Vail Centre brings ‘lifelong learning’ programs
VAIL — This winter, the Vail Valley will get a new local amenity and attraction in the form of the Vail Centre.
The Centre aims to become a leader in lifelong learning — whether that means offering a two-year fellowship program for industry professionals, or hosting a five-day entrepreneurial short course. The goal, organizers say, is to establish an intellectual community in Vail that will draw both local and destination learners. The courses and events that will be offered will revolve around several categories — entrepreneurship, leadership, longevity and sustainability.
The Vail Centre will hold its grand opening on Dec. 11 with the annual Torch Awards for leadership in the community. As of now, the Centre doesn’t have a location, but CEO Ross Iverson says plans are in the works for a physical space.
Over the next five years, the Centre plans to offer a slew of courses and events that will range from hosting industry summits to hosting intellectual events to partnering with top-tier universities to offer special destination courses.
Fellowships, for example, will last one to two years, and have a statewide focus. One fellowship for the state fire chiefs association will offer more than 300 fire chiefs in Colorado the chance to come to Vail a few times a year to further their careers.
Shorter courses include a five-day entrepreneurial course taught by University of Colorado faculty next June. Another course features Duke University staff teaching a family business leadership course. Cornell University will be teaching the Centre’s only online offering — a hospitality management course.
“You can essentially get an Ivy League education right here in Vail,” said Iverson. “The education system is being flipped on its head right now, and universities are rushing to compete with each other. If people can do a course online, they will. And if you do your learning at a place, you want it to be unique, and Vail offers that. That’s where we come in, with the mountain setting, getting people out of their day-to-day mindset. We want to become a learning destination.”
Serving the valley and beyond
If parts of the Vail Centre idea sound familiar to locals, it’s because it is. The Vail Centre is the brainchild of the leaders of the Vail Leadership Institute, which has rolled into the new organization.
“I took over as CEO of the Vail Leadership Institute a few years ago, and we were trying to figure out some of the missing links around (the Institute),” Iverson said. “We realized we needed to launch a whole new organization. We wanted to do a better job of pulling people into the valley from the outside, from Denver and beyond.”
Organizers hope that in addition to offering learning opportunities to locals and second homeowners in Eagle County, as the Vail Leadership Institute did, the Vail Centre will also draw destination guests, and entrepreneurs and executives who might come for a ski vacation in Vail and possibly invest in the area.
“One thing were aiming for is making sure there’s a good mix of guests who might come to the valley and vacation here,” Iverson said. “Most of the draw here is centered around entertainment and outdoors. Not that there is anything wrong with people who come for a concert, but this is a different type of user. We see it as a diversification strategy.”
Vail Centre co-chair Terry Minger said he’s heard both from a local and statewide level that there’s a hunger for more higher learning programs.
“I always felt that Vail was ready to have something a little bit more like the Aspen Institute or Banff Center that had higher learning component as part of it, but something that was a couple degrees larger than the Vail Leadership Institute or the Vail Symposium,” said Minger, who helped found the Symposium nearly 45 years ago. “I think Vail is mature enough and established enough now, and the feedback we’ve gotten is that there’s a lot of hunger for that out there.”
The Vail Centre’s work is well aligned with the goals of the town and community, said Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer.
“We have a good footprint on athletic events and cultural events, so we’re really trying to expand the lifelong learning events,” he said. “I don’t know of many other resort communities that are doing this kind of thing. Many other places have a more traditional conference center, and that’s certainly not what we’re talking about here.”
Minger stressed that the Vail Centre won’t be in competition with the other higher-education organization in the valley — Colorado Mountain College.
“I think we’ve complimentary with CMC, not competitive,” he said. “We hope to reach people from a broader area — from across the nation in some cases. The classes we’ll offer are mostly graduate-level or even post-graduate. For CMC, I think this will strengthen them and the community.”