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Aspen betting on international market



ASPEN, Colo. - With the U.S. economy still jittery, the Aspen Skiing Co. is placing its bets on the international market. And Vail is quietly talking about securing more business from foreign countries, too.

Both ski towns have always done well with international skiers, more than 10 per cent most years, but the weak dollar is enticing more to book trips early, a senior executive recently told a local chamber group.

"Whether we like it or not, the U.S. is for sale (for people) from Austria and Brazil - two of our biggest markets," states John Rigney, vice president for sales and special events. In a meeting covered by The Aspen Times, he reported that the company, which has four ski areas in the Aspen area, has spent 500 days on the road in 18 countries and 49 U.S. cities.

Aspen is still recovering from the drop in skier visits in 2008-2009. However, last year skier visits were up 2 per cent.

Mike Kaplan chief executive of Aspen, told members of the chamber that competition continues to sharpen, with 3,000 additional pillows at ski rests of the West this coming season. But Aspen considers itself the "brand leader," and will continue to promote itself as a resort of "high-quality, authentic experiences that renews the mind, body and spirit."

In Vail, there has been talk for several years about more direct air links to international destinations. Vail always has attracted Mexico's economic elite, and the exchange rate makes it a favorable destination for Canadians. To expedite that air travel, there is discussion of customs facilities at the local airport.

Cultivating international markets "offers a clearer path for Vail to weather another potential recession," says the monthly newsletter of the Vail Homeowners Association, which has a strong and active voice in community affairs.

Both Vail Resorts and Aspen Skiing have been steadily reinvesting in their ski areas. In Aspen's case, it is putting in a $7 million high-speed lift to replace two older chairlifts, plus a $6 million restaurant remodel and then a $13 million restaurant at Snowmass.


Deer problem pondered

SALIDA, Colo. - Where Salida once had a problem of dogs running all over town, in the last decade or two it has acquired populations of deer. If normally leery of people, they are unpredictable - and big enough to be menacing, even dangerous.

What to do? The Mountain Mail reports that city council members at a recent meeting rummaged through any number of possibilities, including the idea of declaring open season for bow hunters. What people do on their own property is their business, said one council member, with an obvious libertarian outlook.

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