By Allen Best
Chinese customers in Aspen
ASPEN, Colo. – The Aspen Skiing Co. has started casting seeds in China, hoping to grow business from the giant country of 1.3 billion people.
The Aspen Daily News, reporting from a local chamber meeting, says that representatives of the Little Nell, the ski company’s swank hotel, recently went to Shanghai to meet with travel agents.
Hotel manager John Speers explained that many wealthy Chinese send their children to U.S. schools. They can be more easily sold on a North American ski vacation while coming or going from their child’s school.
Aspen, said Speers, generally has what Chinese visitors would be looking for: high-end shopping and a healthy serving of cultural events.
To better accommodate Chinese visitors, he urged local businesses to study how to conduct transactions using UnionPay, which is the only provider of credit and debit cards in mainland China.
People keep on feeding bears
BANFF, Alberta – It’s mid-summer, and bears are in the news in nearly all the mountain towns.
In Banff National Park, a tourist on a tour bus recently flung a piece of meat at a 23-year-old grizzly sow and her yearling cubs, hoping to lure the bruins closer for a better photo.
“Absolutely shocking,” said Steve Michel, human-wildlife conflict specialist with the park.
“This is the sort of behavior we saw 30 or 40 years ago, and it’s certainly very concerning when we see that kind of disrespectful behavior in 2012, particularly to a bear that has been so successful in the landscape.”
The fear of bear biologists everywhere is that bears will connect people with easy meals, a connection that leads the animals to become demanding and hence threatening. Often, that means they must be killed.
In this case, there’s no evidence the bears have changed their behavior by approaching vehicles. “She’s been foraging on buffalo berries, so that’s a good sign she didn’t actually receive a food reward,” said Michel.
Nobody was charged with feeding the wildlife, and the tourists, who were from China, left.
BYOW OK in Whistler restaurants
WHISTLER, B.C. – Diners in Whistler can now carry their own bottle of wine to a restaurant.
The new rule, called BYOW, because it applies only to wine, was recently adopted by British Columbia. The practice is common around the world, although not in the United States. One restaurateur told Pique Newsmagazine that whatever got people out of the house was ultimately good for restaurants.
Romney rallies Colorado
BASALT, Colo. – Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and 10 of his best buddies, all of them Republicans, as he is, and governors, as he once was, shared the stage at a rally held in Basalt, located near Aspen.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert testified that based on what Romney did in turning around the corruption-tinged and financially troubled 2002 Olympics in Utah, he’s convinced Romney will do the same for the United States.
“I saw it happen, and the nation needs the same kind of turnaround,” Herbert said in an Aspen Daily News report.
Employees of Gould Construction, an excavating firm, were seen behind Romney, some of them wearing hard hats. Gould Construction benefited from illegal immigration, as did liberal, über-rich Aspen. A 2006 TV special with Tom Brokaw revealed the troubles Gould had in finding legally-documented workers construction projects for $14 an hour.
Squaw Valley expands bed base
SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. – When Denver-based KSL Capital partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010, it was clear that the resort would be remade in the model of the destination ski areas of Colorado. That is happening.
Local government officials in California recently heard that KSL is applying to do a real estate project that will substantially add to the resort’s bed base. The resort has 100 acres planned for development. The first phase, of one million square feet, would use a quarter of that land. All told, Squaw Valley wants to create 1,275 units in various ownership configurations, according to a press release posted by Placer County.
Bust tied to Mexican cartels
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Cocaine continues to pop up in the news occasionally. Last year, there was a giant cocaine bust in Aspen, with connections to drug-traffickers in Los Angeles. Now comes a story from Aspen that six people were arrested, all of them from Mexico.
The purchasers of cocaine in Aspen and Telluride were not identified, at least not in print, although it is gernerally assumed that they were local customers. The cocaine retailing operations are thought by officials to be tied, through the supply chains, to weekly beheadings in Mexico as drug lords and gangs there compete for dominance.
Whistler airport on backburner
WHISTLER, B.C.—While aware of the advantage enjoyed by U.S. ski resorts with airports in close proximity, tourism leaders in Whistler say that developing an airport of their own remains a low priority.
Whistler’s best option is Pemberton, located a half-hour away, where an existing airport with a 4,000-foot runway exists. But making it suitable for direct flights from distant cites by large airplanes would require an extension of the runway to at least 6,000 feet. The viability of that continues to be studied, ski area officials tell Pique Newsmagazine. “It’s still a ways off,” said Dave Brownlie, chief operating officer at Whistler Blackcomb.
Assessing impact of coal trains
WHITEFISH, B.C. – Homeowners and others who live along the railroad tracks in Whitefish are assessing how they may be impacted if the export of coal from the Powder River Basin to China and other countries is increased. According to a report, the Western Organization of Resource Councils estimates current traffic on the Hi-Line route through Whitefish might be increased by 15 to 30 trains per day on top of the existing 30 trains.
Representatives of BNSF, the railroad company, dispute those claims, saying it’s unrealistic to assume all coal from the Powder River Basin will travel on BNSF lines or that all the half-dozen coal export terminals proposed on the West Coast will be built.
Summer economy roars
ASPEN, Colo. – While Aspen city officials continue to be cautious about what the future may hold and real estate sales are a perplexing, muddled story, the tourism economy is bursting at the seams.
During June, the city recorded $44 million in activities subject to the sales tax, such as restaurant meals and lodging. That’s an increase of nearly 16 percent over the same month in 2011.
In Vail, the story is also of rapid growth in retail sales and lodging. June sales tax collections were the second highest ever.
In interviews with the Vail Daily, local officials responsible for marketing were happy to take credit for the gains. They said that they have become more sophisticated in the use of social media and other Internet-based marketing, but also that they have better connected specific users with specific activities.
“Instead of branding Vail as something for everybody, we’re really honed in on messages about events and activities people say they’re interested in,” said Mia Vlaar, a member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.
But again, as in winter, when good snow makes heroes and heroines out of marketing people, there was something else going on in June, too. “It’s no minor detail that hot weather has driven people here,” said Beth Slifer, chair of the marketing council.