Jackson Hole’s surprisingly deep relationship with China has long been based on the region’s shared interests in coal and climate change. A recent trip organized by the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs broadened the scope of their relationship to include skiing.
The impetus was the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“There’s a lot of interest in China right now, with the upcoming Winter Olympics, in tapping into ski training expertise, building ski mountains and, as the middle class continues to grow, developing a ski culture,” said Nathan Wendt, vice president of the Center for Global Affairs. “What we came away with was that there were a couple areas where we could explore opportunities for cooperation.”
Led by Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon, the delegation included people from the Center for Global Affairs, the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Charture Institute, Interconnections21, and Jackson Hole High School. Rounding out the group were representatives of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S.-China Green Fund.
The delegation agreed to explore the potential of sending ski instructors, ski facilities operators and young people to Yanqing, where the 2022 alpine event will be hosted.
The Center also promised to work with partners like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to explore developing an energy-efficient, carbon-free “demonstration village” for the Olympics.
With a growing desire for outdoor recreation in China, the delegation also discussed the possibility of working with representatives from Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks to discuss best practices in conservation, specifically related to visiting and developing national parks, as well as finding ways to educate visitors about the norms of U.S. national parks.
“This visit was not in any way about promoting tourism to Jackson,” Muldoon said. “But we did take the opportunity to talk with our hosts about improving visitor education for the increasing numbers of Chinese tourists we’re seeing in Jackson, and they’re aware that helping Chinese visitors become better tourists will help them be better ambassadors for their country. It’s clear that the Chinese have an interest in improving their environment, and I think they would like to use the Olympics as a showcase for doing so through sustainability.”
While Muldoon technically “led the delegation,” he said the town’s role in all of this is merely that of facilitator.
“The other members of the delegation have a lot of expertise in this area, and we made some good connections there,” he said. “I think the town’s role is generally as a model for how [these sustainable practices] have worked for Jackson Hole, and as a facilitator. I think anything we can do to promote sustainability and environmental stewardship anywhere in the world will help our community as well.”