Ridgway artist Lisa Issenberg again tasked with hand-making the unique awards that will go to the top athletes this week at Buttermilk
When the X Games athletes come to Aspen each year to compete, they often leave a bit of themselves behind, both physically and emotionally. This winter, the ESPN staff wanted to make sure the stars who make the podium also go home with a piece of Aspen, both physically and emotionally.
“We wanted to capture something iconic from this majestic location,” said Brian Kerr, ESPN’s associate director of competitions, who is in charge of the X Games medal design. “We wanted something these professional ski and snowboard phenoms could take back to their homes and not only feel proud that they podiumed at the ultimate action sports event that is X Games, but they would also remember where they were when they won, to take a piece of Aspen, Colorado, home with them.”
The X Games Aspen 2022 medals — including the knuckle huck rings and Rocket League awards — were again created by Colorado artist Lisa Issenberg. The founder and owner of Kiitella studio — a Finnish word meaning “to thank, applaud or praise” — in Ridgway, Issenberg first made the X Games medals in 2020 before also returning last winter.
She’s known for making many other awards, as well, from the Birds of Prey World Cup ski races at Beaver Creek to Aspen Skiing Co.’s own Power of Four events. Issenberg’s Ridgway studio has long been located in the same building as that of famed artist John Billings, who among other projects makes the Grammy awards.
“Brian Kerr’s vision was the spark for this year’s design,” Issenberg said. “He wanted to somehow capture that feeling one has of standing in a thick aspen grove … those perfectly round, white trees, with thick, smooth bark … a feeling of natural perfection and serenity.”
Unique to this year’s medals is the use of wood. Inlaid in the design is an actual piece of an aspen tree, which was sustainably harvested locally from either standing dead trees or trees that had already been knocked over by wind or avalanche.
This meshes with how Issenberg works with metal, which is all highly recycled with minimal waste created during the crafting process. That waste is even then recycled.
This year’s medals are round with “Aspen ’22” etched into the outside edges, with a gold, silver or bronze colored X Games logo making up the center. The inside of that “X” is cutout from the metal, with the aspen wood showing through. The famed X Games globe is burned into the wood in the center.
“The (wood) discs were turned on the lathe to fit perfectly within a slice of thick-walled steel pipe, which in terms of design represents the thick bark,” Issenberg explained. “All together, the medal synthesizes as an outside-the-box, custom-made hefty mixed-media work of art, melding industrial processes with handmade … with the intention to significantly honor the athletes’ incredible talent and accomplishment, and creatively represent the X Games brand.”
Medals are awarded to the top three placers in each event, outside of knuckle huck, with only the winner getting a ring. Kerr said along with each medal the athletes will receive a written description about the award that explains the aspen wood.
“Each medal is created by hand and just like the beautiful Aspen snowflakes that fall from the sky around here, no two are exactly the same,” Kerr said. “The medals look like they were forged on the banks and taken directly out of the Roaring Fork River moments ago, and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.”
X Games Aspen returns to Buttermilk Ski Area, beginning Friday and running through Sunday. Unlike the 2021 contest, which was closed to spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event will again be open to fans, although proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be needed for in-person viewing at Buttermilk.