It came to my attention recently that the Chinese, whose obsession with all things Western has led them to build replicas of Paris, London, and Lower Manhattan, are now building replica ski towns for newly rich city dwellers to retire to on the weekends. First it was a replica of the Austrian Alps village of Hallstat, and more recently, a 1,000-unit second home development called Jackson Hole replete with log cabins stocked with license plates from Illinois and Wyoming, copies of the Declaration of Independence, and Chinese security guards with cowboy costumes that patrol the development’s “Route 66” on golf carts. It turns out that the plethora of Chinese who either study abroad in the U.S. or visit it in large umbrella-touting tourist junkets are returning home with a ravishing desire to have a little piece of idealized America within driving distance of their Beijing office.
Designers like Allison Smith have stumbled onto a market that’s hungry for postcard-quality replicas of famous American mountain towns yet have no idea how to build them; and damn if I’ll be late getting on that train. That’s where you—the ski bum who knows the ins and outs of places like Park City, Jackson Hole, and Sun Valley—comes in. Here’s how it’s going to work:
First, go into every iconic building in your Western ski town, whether it’s the New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride, the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, or the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, and shamelessly take as many pictures as possible. You see, all these Chinese contractors need is a picture and they’ll build you the thing from scratch overnight! Not sure if it’s up to code or anything, but damn do those guys come cheap! Oh yeah, on the way out of the Cowboy Bar, see if they’ll sell you the bar stools with the horse saddles—all of them—and tell the bouncer with the handlebar mustache that I’ve got an opportunity for him he can’t refuse. He just has to bring his ‘stache wax, cowboy boots, and his leather vest. If you can fit that elk antler sculpture from the town square in the back of your truck before you leave town, that’d be great, too. If not, we’ll just paint some sticks and glue them together when we get there.
Next, we’re going to need memorabilia, lots of it. Tell your buddies you’re paying a $100 a pop for one pieces, $80 for straight skis, $50 for old Carrera goggles, and $40 for any item that comes out of an a-frame built in the ’70s. Go on eBay and bid on absolutely everything that comes up under “American memorabilia.” I’m talking everything: the flags, baseball cards, license plates, Civil War canons, Harleys, Suzy Chaffee’s silver race suit…buy it all. Hit up every thrift store in Wyoming and see how many saddles, lassos, bison skulls, and rear-entry boots you can stock up on. We’ll sell it all as the “Authentic American Interior Package.” Oh yeah, get some silver dollars and Billy The Kid’s hat, too.
You got all that? Meet me in San Francisco in 11 days. I’ll have a container waiting. I’ve got some shit to take care of until then. I bought that sweet old RV the K2 Performers used to drive around in, gave it a new paint job, and convinced Bobbie Burns and Wayne Wong to help me promote the place in China with it. I think I’m gonna call it TelluAspenButteHole, or maybe Ski Town USA; I haven’t made up my mind. At any rate, we’re gonna blow the place out of the water and bring in buyers by the busload! By the time they’ve seen Burns host a wet T-shirt contest and Wayne bust out a few Wong Bangers on the mogul line we’re building, they won’t know what hit ‘em. Hell, we’ve paid a rancher from Idaho to waltz around the place with his cattle and just yell “Howdy!” at people. We even hired the couple from that Steamboat poster as security. They’re just going to be on their horses with skis on their back doing laps around the replica barn we built trotting through the replica pow field we’re building.
Now you must excuse me: I’ve got to get back to some pressing plans. I’m hosting an après-ski party at the replica of the Sky Hotel pool we built behind the replica barn. We even hired Pat Sewell to bartend and Bode Miller to just show up and get wasted. How’s that for authenticity? You wouldn’t believe the lengths I had to go to get thousands of Tsingtao cans painted to look like PBR. Man, I gotta go. Wayne Wong’s calling about his hair. I’ll see you in TelluAspenButteHole!