Story contributed by Karen Anderson, Executive Analyst, Park City Municipal Corporation
Two mountain towns – Park City, Utah and Courchevel, France – though a continent away, have developed a long and storied bond through their sister city program.
The cities, both world-renowned ski resort destinations, first developed an alliance in 1984. During that time, Courchevel’s star was rising after having just helped secure the bid for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. Meanwhile, Park City was still a sleepy, funky mountain town just beginning its own rise to international prominence as a world-class ski destination, Winter Olympics host, and home to the Sundance Film Festival.
Both cities shared key traits: they realized the importance of retaining their small-town character, sense of community, and preserving their pristine, natural environments. This shared vision became the foundation for a 30-year relationship. Over the next generation, the communities would learn from each other and develop a rapport that extended beyond government or business. Park City and Courchevel shared their successes (and failures) in the development of robust arts and recreation facilities, as well as developing their respective tourism and event-based economies that play such a large role in their way of life. Most importantly, the two towns share a popular student exchange program that has become the formative experience for high school students, their families, and teachers,.
The relationship between the two towns, beloved as it was, took a toll during the 2008 economic recession. Unable to support travel expenses, the cities focused what resources they had on keeping the student exchange program alive.
In February 2014, Courchevel extended Park City an invitation to rekindle their sister city bonds, and Park City happily accepted, sending a delegation that included Mayor Jack Thomas, Assistant City Manager Matt Dias, ski resort officials from Deer Valley and Vail, and the directors of the student exchange program.
The delegation spent a whirlwind week reacquainting themselves with Courchevel’s mayoral staff and community, as well as learning about the city’s latest transportation and housing challenges and efforts to diversify their economy. In addition, they partook in the town’s amazing history and tourist amenities.
The sister city student exchange program continues to flourish, helped in no small part by the introduction of a bilingual immersion program in the Park City School District. The most recent exchange included a Park City high school student placed in a Courchevel home and 3-Star Michelin-rated restaurant for culinary training.
Though both are small towns with tightknit communities, they embrace their international appeal while understanding that smart, managed growth is vital to ensure bright futures. The two communities look forward to their renewed relationship, and hope that they will only grow closer as their challenges continue to align.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Community eagerly await Courchevel’s visit in 2016.