Abetone/Florence set to become sister city | AspenTimes.com

Abetone/Florence set to become sister city

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
A pair of Abetone locals congregates near the local ski area in October 2013, when officials visited the Italian ski village.
Courtesy photo |

Following three years of courtship, Abetone, Italy, is set to become Aspen’s seventh sister city.

City officials and representatives from the Sister Cities program will travel to Italy on Friday with the expectation of signing an agreement May 12. Mayor Steve Skadron, City Manager Steve Barwick and spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin will join Sister Cities President Don Sheeley and Abetone coordinators Jill Sheeley and Francesca McPherson on the weeklong trip. Chamonix, France, coordinator John Armstrong and Bariloche, Argentina, coordinator Griff Smith also will make the trek. According to Rapkin, the city will pay for Skadron’s estimated $1,200 round-trip flight, but the others will cover their own fares.

Officials from Abetone, as well as nearby Florence, Italy, have given the relationship their blessing. Aspen’s list of sister cities includes San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina; Chamonix, France; Davos, Switzerland; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; Queenstown, New Zealand; and Shimmukappu, Japan.

This is the second trip Aspen officials have taken to Abetone in recent years. In October 2013, Skadron, Barwick, Rapkin and Parks Manager Jeff Woods met with Italian officials to discuss the partnership, with the city covering their flight expenses. Smith and Aspen Chamber Resort Association President Debbie Braun also made the trip.

In the past two years, the Sister Cities program has engaged in student exchanges with Abetone. Sheeley said this relationship will be particularly beneficial, given Florence’s renown for art.

“Florence is the art capital of the world, basically,” Sheeley said Friday. “But we have to have a ski town because it’s got to be similar to our city. Even though Abetone is smaller — cute, little town, great ski area — but we wanted to put the cultural thing in there.”

Located in the Apennine Mountains, about an hour and a half from Florence, Abetone is a small village of about 700. In January 2012, an Italian consulate representing Colorado and the Midwest pitched Abetone as an Aspen sister city. While serving as mayor, Mick Ireland made the trip to Italy twice.

In March, officials hosted members of the Italian consulate at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, where the two sides discussed Skadron’s “Uphill Economy” campaign. The meeting followed the Aspen Uphill, a festival Skadron championed in an effort to establish Aspen as the North American epicenter for uphill fitness and ski mountaineering.

Italian Trade Commissioner Matteo Picariello said that while mountain towns aren’t the focus of his agency’s consumer-goods program, the group will explore potential for Italian support in Aspen. Nicola Fiordalisi, legal counsel for various Italian corporations, said there is potential for Aspen to become the Silicon Valley of the sport.