Llandudno will gain a second twin town this summer. The North Wales resort, home to cable cars and a dry ski slope, will sign a twinning agreement with a Swiss village that is a gateway to the world’s largest international ski area.
A memorandum of understanding between Llandudno and Champéry, and its surrounding Dents du Midi region, was signed on 1 April. The arrangement will be formalized in Switzerland on Swiss National Day, August 1, and a similar celebration is to take place at the Conwy resort on a date yet to be determined.
Before that, in July, a team of the best Swiss skiers are expected in Llandudno. Despite the country’s sporting prowess on the slopes, Switzerland lacks dry ski slopes and so its winter athletes aim to train out of season on the Great Orme.
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In 1989 Llandudno was officially twinned with Wormhout, a town in northern France, and its latest deal means it will join Caernarfon and Wrexham in having two twins. The process was spearheaded by Conwy Council following representations made by municipal leaders in Champéry some three years ago.
As the village had previously lacked a twin, he looked at potential suitors and Llandudno businessman Ray Pritchard, who lives in Champéry, suggested his birthplace. As a former Welsh Masters ski champion, who runs Alpine Lifestyle Partners, he could see synergies between the two resorts.
One of them is the potential for mutual tourism. Earlier this year, a tourist delegation from North Wales traveled to Switzerland to discuss potential opportunities.
“It looks extremely promising,” said Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism. “It’s an opportunity to promote our region. Ultimately, we will seek to bring Swiss visitors to Llandudno, potentially providing benefits to the rest of North Wales.
The model is the twinning between the castles of Conwy and Himeji, a city that has one of the most famous castles in Japan. The ‘beautiful friendship’ – believed to be the first of its kind in the UK – then saw inbound visits from Japan soar until tourism was brought to a halt by Covid.
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Champéry has been described as a village of chocolate boxes. It is close to the French border and, via a series of cable cars and chairlifts, is one of 13 resorts linked to the Portes du Soleil ski area in the Alps, the largest in the world.
For the past 15 years the village has hosted the Welsh Alpine Championships. The event, which also serves as a training session for Olympic hopefuls, now attracts more than 500 competitors from more than 20 nations.
Coinciding with the event, the alpine resort becomes Welsh for a week. Known locally as “Ya-Ski-Da”, skiers and their Swiss hosts come together for off-piste events and après-ski parties.
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Each championship ends with a medal ceremony. This year it was chaired by Jane Owen, Britain’s ambassador to Switzerland, and culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Champéry officials and a trade delegation from Llandudno. The signing was broadcast live to Conwy Council.
A Swiss delegation is due to visit their Welsh counterparts on May 15. Among those who will meet with them will be Greg Robbins and Louise Emery, two Conwy advisers who were instrumental in establishing the partnership.
Llandudno’s second twin still leaves the town behind in the national twinning stakes. Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Rhondda Cynon Taf each have four, while Swansea has no less than six twin towns.
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