Liana Moore: Looking Back on 45 Years of the Vail Symposium

Liana Moore: Looking Back on 45 Years of the Vail Symposium


LIANA MOORE – Executive Director 2010 – 2013

I joined the board of the Vail Symposium in 2007 and became a member of executive committee in 2009. In 2010 we had our executive director unexpectedly leave. At the time I was running a marketing company producing the Bravo collateral and had just sent the program book to print when we found out. So timing worked for me to step in as interim executive director. I really enjoyed being back out in the community and making a difference so applied to become executive director full time and was hired at the end of that summer.

Favorite Season?

My favorite season was the first one that I got to program, winter 2010/2011. We had a fantastic program committee with lots of great ideas and contacts. I really got to pour my heart and soul into it. We brought attendance up 50% from the previous winter. We pulled together a panel on Afghanistan (Gretchen Peters, Jim Frasche, Mike Boettcher) that was one of my favorites. The state department actually reached out after the program to ask for contact information for the speakers.

My favorite series has always been Unlimited Adventure. There is such a great variety of speakers pushing their limits and doing things that some of us can only imagine. Most of those speakers were also willing to speak to students in the schools. It wasn’t until I left the position of executive director in 2013 that I volunteered to bring these speakers into the schools. The dynamic was so different. And, the students had really tough and thoughtful questions for the speakers.


Favorite Speakers?

Alex Honnold – A fun story. One of our most outstanding previous executive directors, Ebby Pinson, mentioned him to me saying she had just seen him on 60 minutes and he would make a good adventure speaker. I looked him up and though “Yeah, right!? How could we possibly get him? He’d also just been featured on the cover of National Geographic. Well at some point I realized that Clif Bar was one of his sponsors and that I had a friend (Thanks, Regina O’Brien!) who was friends with people in the sponsorship department at Clif Bar. Two introductions via email later and we were connected. He just happened to be driving out to Aspen and we made it happen!

Terry Minger – Terry is founder of the Vail Symposium and he is an amazing storyteller and has tremendous vision. He spoke two or three times while I was executive director. Once was on VS poster artist Thomas Benton. It was a small intimate crowd but that is what made it so special, just hearing the stories in first person. He also participated as part of a Speaking Locally panel discussion during the 40th anniversary on the founding of Vail. We had pulled together a panel including Terry, Rod Slifer, Elaine Kelton and Merv Lapin. A week or so prior to the program I got them all on the phone together to discuss the flow of the program. I had envisioned it as a historical program but that isn’t how their minds worked. The next thing I knew it was so much more, moving into the future of Vail. You should put together another of those – people loved it.

Barry Clifford and Leelah Hazzah were two of my favorite adventure speakers although they really all are so amazing.  Erik Larsen and Jon Turk were two of my favorite adventure speakers who spoke to local students. They knew how to hold their attention and make them think.

Future Programs?

The education programs have been some of the best and most relevant and I imagine will continue to be so. Hot Topics and Unlimited Adventure should continue well into the future. A program on how to get money and special interests out of politics would be a good one for Hot Topics.

The Vail Symposium brings the world to our happy valley in person. There’s not anything quite like hearing a different opinion from someone who has been on the ground and experienced something unique and powerful in person. That is what I think was so special about the Afghanistan program. The panelists views were so different from what I thought going in and I think what most of the audience thought. I and probably everyone else came out rethinking our beliefs.

Panel discussions cost more and are harder to pull off well. A good moderator is key. But it is something the Vail Symposium has always done really well from the Afghanistan panel to the one on the legalization of marijuana (covered on cspan) to the education panels and speaking locally.

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