Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ketchum mulls ideas gained from Aspen trip

Colorado resort lauded for common vision

Express Staff Writer

The Wood River Valley already has a few strong partnerships that are helping build community cohesion and make inroads into the area's challenges. Leaders from public and private entities are hoping that momentum can be replicated in other ventures.

Early this month, Ketchum City Council members, Planning and Zoning commissioners, city staff and leaders of valley organizations participated in a "Ketchum to Aspen Innovation Tour" organized by Ketchum's Community and Economic Development Department. During a June 16 "debriefing," about 15 people—trip participants joined by a few members of the public—discussed what they learned and how it could be applied to Ketchum.

Partnerships among community businesses and organizations, a unified vision and strong public outreach were key take-aways cited by many members of the group.

"There was a unified community message," said Greg Randolph, general manager of the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce.

But, he added, Aspen leaders are not afraid to experiment or to fail, and they don't get caught up in "analysis paralysis." He described Aspen's guiding principles as "like a compass" that keeps everyone going in the same direction.

Ketchum Councilman Curtis Kemp lauded the cooperation between Aspen Skiing Co. and the community.

"It was like, 'Why do it any other way?'" he said.

He pointed to the relationship between Sun Valley Co. and Mountain Rides as one to emulate.

Aspen handles its events differently from Ketchum, an approach that might be worth investigating, said Ketchum Councilman Baird Gourlay.

"Their events coordination was spectacular," he said. "They ran events when it was busy already."

The idea is to create large, simultaneous events, so when high numbers of visitors are in town during peak season, they are wowed by the activity.

"Then they're going to go back and tell their friends what a great time they had," added Joyce Allgaier, Ketchum's planning manager.

An approach taken by some event planners in the Wood River Valley has focused on off-season activities to help generate interest in and visits to the area during slower months.

There is still room for that approach, however, said Jerry Seiffert, former Ketchum mayor and current Trailing of the Sheep Festival board member. He said Trailing of the Sheep, held every October, is an example of "creating an event people want to come in for."

Real estate broker Dick Fenton argued in favor of a stable source of funding for marketing and air service to the valley. Visitors would further be enticed to come here, he said, if there were more competitive guest accommodations.

Seiffert also noted that relationships among Aspen officials have not always been harmonious.

"They weren't always this cohesive," he told the group. "They had their fights."

The end result, he said, was that everyone agreed that they were in the same business, and they let that notion guide them.

Rebecca Meany:

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