Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has embarked on a historic, first-ever Chinese-American ski resort partnership. The strategic alliance was announced in May as SV|AM aligned itself with Genting Secret Garden Resort which is located in the Dama Mountains northwest of Beijing in the county of Chongli. The Chinese resort is slated to host the freestyle and snowboarding events for the 2011 Beijng Winter Olympics.
The partnership with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will include privileges for season passholders, including five free days of skiing and exclusive discounts at the other resort. Cross-training of resort staff and management exchanges will assist each resort in preparing for a greater number of visitors from the other destination. The announcement came on the heels of a Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows delegation visit to major Chinese cities with the Visit California CEO Mission, laying the groundwork for increasing tourism exchange between China and California.
The alliance is timely with growth in the Chinese skier population and overall leisure travel to the state of California. According to the China Ski Association, the number of skiers in China has gone from around two hundred thousand in the year 2000 to about 12.5 million in 2015. California is currently the top U.S. destination for Chinese travelers, who spent $2.5 billion in California in 2015, according to research by Visit California. To provide a foundation for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the People’s Government of Beijing issued a statement of support for the country’s winter sports development in March of this year.
“The Chinese skier market has seen significant growth over the last fifteen years, and as the 2022 Beijing winter games approach, the fever for winter sports in China is very real,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. “The Olympic heritage at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has great appeal to Chinese visitors and our alliance with Genting Secret Garden Resort will connect two Olympic host sites to promote greater visitor exchange. Although Chinese visitation to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is nothing new, we have an incredibly unique opportunity to appeal to this burgeoning market, and we already have a number of plans in place to better attract Chinese visitors.”
To welcome more prospective Chinese guests, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will be participating in the Visit California “China Ready” program. On site, the resort plans to create Chinese language signage and marketing materials, train staff on how best to cater to Chinese guests, and design specialized dining and amenities options geared toward the Chinese consumer. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will also be working with Chinese tour operators to create customized group packages. Online, the resort has plans to roll out a more robust Chinese language website, and is looking at the possibility of a dedicated WeChat channel, a popular Chinese social media platform. Furthermore, airline accessibility for Chinese travelers is currently increasing across the state: California will have 124 weekly nonstop flights to China by the end of 2016, and San Francisco International Airport currently serves nine Chinese cities, with new United Airlines nonstop service to Hangzhou launching July 2016.
“It is truly our pleasure building this strategic cooperation with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, which is one of the top ski resorts and mountain destinations in the world,” says Mr. Xiao Huanwei, CEO of Secret Garden. “Taking advantage of the development in various industries like sports, travel, leisure and entertainment, combined with international resources, is one of the most important strategies to strengthen the Secret Garden Mountain Alliance. Secret Garden will work closely with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows to enhance the promotion of winter sports in the China market, preparing to receive the Winter Olympics Games in 2022. Meanwhile, we’ll launch tailored travel services like one-stop ski overseas tour, providing more convenience to ski fans.” Mr. Xiao Huanwei also expected that more and more ski fans could have access to international-level ski services via the Secret Garden Mountain Alliance platform.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ambassador Jonny Moseley will also be involved with the Genting Secret Garden Resort alliance, with a planned visit to the Chinese resort next winter for their own “Ski with Jonny” program. Moseley will also serve as commentator for NBC coverage of the freestyle portion of the 2022 Winter Games, which will be hosted at Genting Secret Garden Resort.
Opened in 2012, Genting Secret Garden Resort is China’s largest tourism resort in terms of size and variety of attractions. The resort currently offers 35 runs accessed by four lifts, with restaurants, activities and ski in ski out lodging at the 265-bedroom Genting Grand Hotel. The five year plan for the resort will expand the terrain offering to 88 runs and 22 lifts, and add additional lodging and year round activities.