From Bhutan to Central Park |

From Bhutan to Central Park

Cassie Pence
Special to the DailyThe Vail Symposium will host Sonam Jatso in a discussion on how to travel to the Asian country of Bhutan. Jatso runs Insiders' Bhutan, a travel company that specializes in unique trips.

The Vail Symposium is flying you to a tiny jewel in the Himalayas – Bhutan – a country where Buddhism is the way of life and the endangered snow leopard still safely roams through dense forests. This figurative flight lands at Donovan Pavilion in West Vail at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and Bhutan native Sonam Jatso will be your guide. Jatso is founder of Insiders’ Bhutan, a travel company. He will talk about the soul of Bhutan, explain how you can travel there and discuss what unique trips he offers to the Asian country.Bhutan’s government practices controlled tourism, only allowing about 6,000 tourists a year to enter the country. This policy has preserved Bhutan’s culture and tradition. In 1992, however, the government privatized tourism, and many travel companies popped up locally.”I was leading trips for them (travel companies), and I found out everybody was doing the same itineraries that the government had created 15 years ago,” Jatso said. “So many things have changed. There are so many other unique things you can do, and I was not very satisfied with the kind of trips that they were offering.”Jatso creates customized itineraries that can include trekking up mountains to hidden Buddhist monasteries to visiting schools in local villages or participating in traditional festivals.

“I have been very successful in changing a lot of people’s views and even people’s lives after they got back from our trips,” Jatso said.Jatso’s discussion Tuesday kicks off the Vail Symposium’s summer lineup. The symposium is a nonprofit, grass-roots organization that brings educational and cultural events into the valley. “One of our board members referred to us as ‘the gurus of non-institutional education’ for the Vail Valley. I thought that fit our mission pretty well,” Deb Luginbuhl of the Vail Symposium said.This summer’s events promise to take attendees to different places, whether it’s to Central Park via artwork or unexplored nooks right in your own backyard.

Backyard AdventuresColorado’s State Geologist Dr. Vince Matthews will take you on a drive through time as he leads a tour on the rock formations and steep cliffs of Edwards to Glenwood Canyon. The tour – appropriate for all levels – will make eight stops and end with a trip on the Glenwood tram.”You go through all ages of rocks,” Matthews said. “You see the oldest rocks in Colorado that are 1.7 billion years old, and the very youngest rocks, which are 4,000 years old.”Matthews’ tour is part of the symposium’s Backyard Adventure series. The series calls upon locals to share their knowledge about various topics from art to town history. The first event is a trip to Aspen Thursday to tour artists’ studios and private collections. Moving closer to home, the symposium will lead a stroll through the back streets of Minturn to teach the history of the quaint little mining town.

Cultural ArtsMinturn seems to be a popular destination for symposium events this summer as Minturn local artist Randy Milhoan will guide a group along the Rio Grande railroad tracks to collect objects. With a little help from Milhoan, participants will transform those found objects into art. He will teach you how to look at trash as treasures for making collages and masks.”I’m always looking down on the ground,” Mihoan said. “If something looks like it has potential, I pick it up. I keep a box in the van and when it gets full, I bring it back to my studio.”Milhoan’s trash or treasure hunt is part of the symposium’s cultural arts series. Other events include pre-concert discussions with orchestra members from Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, a discussion on “The Gates” art installation project in Central Park, N.Y., and a Native American jewelry show and sale with Irma Bailey, an art trader for over 50 years.

Hot TopicsThe symposium has created a lineup of newsy events that feature discussions given by academic experts on hot topics facing our society today. Most everyone is feeling the rift between political parties. It seems you are either blue or red, and there is no in between. University of Denver professor Spencer Wellhofer will give his insights to why the country is so divided right now.”There is a cycle American politics go through every 30-60 years,” Wellhofer said. “It’s a moral rejuvenation. The ‘great awakening’ they call it in American history to describe this religious and moral revival.”Wellhofer will explain his theory on the causes of political division, illustrate its effects and talk about the future of American politics.Other hot topics that will be discussed is health care trends, globalization and the tsunami.

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Film SeriesEarly fall will bring back the Beaver Creek Film Festival, a collaboration between the symposium and Beaver Creek Resort. Denver film critic Walter Chaw will return to provide his insights to the movies.The series will begin with “Election,” a film about a school election created by the Oscar-winning team behind “Sideways.” “The Truman Show,” “Dark City” and “Spirited Away” are also on the bill.

For more information on the Vail Symposium or its summer event schedule, call 476-0954 or visit its Web site at and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or, Colorado

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