Vail Daily column: Community culture |

Vail Daily column: Community culture

Ross Iverson
Valley Voices

How do you preserve the culture of a community when community challenges evolve, leaders shift and the mix of residents change? The short answer, you “talk” more about culture.

The world’s best leaders find themselves constantly reaffirming the values of the organizations they lead. They are explicit with their intent, define what they stand for, and act in a consistent manner in accordance to a set of values that bring meaning to their organization.

In a community, it is tougher to lead in a way that fits the demands of all of the stakeholders. Culture becomes more “implicit” and norms are set that become what residents accept as the place they live.

On Friday, the Vail Centre will host the third annual Torch Awards. This awards ceremony was launched to do two things for the community. The first was to ensure the values of the community had an evening where they would be “explicit” (an event to talk about, discuss and uphold the vision of our founders). The second reason was to provide recognition to leaders who have committed to learning in order to make the Vail Valley a better place, and a lifetime achievement award to ensure the founding values were shared.

Without recognition, how do you set norms? How do future leaders determine what the community stands for? How to you inspire existing leaders to strive for more?

There is a transition going on between the founding families and new leaders. Passing the torch is not something to take lightly, and isn’t something that should occur abruptly. Instead, our community needs to run together with multiple generations holding the torch until it is time for one to let go. You will see this occurring during the Torch Awards this year; an event attended by leaders from 22 years of age to 90 years of age, and every generation in between.

This past summer during a Vail Centre course with Duke University, the class was made up of students from their late 20s to their mid-70s. The richness of linking generations in a learning environment has real potential to maintain the values of a community. It has a chance to pass along leadership beliefs of the past to ensure the Vail Valley is led in a similar way in the future.

Our community will need new solutions to thrive in the future, but it doesn’t preclude us from using the values of our founders. They were risk takers, collaborators, and visionaries. They leaned on each other, loved each other, supported each other, and put the community first when something needed to be accomplished to benefit the greater whole.

In a year where most of us have been bombarded by external national influences, this week is a time to turn inward. A time to lift up the great leadership in our backyard, and hold on to the belief that we have selected a special place to call home. We must fight to preserve Vail’s identity for generations to come.

Ross Iverson is CEO of the Vail Centre. For more information, go to or email