Sister Cities General Information

  • Aspen Sister Cities

    Click here to link to the Aspen Sister Cities Home Page
    Middle School Exchange Program



    The Aspen Sister City mission is to share ideas and cultures through the international exchange of students and community members from Aspen and its sister cities.

    The Aspen Sister City Committee is a non-profit organization run by a Board of Directors. The committee meets at 5 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month in the Sister Cities room at the Aspen City Hall, and the public is invited.


    Aspen Sister Cities, Aspen Middle School, Aspen Community School, and Aspen Country Day School all work together to create a well-balanced program for eligible 8th grade students who are interested in experiencing a foreign exchange.  Students must be in good academic and behavioral standing at their school. (With the exception of the Shimukappu/Tomamu and Abetone program, students must be taking the language of their exchange or an approved course). Students apply to the program in the winter of their 7th grade year.


    There are four middle school exchanges. Between 5-15 students are chosen for each program. While staying with foreign host families, our students experience school days, everyday family life and historical/cultural programs relevant to each city.

    Asia - Shimukappu/Tomamu, Japan:  

    With an over 20 year history, this is the longest-running middle school exchange program.The Aspen students take an intensive Japanese language and culture class before going to Shimukappu/Tomamu each October. Aspen students host their Japanese student the first week in January just after returning form Winter break. There is a liaison from Aspen who lives in Japan to help facilitate the program over there. Shimukappu and Tomamu are very small rural towns, so this program is geared towards adventurous students who want a very different cultural experience.

    Europe - Abetone, Italy:  

    Abetone is Aspen’s newest Sister Cities partnership. The Italian students come from different schools in the Abetone region. This program is for students who are particularly interested in art and culture. This program alternates every other year. The Italian students usually visit Aspen sometime in the month of February and Aspen students travel to Abetone around and during Spring Break. 

    Europe - Chamonix, France:

    For over fifteen years, Aspen students have exchanged with French students from the Roger Frison Roche school in the Mont Blanc Valley. This program alternates every other year. The dates that Aspen hosts the Chamonix students wil be during the fall. Aspen students travel to Chamonix around and during Spring Break. 

    South America - Bariloche, Argentina:

    Each year, Aspen students exchange with Argentinean students from three private schools in Bariloche: Capraro, Woodville and San Patricio. The program is over ten years old. Students receive a Bariloche student during the spring of their 7th grade year, and travel to Bariloche the fall of their 8th grade year.



    Aspen students have the opportunity to experience a foreign country, culture, family, school and community. Students learn the motivation behind learning a world language and are introduced to the idea of being part of a global community.

    • Schools enrich their student body and curriculums.

    • Families experience a foreign student in their home.

    • Teachers and community members have the opportunity to exchange ideas.

    • Sister Cities relationships are continuously enhanced.


    When (General Timeline):

    Dec: 7th Grade/Parent presentation; Receive applications and attend informational meeting

    Jan: Online applications are due; Interviews conducted

    Feb-April: Acceptances and organizational meetings; Plan for Bariloche group; Non-refundable deposit fee of $500 due

    April: Bariloche students visit Aspen

    July: Ducky Derby Fundraiser begins (participation required)

    August: Ducky Derby Festival; Japanese and Argentine culture and language classes begin

    Sept: Shimukappu/Tomamu and Bariloche planning meetings begin

    Oct: Aspen students visit Shimukappu/Tomamu and Bariloche. Chamonix students visit Aspen

    Nov/Dec: Shimukappu/Tomamu visit preparation; Aspen students from Shimukappu/Tomamu and Abetone present at Sister Cities meeting

    Jan/Feb: Shimukappu/Tomamu and Abetone students visit Aspen

    Feb: Aspen students prepare for Chamonix and/or Abetone trips and begin culture classes; Chamonix and Abetone students visit Aspen

    Mar/April: Chamonix and/or Abetone trips

    May: Aspen students from Chamonix and Abetone present at Sister Cities meeting.

    Family Expectations:

    A foreign student will stay in your home for approximately 10 - 12 days. You are expected to provide sleeping arrangements and meals. You must also be prepared to deal with  emotional issues that sometimes occur as a result of being away from home (homesickness, cultural differences and language barriers). However, support is available around the clock by program coordinators.

    Each host family is responsible for getting their visiting student to school each day, any sack lunches that might be necessary, and taking care of the foreign student during non-school hours. This includes after school
    and weekends, but families are free to structure this time however they see fit. Families are encouraged to give small gifts to their visiting students and provide internet time so that students can contact home.

    Each Aspen family (participating student and parents) is required to attend all planning meetings and help organize activities for hosting foreign students. Each family will be given at least one task to complete as part of their obligation to the program.

    Student Expectations:

    Aspen students are expected to represent Aspen, their respective schools and the United States as ambassadors, and they must be committed to this process throughout the year. Keeping up on schoolwork and making good choices both in school and out in the community is part of this commitment. Additionally, students will learn about cultural traditions and behavioral expectations in their preparation classes so that they can be gracious visitors in a foreign environment.

    Students must make the Sister Cities Exchange Program a very high priority for an entire year. From the first organizational meeting through the last obligation as a host family, students must plan to be involved and committed. This sometimes means making hard choices between this program and other extracurricular activities such as sports practices, music lessons, school plays and family functions. It is important to think through all of these variables before committing to the program since there is a non-refundable deposit.

    Program Costs:

    After acceptance to the program, students must understand, sign and return the program academic and behavior contract along with a non-refundable participation fee of $500, which includes a two year membership to Aspen Sister Cities. Passports should be obtained or updated at this time.

    Each student must raise a minimum of $350 through the Ducky Derby Fundraiser by selling ducks. This money helps defray the cost of hosting students in Aspen and sometimes covers some extra travel expenses.

    The actual program expenses vary year to year based on flight and transfer expenses with a current program limit of $2750.  Aspen Sister Cities committee expects that each student will raise at least $350 on their own to apply toward the program fee.  Scholarship money is available but all requests must be made in writing (a special form is needed) by the program application deadline in January.


    Aspen Sister Cities Contacts:

    Danno Lahr, President



    Elise Cohen, Vice President



    Georgina Levey, Student Exchange Coordinator



    Betsy Ann Anastas, Student Exchange Coordinator


    Other middle school level facilitators:
    Amy Cord, Kamala Marsh, Diane Godfrey, AMS

    Maria Carbonetti, ACDS

    Jim Gilchrist, ACS


    Images for this site from: reuse with modification allowed. 12.16.2015