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Sister city courtship with Argentina begins

Allyn Harvey

The arrival in Aspen this week of a delegation of skiers, fishermen, government officials and town boosters from Bariloche, Argentina, begins a process that has been dormant for nearly a decade: choosing a sister city.

The group will tour the area, meet with locals and attend barbecues and other functions to kick off the two- to five-year courtship that is a necessary ritual of becoming one of Aspen’s sister cities.

Fourteen or so Argentineans met with representatives from local businesses, cultural organizations and city government for a few hours yesterday – and between the Latin Americans who could speak English and the North Americans who could speak Spanish, everyone seemed to understand each other nearly the whole time.

“I am very, very thank you for letting me enjoy this beautiful city, and I am very, very sorry my English is so bad,” said Sergio Rodriguez, an Argentine tourism official from the provincial government of Rio Negro.

The delegates also included Calli Martinez, a former ski racer who first visited Aspen in 1978 with Bob Beattie’s World Ski Tour, Oscar Baruzzi, the ski school director at Cerro Catedral (Mount Cathedral), Arturo Dominguez, a fly-fishing outfitter who also works as a conservationist, and Andrea Casal, an elected official from the city of Bariloche.

Bariloche is a city of 100,000 located in the middle of Nahuel Huapi National Park in the Argentinean state of Patagonia. The city is nestled between the mountains and the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Skiing has been its primary tourist attraction since the early 1930s, but in recent years fly-fishing and summer music festivals have become more and more important. In addition to tourism, the town relies on a small high-tech industry that manufactures components for NASA and a nuclear research institute.

Currently, Aspen has five sister cities: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; Davos, Switzerland; Chamonix, France; Shimukappu, Japan; and Queenstown, New Zealand. The last to join the family was Queenstown in 1991, although cities and towns from all over the world have made inquiries in the last nine years.

“It’s been nearly 10 years because people thought that we had enough sister cities and maybe the program wasn’t ready for more,” said Sister City Committee member Francesca MacPherson. “But the student exchange program has been so successful that we feel we’re ready now.”

MacPherson and several others in the sister city program thought it was time to add a ski area from Latin America, hence the courtship with Bariloche and another resort in the Andes, Coahique, Chile. Others who have been instrumental in the Latin American connection include Don Sheeley, Wayne Paulson and Grif Smith.

If Bariloche becomes a sister city, several exchange programs, for students and grown-ups alike, will be set up to foster long-term relations between the communities.

A delegation of eight or so Aspenites is planning to visit Bariloche in November, shortly after the fly-fishing season opens, to see if it fits the bill to become Aspen’s first new sister since 1991.


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