Recapping a winter with the Vail Symposium: 22 programs, 29 speakers |

Recapping a winter with the Vail Symposium: 22 programs, 29 speakers

Daily staff report
Steph Davis poses with two fans after her lecture “Learning to Fly," which was the most well-attended program of the winter, hitting the 234 maximum capacity of the Donovan Pavilion in Vail. Davis is a rock climber, BASE jumper and wing suit pilot. Her stories from the side of rock walls in South America, flying through the air and even losing loved ones while in pursuit of the sports she loved moved the audience.
Special to the Daily |

Quick facts

• 27 percent of the winter 2016 audience had attended Vail Symposium events for more than five years.

• 20 percent of the audience was first-time attendees in winter 2016.

• 67 percent are extremely likely to recommend the Symposium to a friend.

• 41 percent of the audience came in a pair.

• 53 percent of attendees were full-time downvalley residents, and 23 percent were full-time residents of Vail.

Top six programs

• “Learning to Fly,” with Steph Davis

• “Biking in the Backcountry,” with Jessica Martin

• “Stem Cells: Exploring the Research Perspective,” panel presentation

• “Confessions of a Phone Addict,” with Matt Richtel

• “Can China Avoid Economic Crisis?” with Jamie Metzl

• “Near and Shared Death Experiences,” with Dr. Eben Alexander and panel

VAIL — The Vail Symposium’s annual end-of-year survey was completed by 130 program patrons and indicated a successful winter season, with 79 percent of those surveyed indicating they were “very satisfied” with the events attended.

From Jan. 4 to March 28, the Vail Symposium organized 22 events, featuring 29 speakers. Four events were free to attend, and three were $10 or less. The remaining programs were available for between $25 and $35, with discounts available for teachers, students and young professionals.

“I have enjoyed every event I have ever attended,” responded one Vail Symposium program attendee in the survey. “And I’ve always come away with new ideas and knowledge from the terrific speakers.”

Throughout the winter, the Symposium presented 10 Hot Topic programs on right-to-die legislation in Colorado, social transformation, luxury marketing, texting and driving, the economics of transportation and energy policy, the scientific search for life on other planets, the Chinese economic crisis, the impact of video games, the refugee crisis and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Three Unlimited Adventure speakers shared exhilarating tales of free climbing and base jumping, mountain biking Colorado’s 14ers or winning gold at the summer and winter Paralympic Games. Three consciousness programs and corresponding workshops were presented to investigate near- and shared-death experiences, the commonly reported sensation of out-of-body experiences and exoconsciousness.

The Symposium also presented two author programs, one of which featured Juan Thompson, son of Hunter S. Thompson, and the other Angela Rickets, who discussed the modern experience of military families. One Living at Your Peak program was presented on breakthroughs in stem-cell research.

“There was a lot to be excited about when we started our winter season, and the board, staff and everyone involved were thrilled to see it unfold in front of big, diverse and appreciative audiences,” said Rohn Robbins, chairman of the Vail Symposium Board. “For 45 years, the Symposium has been challenging audiences to learn something new and expand their mind. In review, we’re happy to see this winter was one of our best.”

The best-attended program featured climber, BASE jumper and outdoor enthusiast Steph Davis, with 234 audience members, which is the capacity for Donovan Pavilion. Davis shared her most riveting experiences in such a way that the audience could feel the fear, excitement or sorrow Davis herself felt in those moments.

“My husband took my daughter to see Steph Davis, and he took our son to the video game lecture,” wrote an attendee. “Both kids and my husband came back impassioned.”

Other standout speakers included Federico Pena, former mayor of Denver and U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Secretary of Energy; Harland Bratcher, CEO of Reed Krakoff International LLC and former CEO of Armani Exchange; Toby Usnik, international director at Christies and former executive director of public relations for the New York Times; Alana Nichols, multi-sport Paralympic gold medalist, Matt Richtel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; Jamie Metzl, foreign affairs expert; Dr. Eben Alexander, former neurosurgeon now investigating matters of consciousness; and Michael Sing, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council.

In total, the season drew 1,560 people, including full-time and part-time Eagle County residents and day-trip and overnight visitors, and was made possible by support from Antlers at Vail, town of Vail, Vail Daily, Vail Resorts EpicPromise, Town of Vail Public Library, Crazy Mountain Brewing Co., Riverwalk Wine and Spirits, Slifer Smith and Frampton, TV8 Vail, Mountain Living Magazine and Alpine Bank.

For more information about the Vail Symposium and the upcoming summer season, visit or call 970-476-0954.

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