Glitzkreigs at Aspen, Sun Valley
SUN VALLEY, Idaho – It’s that time of year. Just as the big names depart from the Aspen Ideas Festival, big names from the media and business world descend on Sun Valley for the Allen & Co. annual gathering.
The two events are very different. The Aspen Ideas Festival is open to the public, assuming you can pay a few thousand to see Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate for president in 2016, or Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, interviewed in an intimate setting of a few hundred people. But even if you don’t wear silver heels, the Aspen Institute broadcasts many of the sessions live on the Internet and makes others available afterwards.
If nobody said anything this year that made the front page of the New York Times, it remains a scintillating cauldron for thoughts.
The conference at Sun Valley, in contrast, is off limits to the general public, including reporters – except those specifically invited. But as in Aspen, there are plenty of big names. Warren Buffett is a regular, and this year Amazon founder and CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos was interviewed by a reporter from CNBC.
Chinese “discover” Jackson
JACKSON, Wyo. – Chinese tourists have begun to arrive in Jackson Hole in significant numbers, by one estimate 500 a day in June.
It’s no accident. Jeff Golightly, chief executive of the local chamber, says the Chinese visitors are the reward of a “multiyear strategy.” And Jackson’s proximity to Yellowstone National Park – it’s just about an hour away – appears to be a major draw.
Chinese are familiar with America’s national parks. “When you go to China, they’ve all heard of Yellowstone,” said Mark Newcomb, an economic consultant. He is also a board member of the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs, which sends delegations annually from Wyoming to visit China on matters of energy.
Grand Teton National Park is starting to think about how to accommodate the Chinese. By one estimate, only 44 percent of Chinese have skills or training in speaking or understanding English.
Local businesses are also starting to grapple with the language barrier. “We’ve done an incredible amount of business with people from Shanghai in the last couple of years,” said Sheri Bickner, owner of the Onyx and Antler Gallery of Jackson Hole. But “the language barrier has been a real challenge for us,” she added.
To help smooth communication, the East Meets West Chinese Information Center in Jackson is translating menus and other materials for businesses and has Mandarin-speaking guides on hand for tourists.
It’s in the economic interests of businesses to reach out to the Chinese. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chinese tourists spend more than $6,000 per trip.
Citing the Chinese Tourism Academy, a website called Shanghailist reports that 26.4 million Chinese tourists traveled overseas in the first quarter of this year, up 17 percent from the same period last year. This same group finds that New Zealand is the top-ranked travel destination as measured by tourism satisfaction, followed closely by the United States and Canada.
In the United States, New York City, and Washington D.C. are the top draws, but also in the top are the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Hollywood, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, but not necessarily in that order, according to a website called China.org.cn.
Could other ski towns capitalize on this burgeoning love affair? That idea has been broached in Vail, where Councilwoman Margaret Rogers proposed the town investigate a sister-city relationship with a Chinese city.
Making hash while dog bites penis
TELLURIDE, Colo. – The Telluride Watch seemed to think that everybody already knew the story about the 911 call last spring when a dog bit a local man’s penis. Whatever backstory may be involved with that, the upshot was that police discovered an operation in which butane was being used to create hash oil from cannabis.
Using flammable gases and solvents to make hash oil is legal in Colorado, now that cannabis is also legal. But do it at home? That’s been a problem in many places – including Telluride.
As CNBC explained in February, marijuana trim (or bud) is infused with a hydrocarbon, usually butane gas, which strips THC and other cannabinoids out of the marijuana plant. “The goopy stuff that emerges is laced with butane. This has to be cooked down to remove the residual chemical. The result (if the cook doesn’t blow up, as butane is explosive) is a glassy substance called “shatter” or “wax.”
In Avon, however, a do-it-yourselfer blew an 8-foot hole in his kitchen drywall. The Vail Daily explains that when police arrived at the apartment of the 22-year-old man, they found five butane canisters and a tub of marijuana leaves in the living room.
“There have been more than 30 butane hash oil explosions in Colorado in the past few months, destroying homes and severely injuring both children and adults,” said District Attorney Bruce Brown.
Hardly window dressing
MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – The prospect of building a major convention and performing arts complex at the base of the Crested Butte ski area looks increasingly real. As of June, proponents had $17.9 million in pledges from donors. They expect the project to cost more than $20 million.
The Crested Butte News explains that the envisioned complex would include a venue large enough to accommodate 500 people in non-theatre chairs.
That’s large, but what would set apart the Biery-Witt Center, as the facility is being called, is the setting: a giant window of 2,000 square feet to admit unobstructed views of Crested Butte Mountain.Proponents hope to begin construction next summer.
Aspen hospital fund tops $21M
ASPEN, Colo. – In Aspen, a contribution from the Crown family, the owners of the Aspen Skiing Co., has pushed total collections for a new specialty care center at Aspen Valley Hospital above $21 million. The new center includes cardiology, pain management, urology, pulmonology, neurology, and gastroenterology, The Aspen Times notes.
Dog ‘poisonings’ likely pot edibles
ASPEN, Colo. – More evidence arrives of pets getting into illicit pet food. The owners of two large dogs in Aspen were certain that their pets were poisoned, but a veterinarian who examined the dogs says blood tests showed no evidence of poison, such as antifreeze.
The behavior of the dogs was consistent with those who have ingested THC, the psychoactive agent in cannabis. “The dogs walk like they’re drunk. They slept really hard, and they are hard to arouse. If you go to pet their heads, they shy away and flinch. They often dribble urine,” explained Ellen Miller, a veterinarian.
She told The Aspen Times that the clinic down-valley in Basalt sees, on average, one case per week of accidental ingestion of pot edibles by dogs.