Chinese kids receive dream trip to Vail courtesy of marketing effort
VAIL — Liqiang Chang, a lifelong resident of China, has always dreamed of visiting the U.S. After being denied for visa after visa, he had all but given up.
But earlier this winter his daughter, 15-year-old Sing Chang, started showing promise as a skier in a program called the Rising Star in Northeast China. A Vail Resorts effort, the Rising Star aimed to expose youth skiers and snowboarders in China to the best teaching practices, as well as the best snow and conditions, which are enjoyed here in the U.S.
The best teaching practices were brought to China via Vail Resorts instructors. Exposing youth to the champagne powder of the Colorado Rockies, however, was a little more difficult. Offering four spots to youths in the Rising Star program for an all-expenses paid trip to Vail, Vail Resorts decided to go big, with the trip of a lifetime. United Airlines and the Vail Marriott also pitched in.
Sing Chang won an alpine race in China to receive the offer.
“We thought our dream of traveling to the U.S. was broken,” Liqiang Chang said. “But now the dream has come true. We received 10-year visas, and now we will try to travel to the U.S. once every two years if possible.”
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Sing Chang, after winning the competition in China to earn the trip to Vail — and the visas — took a minute to bask in the moment in Vail last weekend after riding all day.
“The mountain here is very huge, and the way we can ski is better than in China,” she said.
Joined by the other Rising Star winners, Sing Chang received lessons and guide services from Vail instructor Lindsey Stevens while she was here.
“These kids are really good already, so it’s more like we’re just showing them around,” said Stevens. “It’s really fun actually; they’re such nice kids.”
Salva Gao, 11, received more than 20,000 likes on a photo of him snowboarding to win his invite to Vail. Back home, his favorite place to ride is the Beidahu Ski Resort in the Jilin province of China.
“I like going in the trees,” he said from Vail. “But there, in the trees there’s a lot of bushes. In Vail the trees are really fun and there’s a lot more snow.”
Raymond Liu, 15, won a ski race back in China to receive his invite.
“I love skiing, and I like to join any competitions I can,” he said from Vail. “I see the competitions as a part of skiing.”
KIDS’ CHOICE IN TRAVEL
And Liu may not be the only one seeing competitions as a part of skiing in China. The country is currently in the running to host the Winter Olympics in 2022. Like so many others in Colorado, members of Vail Resorts’ vast marketing team are anxiously awaiting the International Olympic Committee’s selection.
“We do believe that if China is awarded the 2022 Winter Games, that, of course, will put even more momentum behind snowsports and skiing in the Chinese lifestyle and culture,” said Bob Stinchcomb, vice president of business development at Vail Resorts. “But regardless, we feel that the momentum and potential in the Chinese market remains.”
And part of that momentum lies in ski travelers like Liqiang Chang, who are now having an easier time getting here.
“It is becoming increasingly more convenient and easier to obtain a U.S. visa for the Chinese market,” Stinchcomb said. “And because the visa is easier to acquire, more Chinese are interested in and aspire to travel to the U.S.”
And while there may be plenty of cultural differences between China and the U.S., some things, says Stinchcomb, aren’t so different.
“We know that kids do influence the family’s vacation choices, and that’s no different in China,” he said. “We’re hoping to make the Rising Stars an annually occurring program for years to come.”
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