizza, both located on East Hyman Avenue. Employees and patrons reported mostly friendly crowds with a few brief scuffles, arguments and fights but no serious incidents.
Aspen Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven said he made the rounds Saturday evening to ensure that restaurants and bars were adhering to the fire code and limitations on occupancy. Nearly every establishment had someone working the door to limit patrons during the busy periods, he said.
“The cooperation we’ve been getting from the bars has been excellent,” Van Walraven said. “Everybody was at capacity, and nearly everybody was adhering to the fire code. We had one exception to that rule – I’m not going to say who that was – and they got a stern talking-to.”
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority shuttled spectators between downtown Aspen’s Rubey Park bus depot and Buttermilk throughout the X Games, using many more buses than is usually required to ferry skiers and snowboarders to the area. Saturday evening was especially busy, with public buses moving some 4,000 people from downtown following a concert at Gondola Plaza back to the base of Buttermilk for more X Games events.
“This was one of the smoothest X Games that we’ve had,” said RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship. “I only heard of one fight on a bus, and there were no accidents or major problems.”
John Hocker, RFTA director of operations, said after 10 consecutive years of Aspen hosting the X Games, the public bus service had a good handle on how to move hordes of people between the two attractions for this year’s event.
“We didn’t have any major problems, and we had plenty of backup buses,” Hocker said. “We had so many buses in rotation that there was never more than a three- to five-minute wait at Rubey to go out to Buttermilk. When the concert got out Saturday, we probably had 20 buses in circulation just taking people back out to the X Games venue.”
Twelve of the buses belonged to RFTA, and another eight were driven by private contractors through an agreement with Aspen Skiing Co., he said.
Michael Goldberg, owner of the music venue Belly Up Aspen on South Galena Street, said the crowds were well-behaved during two shows Thursday and two shows Friday. Because of problems in the recent past with underage drinkers getting wasted before entering the club or sneaking alcohol into the venue, he recently instituted a policy limiting the number of patrons who are younger than 21.
“I would say that as a whole it was a very respectful group of people that came in,” he said. “I wouldn’t say there were any more incidents than what are normal on a busy weekend in Aspen. I think we had one show that allowed customers between 18 and 20, and it was an early show, and we had no incidents.”
All four shows on Thursday and Friday were either sold out or nearly sold out, Goldberg added.