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Aspen trying a friendlier tack with tourists

Find this ritzy ski resort a little snobby? Aspenites are working on it.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Find this ritzy ski resort a little snobby? Aspenites are working on it.

A city tourism initiative announced this week seeks to shake off Aspen's unfriendly reputation, according to the Aspen Daily News. The "Adopt a Tourist" promotion has city officials asking residents to volunteer to play host for visiting tourists.

City promoters say the effort aims to put a more welcoming face on a town sometimes hostile to visitors. A sign behind the bar at one popular watering hole asks, "If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"

The adoption program was the idea of Paul MacFarlane, a St. Louis native who moved to Aspen two years ago. He was inspired by seeing locals stop to help tourists read a local map on a downtown street corner.

"The best people here are like that," MacFarlane told the Aspen Daily News.

So far, six Aspen residents have signed up on a city Facebook page to play host for visitors. No tourists have signed on yet.

Tourism officials say they hope the adoption idea catches on and that tourists go home with real friends, not just pictures of Aspen landmarks. Suggested topics for adoptive residents are restaurant recommendations or just talking about life in Aspen. A few local businesses are offering discounts to residents who take adopted tourists "out on the town."

The effort to be more welcoming could help Aspen's reputation — but also its bottom line. Ski resorts are scrambling to fill rooms and chair lifts in this weak economy.

Colorado resorts reported about 11.85 million skier visits last season, down 5.5 percent from the previous season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA.