KETCHUM, Idaho — It's the season for business conferences as ski town officials huddle to plot their competitive advantages and strategies in the changing world.
In Ketchum and Sun Valley, an economic development group called Sustain Blaine is planning to hear a panel talk about location-neutral companies. Group officials say they get two calls a month from companies interested in relocating their businesses to the Sun Valley area, but only two companies per year end up doing so. What are the barriers to relocation of such businesses? That's what panel members may explain, organizers tell the Idaho Mountain Express.
Also on the agenda in Sun Valley is a talk by Joseph Kasputys, founder of HIS Global Insight, which will probe global and national economies.
In Colorado, something similar is underway in Steamboat Springs. The community already has a more diverse economic base than most. It has 1,000 employees in location-neutral businesses. Among them is SmartWool, the maker of socks for rugged activities, and The Industrial Company, an international construction company, which both began operations in Steamboat and retains corporate headquarters. Outdoor recreation manufacturing employs more than 400.
Tom Kern, director of the local chamber, points out that healthcare has 1,000 full-time employees, energy and mining another 1,000.
"What the economic summit is trying to do is have the community devise a strategic plan regarding its future direction as it relates to economic development. Obviously, tourism will have a large part in that strategy but what are this community's priorities as it relates to these other industrial clusters that presently reside here?" Kern tells Mountain Town News.
Vail tests health-related tourism
VAIL, Colo. — Vail continues to explore how it can make a better income through what is broadly called medical tourism.
It's a rubber-band expression that can, depending upon who is speaking, refer to such traditional things as spa treatments and wellness seminars. Also traditional has been the hosting of conferences and seminars to attract medical practitioners.
In the early 1990s, Vail gained another revenue stream when Tahoe-based orthopedic surgeon J. Richard Steadman set up business. The clinic continues to draw the rich and famous, including professional athletes, to have their shoulders and knees worked on, but more ordinary people, too. Now, a third of the hospital nights at the adjacent hospital are because of the clinic.
Now, Vail is ramping up efforts to draw visitors for health reasons. One aspect is to draw conferences and other such meetings. The Vail Valley Partnership has added a staff member to recruit medical groups and meetings. Chris Romer, the partnership's president, reports that this has grown to more than one-fourth of the group business.
Altogether, the hospital and medical groups could account for as much as six per cent of the towns' economic base, according to Stan Zemler, the town manager, who spoke recently at a forum covered by the Vail Daily.
Anther initiative is to promote seminars and activities appealing to people interested in physical fitness. That's always been Vail's forte, but this has a different tact.
Another effort involves special event programming. Last weekend, an event called Living at Your Peak was held in Vail. There were sessions titled, "Stress and Biological Aging: What's lifestyle got to do with it?" and "Nutrition Translated."
Participants had the opportunity to road bike through Vail with Freddie Rodriguez, who promised to tell stories from the Tour de France. Mt. Everest climber Ellen Miller explained how interval training and using heart-rate monitors and zones can be used to best advantage. And professional tennis legend Martina Natrilova gave the keynote.
Presidential elections slow real estate sales
ASPEN, Colo. — Real estate sales in Aspen have been sluggish this year, dropping 16 per cent from last year. A reason to get worried?
Not according to representatives of the real estate sales community, reports the Aspen Daily News. The realty agents point to national figures that show more hesitancy in sales during election years over the last 40 years. In White House election years, home prices gained an average 4.5 per cent, compared to 5.8 per cent otherwise.
Other resort towns of the west had less bounce after the free-fall of 2008-2009, as compared to Aspen, but are now generally reporting a more clearly upward movement in sales activity.
Jasper wants to test case for air service
JASPER, Alberta — Elected officials in Jasper have agreed to throw in $8,000 toward a $40,000 study to determine the feasibility for regional air service out of the local airport.
The Fitzhugh, the local newspaper, reported that the study was precipitated by the announcement made by WestJet that it had purchased 40 new jets to use for regional service.
Why wouldn't WestJet and other airlines study the feasibility themselves? In the airline business, that's the way it works, explained Maggie Davison, chief executive of Jasper Tourism. Local communities must be aggressive in attracting service.
Gravity prevails with tragic consequences
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — There's so much pleasure in the great outdoors during these late days of summer — and so many things that can go wrong. Mountain newspapers this past week told of disaster narrowly averted, a shoe that slipped above a river, and a boulder that gave way.
A miracle survival occurred near Lake Louise. A woman slipped off the ridge on Mount Victoria, then cartwheeled for about 50 metres before managing to stick her ax into the ice. Few in that situation manage to accomplish that.
She managed to climb up the steep, 50-degree slope of ice, but fell again. Amazingly, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, she stopped her fall a second time.
"Normally, if you fall off the ridge, you go the whole way, like thousands of feet," said Marc Ledwidge, from Parks Canada.
The miracles continued. She clung desperately to the ice for six hours before being rescued, but was uninjured save for minor frostbite.
To the north, in Jasper National Park, a 25-year-old man was not so lucky. While hiking on a trail adjacent to the Athabasca River in early evening, he slipped and fell into the water about 30 metres (90 feet) above Athabascan Falls. He was swept down the river and over the falls, which has a 23-metre (70 feet) drop. A search revealed nothing, so rescuers assumed they would be recovering a body.
Above Aspen, another hiker died near the summit of North Maroon Peak. The Aspen Daily News reported the hiker was 91 metres from the 4,271-metre summit when a boulder gave way. He fell 244 metres and, although wearing a helmet, died of traumatic brain injury, according to the deputy county coroner.
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