Mountain News: Aspen takes cost of ski race 'on the chin' 

ASPEN, Colo. - The Aspen Skiing Co. studied the numbers hard before gulping and committing to hosting the World Cup races again this year. Company officials won't divulge just what it costs them to host the races, reports the Aspen Times , but they described it as "taking it on the chin."

Why it is worth so much?

"It's a marketing vehicle," said John Rigney, the vice-president of sales and events. "It's a portal to the international skiing community. It keeps Aspen front and centre."

The races last year were watched live by 10 million viewers, primarily in Europe, Rigney said. A total of 110 million people worldwide saw at least a snippet of the races.

But probably the most "compelling reason" for keeping the races is because they are so ingrained in Aspen's culture and history as a ski town, Rigney told the Aspen Times . Aspen Mountain hosted its first sanctioned ski races in 1939, and attracted the World Alpine Ski Championships in1958. It has held World Cup races regularly since 1968, save for a brief span in the mid-1990s. Actions by the International Ski Federation, the World Cup's governing body, had caused heartburn in Aspen.


Banff told to increase visitation

BANFF, Alberta - Managers of Banff National Park have been ordered by federal officials to boost visitor numbers 2 per cent annually. Among the techniques for drawing more visitors, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, are introduction of activities such as zip-lines, via ferrata, adventure courses and canopy tours.

Via ferrata is a rock-climbing route equipped with fixed cables, ladders, and other devices to increase safety and lower the difficulty. Zip lines are becoming increasingly popular at upscale resorts.

Kevin Van Tighem, superintendent of Banff, Canada's flagship park, defended the orders. "It is potentially controversial in places like Banff, where there's lots of discussion about numbers and use, but this is really about creating a memorable visitor experience," he told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Growth, he added, is not inherently a problem. "We think we know how to manage ecological integrity."

The orders, however, deeply trouble conservationists. They fear problems such as were documented in the 1980s and 1990s, when Parks Canada, the federal agency, had to take urgent steps to restore ecological integrity.

"I'm concerned that two per cent growth in visitors could undermine everything else we're dropping in the park to protect ecological integrity," said Wendy Francis, director of conservation for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. New visitors, she said, will want services and logistics.

But business groups welcomed that need. "I think it's a step in the right direction," said Richard Leavens, executive director of the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment.


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