© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
WFAE 90.7
P.O. Box 896890
Charlotte, NC 28289-6890
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ski Resorts Work To Turn China's Middle Class Into Snow Bunnies


Colorado's ski resorts are looking far and wide for potential customers, including emerging markets like China. About 12 percent of visitors to the state's ski areas come from overseas. And with China's middle class growing, Colorado resorts are looking to profit. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

MARCI KRIVONEN, BYLINE: Inside the offices of the Aspen Skiing Company, Candace Sherman is learning Mandarin Chinese...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KRIVONEN: ...using a Rosetta Stone audio course.

CANDACE SHERMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

SHERMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KRIVONEN: Sherman is the international sales manager for the company, and she's preparing for new visitors to Aspen. At her desk, she practices Mandarin about 30 minutes each day.

SHERMAN: (Foreign language spoken) Yeah, it's definitely - uses a different part of your brain. You know, it's a challenge. It gets you real outside of the norm.

JEFF HANLE: There's vast amounts of wealth being created in China in a new middle and upper class that's booming.

KRIVONEN: Jeff Hanle is also with the Aspen Skiing Company.

HANLE: So it's not a secret that the whole world wants part of that. And for us, we'd be remiss not to look at that and not to realize it.

KRIVONEN: China is the United States' number one emerging market and ski resorts in Colorado are focusing their sights on it. Jaoshan Liu(ph) skis at Vail Resort with family and friends.

JAOSHAN LIU: (Through Translator) Before, I would only spend one week in Colorado. But now, I spend three weeks in Colorado every year.

KRIVONEN: Liu is part of China's middle class. In fact, he owns a ski resort there. Resorts in the U.S. aren't looking for first-time skiers but rather world travelers who have already skied in Europe and Canada. Bob Stinchcomb is with the company Vail Resorts.

BOB STINCHCOMB: We are targeting a very affluent Chinese skier that has the means and the desire to come over to America to try our skiing.

KRIVONEN: A company sales rep based in Beijing works to attract skiers to resorts like Vail in north central Colorado. Stinchcomb says the company wants to break down cultural barriers.

STINCHCOMB: In our ski school, we do have multilingual staff. And within that multilingual staff, we do have a number of instructors that either speak Mandarin or have other Chinese language skills.

KRIVONEN: Last year, 1.5 million Chinese tourists visited the U.S. That's a 500 percent increase in visitations from just 12 years ago. The U.S. Travel Association says Chinese tourists typically visit iconic destinations like New York City. Now, some are starting to branch out to places like Colorado. But it will be a few years before there's a steady stream of tourists at Colorado's resorts.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KRIVONEN: Back in the offices of the Aspen Skiing Company, Candace Sherman in the sales department wraps up her Mandarin language lesson.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

SHERMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KRIVONEN: Chinese travelers spend more than some of their international counterparts. They tend to fork over an average of $7,100 per person per trip when they come to the United States. For NPR News, I'm Marci Krivonen in Aspen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

All Things Considered
Originally from Montana, Marci grew up near the mountains and can't get enough of them. She began in broadcasting in Missoula, Montana where she anchored Montana Public Radio's local Evening Edition news program. She then picked up a camera and tripod and worked for Missoula's local CBS television station as a reporter. Shortly after that, she returned to radio and became the Assistant News Director at a radio station in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Marci began at Aspen Public Radio in 2007 as the station's morning host and reporter. Although you can occasionally hear Marci in the mornings, she is now quite content to be sleeping in and reporting all day. When not at the station, Marci is on her road bike, meeting people, or skiing.