City leaders will visit Italy later this month to see if a ski village there is a good fit for the Aspen Sister Cities program, and they also plan to visit multiple bike-racing towns to gather ideas for the USA Pro Challenge.
Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron will join three other city officials Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 on the trip to Abetone, an Italian ski town that the city is eyeing as a potential Sister Cities affiliate.
Skadron, however, said he is looking beyond a Sister Cities evaluation. Italy is home to the Giro d’Italia, regarded as the world’s second-most prestigious bike race behind the Tour de France.
Arriving in Florence, Italy, during the Road World Championships, Skadron will visit several Italian ski towns to gather ideas for Colorado’s own bike race, the USA Pro Challenge.
Skadron will join city spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin, City Manager Steve Barwick and Parks Manager Jeff Woods. The plane tickets cost around $1,200 each, an expense covered by the city. Lodging and other expenses will be covered by Abetone. Also making the trip are Aspen Sister Cities coordinator Griff Smith and Debbie Braun, president of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. The city is not covering Smith’s or Braun’s expenses.
In January 2012, an Italian consulate representing Colorado and the Midwest pitched Abetone to Aspen’s Sister Cities program. The only Aspen official to visit Abetone since then was by then-Mayor Mick Ireland, who made the trip twice. Rapkin said that if all goes well, Abetone will become Aspen’s seventh sister city this summer. Currently, Aspen is sister to six: San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina; Chamonix, France; Davos, Switzerland; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; Queenstown, New Zealand; and Shimmukappu, Japan. Abetone is a small village of 700 in the Apennine Mountains, about an hour and a half from Florence.
Along with bike-race organizers, Aspen officials will meet with the mayors of Florence and Abetone, as well as Abetone’s ski club, in hopes of establishing more exchange programs. In October, a group of Aspen eighth-graders will travel to Abetone as part of a student exchange, with Abetone students arriving in Aspen around late January.
Skadron said he also is planning to meet with Italian ski manufacturers to see if there is any potential for partnerships that could provide mutual benefit to Abetone and Aspen.