Vail Valley Voices: A special conference on special places |

Vail Valley Voices: A special conference on special places

Connie Woodberry
Vail, CO, Colorado

I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have read and responded to my columns of late and to extend an invitation to you.

As you know, on Sept. 25-27 we will host Elevate/Vail 2012, the global symposium on creating and sustaining special places. The idea for this gathering was born back in 2010 when I visited this beautiful valley for the first time.

I was blown away by not just the natural beauty, a common enough reaction, but also by the idea of how Vail was created, not from a geophysical standpoint (although that, too, is of interest) but how it came to be, and what the people involved did and have done to create and, in some cases, sustain this special place.

For many years, I have worked in various capacities with communities developing their economies, workforce and structures, so I guess I am particularly well suited to know an unusually good example of community development when I see one.

Subsequently, when we asked some Vail community leaders to come to Australia last year for the first special places symposium, I knew we were onto something. For it is very clear that special places do not just happen. They will not remain viable without constant thought and vigilance.

We, the people responsible for them, have an extraordinary duty to make sure that not only do we care for those places, but that we also provide opportunities for new special places to emerge.

Our faith in this valley has been well placed. Not only did the guests from Vail bring great insights to Australia, they have opened their arms to embrace our venture here as we conduct the second Creating Special Places event in Vail.

We have had incredible support, and indeed much enthusiastic assistance from those people and organizations in the valley who seem to always be the ones doing the most for the community. Just to mention a few: The Vail Daily, The Antlers at Vail, Vail Resorts Inc., Vail Resorts Development Company, town of Vail, Vail Valley Partnership, KZYR-FM, Colorado Mountain Express, Vail Restaurant Month, Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability and Prosper Studios. Their support and understanding of the significance of Elevate/Vail 2012 have made an admittedly difficult task that much easier.

The strength and purpose of this event are reflected, too, in the people who are traveling from Australia (and any of you who have made that flight knows the effort that takes) across the United States, from Colorado and the Vail Valley.

These are people Gayle Minniecon, Australian aboriginal elder and a significant community leader for the Butchulla people; Peter Andrews, recently awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his work in land reclamation and management; Will Marcus, an internationally recognized architect who understands, in a very special way, that built structures can in themselves do amazing things for communities; Mickey Zeppelin from Denver; David Perry, of Aspen Ski Co.; and Sarah Broughton and John Rowland from Aspen round out a great mix of regional, national and international authorities steeped in knowledge about and involvement with the endeavor of creating and sustaining special places.

On the local level, five former mayors of Vail will have a unique opportunity to discuss their success at passing the baton of leadership.

Alex Iskenderian, from the Vail Resorts Development Co., and wonderful extreme athlete and global citizen Chris Anthony will also add their intellect and passion to the mix, along with a raft of others — in fact, 30 speakers in all.

We are serious, too, about leadership and have awarded five student ambassadors from Colorado State University, the University of Albany, Yale University and Colorado Mountain College scholarships to Elevate/Vail 2012.

They will share their enthusiasm and research findings while they work to expand their capacity as emerging leaders who will develop future special places.

Without exception, these are people and organizations that do something significant every day to make special places better, and it is a rare thing to have them all together to share their insights.

I often tell people that you can’t “unknow” what you know. What I know with certainty is that Elevate/Vail 2012 will be a significant event for anyone tasked with making or caring for special places.

I extend a personal invitation to you to join us.

Connie Woodberry is the CEO of Regional Breakthroughs Australia, and Elevate, LLC., in the United States. She is undertaking a doctoral research project on special places. She can be reached at or at 970-471-6455. To register, go to

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