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WESTERN TRAVEL

Going to extremes in Aspen

January 21, 2007|Tom Winter | Special to The Times

ASPEN, Colo., is no stranger to world-class events: It claims an annual food and wine festival, World Cup ski races and innumerable gallery openings and musical soirees. It also hosts the Winter X Games, which run Thursday through Jan. 28 at Buttermilk Mountain.

Winter X, now in its 11th year, will draw more than 250 of the world's top athletes (including 28 Olympians) to compete in all things extreme, such as the ski superpipe, the snowboard half-pipe, mono skier X and snowmobile freestyle. The event becomes a swirling madhouse of athletes, music, parties and kids of all ages.

Before the madness begins, it pays to have a plan in place. Here's how to catch the action, avoid headaches, navigate the crowds like a pro and hang out with your favorite athletes.

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Don't drive

Seriously, there's no parking. Roaring Fork Transit Agency buses run from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. from Aspen to Glenwood. Buses from Aspen to event venues at Buttermilk are free.

Leave your wallet at home

Although Aspen has a reputation as an expensive playground, all of the events and concerts at Winter X are free. That means you can watch all the action and catch top musical acts live on the streets of Aspen every night.

Buy a College X Pass

If you are younger than 24 and attend a four-year college, you can't beat Aspen's College X Pass. For $59, you get two days of skiing at any Aspen resort. The catch? Today is the last day to buy it, and the pass is valid only during the X Games. Visit www.aspensnowmass.com for information or to buy a pass.

Make dinner reservations now

Aspen's restaurants are busy even without Winter X, but the influx of humanity means that if you want a table without a wait, reservations are mandatory.

Skiers rule

If you're going to watch only one event, catch the men's skiing superpipe final from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Friday. With apologies to the snowboarders, this event has become the event's marquee.

If it's after midnight, head to Eric's

This downtown Aspen watering hole gets packed during Winter X. Expect to run into top contenders for the event's big-money purse (in 2006, more than $500,000 was awarded) at this funky bar, which also happens to have the town's best pool tables.

Don't worry if you miss it this year

Aspen will be the host of the Winter X Games through 2010. If you can't make it this year, book your room for next year now.

And you can still watch this year's events live on ESPN, which sponsors the games, and ABC.

For more information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com or www.expn.go.com.

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