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Foreigners are back

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — It started last year, but one of the bigger stories of the year at ski areas in Colorado is the return of tourists from foreign countries. It’s happening in Aspen and Vail and also Steamboat and probably elsewhere in the U.S.

Foreign tourists are at the highest mark in a decade in Steamboat, says Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for the American Skiing Company’s resorts in the West. Even including the locals with season passes, foreign tourists account for almost 10 per cent of skier visits at Steamboat, he told The Steamboat Pilot.

The reason foreigners are skiing U.S. resorts is the weakened dollar in international exchange rates. The dollar has dropped in value 20 per cent in just the last year and a quarter.

All this has Jeff Thredgold, a corporate economist for Vectra Bank Colorado, predicting more foreign investment in resort real estate. He also predicts a renewed surge of Californians moving to Colorado as Colorado’s economy, while lagging behind those of other states in the Rocky Mountains, gets back to its usual robust proportions.

Although the Federal Reserve Board is raising interest rates, which is expected to cool the hot real estate market, he does not see that effort cooling mountain real estate sales.

"Sales of real estate in places like Aspen, Park City, Steamboat and Keystone have little to do with interest rates," he said. "It’s very much about exercising of stock options." He said he’s optimistic about the stock market’s prospects this year, with repercussions for real estate in resort communities.

Aspen wants X Games forever

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen wants to host the Winter X Games permanently, says David Perry, senior vice president of the Aspen Skiing Co. Aspen has the event contractually locked through 2007, but Perry told a recent gathering that he believes Aspen can get the games – now in their ninth year – far longer.

One of Aspen’s virtues is that it has four ski areas, which means it can allocate one ski area, Buttermilk, to the preparation and then the event for a total of three weeks without hurting the company’s income stream.

The event has been steadily growing. ESPN estimates that 66,500 spectators attended the four-day event last year, up from 58,700 and 36,300 in the two preceding years. This year, in the days before the event, Aspen and Snowmass were booked to 90 per cent of capacity.

However, Perry warned that if Aspenites want to hold onto the X Games far into the future, hoteliers must avoid the temptation to gouge attendees, particularly the ESPN crews, reports The Aspen Times.

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