Displaying a new sense of cooperation between properties on the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe, two titans of Northern California snow sports are putting aside their daily competition to bid on the Winter X Games.
In January the preliminary bid from Squaw Valley Ski Resort and Heavenly Mountain Resort to host the Winter X Games starting in 2015 was selected as one of eight finalists.
"We are very much competitors, but there are times when we can work for the betterment of the region," said Andy Wirth, CEO of Squaw Valley.
John Wagnon, senior director of brand marketing at Heavenly, said his resort is excited about the possibilities of the joint bid.
"It makes for a better bid ... to do it as a Tahoe event," Wagnon said.
In addition to the adrenaline-heavy lineup of winter action sports, the multi-day event includes concerts, films and fashion shows. The X Games this year in Aspen, Colo., averaged 20,000 daily attendees and boasted a total television viewing audience of 35 million, X Games officials said.
The contract would be for three years but could be extended without going back to bid.
People often refer to Lake Tahoe as if it were one entity. That is far from the truth. A recent rash of acquisitions has reduced the number of players in the resort business, but Squaw and Heavenly remain in competition and are governed by different city, county and state governments. North and south shores even have separate visitors' bureaus.
"This probably would have been unlikely in previous eras," Wirth said.
Squaw Valley is owned by the Denver-based KSL Capital Partners. Heavenly is owned by Vail Resorts, which is also based in Colorado.
The two resorts began working collaboratively on a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic before the U.S. Olympic Committee decided not to submit a proposal.
"Having the X Games would elevate ... our stature as a world-class ski destination," Wagnon said.
The two are already working together - sort of.
From March 17-23, Squaw Valley will host the U.S. National Alpine Championships, which include downhill and slalom events. The following weekend Heavenly will host the more freewheeling U.S. National Freestyle Championships.
Wirth said making the X Games - along with the U.S. National events - ecologically friendly was one of the core goals. He said the nationals would be the greenest events in history.
He said part of the plan would be to improve Tahoe's "anemic" mass transit system.
"This is a region in dire need of improvement to the mass transit system," Wirth said.
The two U.S. National events are a feather in the region's cap, but the X Games boasts a better overall brand.
Since the inception of the X Games in 1995, sports broadcasting giant ESPN has taken the event from the fringes to a highly recognizable, profitable and sought-after sports competition.
The games are expanding globally and will now have six summer and winter events worldwide.
Aspen has hosted the winter competition since 2002 and will host one of the winter events in 2014. Aspen remains in the running to continue hosting the event, said Deane Swanson, senior director of event management for the X Games.
Swanson suggested that Aspen was getting the better end of the current contract, but said he expected a good bid from the resort.
The Denver Post reported that the January 2012 haul for Aspen's lodges was $21.1 million during the monthlong X Games, while restaurants and bars took in another $10.8 million.
"Think of it like losing the December holidays, Presidents Day weekend or the Fourth of July," Aspen Mayor Michael Goldberg told the Post.
Swanson said there has never been a multicity, multiresort bid for the X Games.
"Operationally it's a little bit more of a challenge," he said, "but ESPN has never backed down from a challenge."
Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.