Vail exploring new ‘friendship agreement’ with an old partner, St. Moritz

Current agreements

The town of Vail has cultural and “friendship” exchange agreements with two cities:

• San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

• Yamanouchi, Japan.

VAIL — Officials here have become fond of sister-city agreements, now called friendship agreements in some quarters. Now, Vail may rekindle an old relationship with a sister in Switzerland.

A Vail delegation traveled to Germany earlier this month to accept an award for being one of the world’s top sustainable destinations.

While there, Vail Economic Development Manager Mia Vlaar ran into Gerhard Walter, CEO of Engadin St. Moritz Tourism — the regional chamber of commerce.

Walter and Vlaar started talking about reviving an old sister-city agreement between Vail and St. Moritz.

That agreement dates back to at least the 1980s. When Vlaar arrived in the valley in 1988, Vail and St. Moritz worked together on a project called YPO University, a project that connected young company CEOs.

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In the years since, though, most of what passed for a sister-city agreement was limited to a St. Moritz flag hanging in the Vail Town Council’s meeting room.

Now, though, Vlaar said it might be time to reconnect with St. Moritz. That reconnection is due to the success of a couple of recent agreements, with San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and Yamanouchi in Japan.

After a delegation from Japan came to Vail in the summer of 2017, the town sent a group on a return visit in January of this year. That trip went well.

“The greatest value is in sharing best practices,” Vlaar said. “When we went to Yamanouchi, we were blown away by their transportation system.”

In addition, Vlaar said Yamanouchi has done a lot of work on sustainability practices.

Another component is marketing, of course.

“That’s where they can benefit from some of our best practices,” Vlaar said.

In the case of San Miguel de Allende, there have already been culinary and artistic exchanges, most of which took place in 2015 and 2016.

Alison Wadey, the director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, said she’s excited about the prospects of existing and future friendship agreements.

“It’s nice to have those groups come to town and explore,” Wadey said, adding that learning from other cities can be valuable.

“In a lot of ways, some of these places are ahead of us,” she added.

While no visits have been scheduled yet, reconnecting with St. Moritz could provide more opportunities to learn.

“We’re going to speak about summer and winter marketing, about sustainability, what’s been successful and what challenges we face,” Vlaar said.

“We’re going to figure what everyone’s interested in talking about.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller

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