Our programs, both in-person and online, support individuals and organizations as they navigate life and work transitions and a desire for self-renewal.


  • RoundTables:  Year-long small group dialogues as described below.
  • Foundations of Leadership:  A comprehensive day and half program as described below.
  • Purposeful Living Experience:  An in-person event with a notable speaker in cooperation with the Vail Symposium.
  • Café Conversations:  A causal two-hour informational session on Inside First™.
  • Custom Tailored Programs:  Contact the Alliance for ideas and possibilities.
  • The Vail Way:  The Making of a Community

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead


A RoundTable is a small group of peers who meet regularly to advance their understanding and application of purposeful living. The goal is to cultivate effective, ethical persons who produce positive results in the world.  RoundTable members help one another by applying the proverb that declares “iron sharpens iron.”

You may have heard of similar groups based in various communities around the country.  While the RoundTable is similar to some of these other groups, there are several important distinctions. First, our groups are smaller in size (7-8) creating a more private and confidential environment that gives more personal attention to each member.  Second, we focus on uncovering each person’s purpose as well as providing practical approaches to each member’s specific ethical and organizational dilemmas.  Finally, we use a proven methodology called Inside First developed over (15) years by members of the Alliance’s Board of Trustees.


The Foundations program is quite similar to a RoundTable, except it is shorter and less expensive.  It meets for a one day retreat, followed by three monthly sessions of two hours each.


This program features a notable author or speaker that engages an audience through a presentation followed by dialogue.  What is dialogue?  Dialogue is about discovering truth through an open exchange of ideas. While some look at the process simply as a technique or tool, dialogue is really more a philosophy of communicating.   It’s about respectful conversations that grow out of the realization that we can’t know everything.  This state of not knowing is the place where real learning can occur.  More than anything, the purpose of dialogue is to create a shared understanding.  It is not a short-term problem-solving process; nor is it for making immediate decisions.  Interestingly however, we often come away from a dialogue knowing just what to do.


These informal conversations, held in private settings, are designed to more fully describe the Inside First process, benefits and opportunities.  These are free events limited to 6-8 participants.

Past Groups


"I initially heard about what was to become the White River Institute from John Horan-Kates. I was excited about the prospect of integrating the process of personal growth with the wonder, the magnificence, and the challenge of the wilderness. All of this placed within the context of spirituality seemed irresistible. .Even more profound was the fact that at the core was a central concern with the meaning and purpose of our lives.. The WRI was a brilliant idea and a great adventure. It offered me the pleasure and privilege of spending a considerable amount of time with some truly wonderful and dedicated people from whom I learned a vast amount about life. I hope I also contributed to the journey of others..

In time, the White River Institute changed to Vail Leadership Institute. I had always been far more committed to personal growth than to "Leadership," which I felt had more to do with business than with personal growth. I discovered that I was wrong and that the kind of leadership which the Institute was committed to was the antithesis of a" survival of the fittest" model which, I had observed in my practice as a psychiatrist, so often resulted in destructive human relationships. Instead , the VLI focused on dedication and concern for the welfare of others.

Perhaps no one I have met in my travels better embodies those values and virtues than John himself. When I think of the Institute I think of John - a positive, dedicated, honorable, loving, generous, thoughtful, supportive and creative man. In particular, John repeatedly has inspired and stimulated my creative energies over the past ten years, especially when I am in his presence. I know John has had and continues to have that very special effect on many others as well. I have had many great moments and many great memories of times that I have spent in one Institute activity or another, but the time spent with John personally and alone has always brought out the very best in me. Through his optimism, his joy, his whimsy, his competence, his encouragement and his passion for doing the right thing John has given this special gift to me and to so many others. The gift of bringing out the very best in others is, I have come to realize, the very essence of leadership. I am the grateful recipient of this gift. My goal is to share this gift with as many others as I can in my own journey through life."
John Tamerin
"I want to thank those that created a vision that is now recognized as the Vail Leadership Institute. To all of you: John, Buck, Richard, Frederic Hudson, and other founders, thank you from many of us that have been involved in seminars, presentations, etc. The many "tools" you provided and continue to provide have had impact on those that attended the sessions. The Vail Valley is blessed to have this organization in its midst."
Topper Hagerman, Ph.D.
Howard Head Sports Medicine
“The retreat was profound – I came away with an understanding of my core values, calling and purpose in a way that had never been revealed previously, despite my quest for transformational leadership for dozens of years prior. To say it was, and continues to be, life changing is an understatement. The focus was on integrating head and heart. Without question, every RoundTable meeting I attended with my trusted advisors was invaluable in my personal and professional journey. Our “Hot Seat” sessions proved to be as good as it gets, with honest, candid feedback, and thoughtful consideration as we each encountered challenging issues, individually and organizationally.”
Mark Miller
Vail Fire Chief
“Stepping away from the daily grind and disconnecting is something we all need to do, and probably now more than ever. This program has not only allowed me to do that, but also to dig down deeper into myself than ever before to find more strength, power, and wisdom than I thought I had! It has been a breath of fresh air and a means to realizing the strength of small groups and that thought-provoking conversation the old-fashioned way can still be had.”
Laura Emrich
Regional Sales Manager, Advanced Exercise
“The retreat was just priceless for the opportunity to take a break out of our days and to reflect on what matters the most in life (where we’d like to be and how to get there). The weekend was priceless for me to learn and connect from others and hearing their stories and how they faced the issues that they were up against. I am looking forward to a rejuvenated group moving forward and making a significant difference in the community together. As always, I walk away from one of those weekends feeling like I’m on fire. Thank you for creating that feeling and supporting it.”
Seth Ehrlich
Executive Director, Snowboard Outreach Society
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the company of each and every participant in the RoundTable. I have learned much, appreciated the camaraderie and the wonderful insights that each person has provided to me and my business. Listening, learning, and experiencing the different viewpoints was so very rewarding. The RoundTable was a very worthy endeavor—actually priceless.”
Linda Hill
President, Hill Aveium Marketing
“I appreciated the chance to meditate and reflect on my life and to slow down to enjoy God’s creation in a wonderful setting.”
Riz Shakir
“I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed each of you, your insights, and your friendship. The RoundTable is such a valuable concept and gave me a chance to explore business problems and situations that I couldn’t with anyone else. You are an exceptional group of people, and I do hope to reconnect with Vail Leadership in the future. So, thanks to each of you. I will truly miss meeting with you.”
Jeannie Malato
General Manager, The Chateau Residence Club
“When I was starting Gore Range Natural Science School, now Walking Mountains Science Center, I needed all of the support I could muster up—mentally, spiritually, financially, and otherwise. I found all of this, and more, through my participation in these programs. In-depth dialogues with other community members and thought leaders such as Peter Senge, Terry Minger, and David Burger provided me with insights and networks that inspired my work and helped me grow Walking Mountains in the early days. Opportunities to get to know community members on deeper levels and participate in important conversations while setting our assumptions and geographic boundaries aside is one of the most valuable contributions. I am grateful for all of the personal and professional growth I have gained, and continue to build upon, through VLI’s community-focused programs.”
Dr. Kim Langmaid
Founder, Walking Mountains Science Center

“When I first experienced the Inside First™ framework through a weekend retreat, I was excited to be more reflective and focused in the way I lived my life. Little did I know how it would be a catalyst for drastic change in my life. I had been a high school social studies teacher for 8 years when I first began with Inside First™ and was loving my role in the classroom as well as many other opportunities to be a part of our local community. As a result of this weekend retreat and opportunity to better explore my Values, Purpose and Vision, I walked away with some tools to really focus my energies on what I now clarified as my life's purpose: To be a blessing. It sounded simple, maybe too simple. But my peers agreed that it fit what I had described in my life story and values throughout the weekend. So I continued in the classroom for 2 more years and truly loved that calling on my life but felt prompted to move on to the next thing. I left for 9 months of travel that turned into 18 months of exploring 4 different continents, sleeping in over 160 beds. I declared this a sabbatical as well as some ‘market research’ and ‘product testing’ in the field of hospitality. My dream had always been to open a Bed and Breakfast. Over 2 years of travel, it became clear that Spain would be where that would happen. The story is a wild one but the bottom line is that doors simply opened and I walked through them with gratitude. With a full heart, I ran a guest house for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago in Galicia for the summers of 2016 & 2017.

Tears come to my eyes as I think back to the last exercise of that weekend retreat where I first experienced Inside First™. We were instructed to close our eyes and envision the scenario in which we were fully living out our purpose, in line with our values, gifts and talents. My Vision was sitting around a table with people from all over the world, sharing stories, and eating good food. That vision happened every afternoon at 6 during ‘tapas’ at Casa Licerio. Guests were invited to join me in the ‘pilgrim room’ for a glass of wine and some savory snacks as we shared where we had been and where we were going. And as I reflect on where I've been, I see the role Inside First™ has played.

As I continue to add chapters to my story, I always come back to my life's purpose that was crafted at the Inside First™ retreat in 2011. I've become much more selective in the projects that get my ‘yes’ as I consider if it truly helps me to live out my purpose of being a blessing.”

Ashley Weaver Devenyns
former proprietor, Casa Licerio, Samos, Spain; curriculum writer for Weaver’s World, Bainbridge Island, Washington
"It is our responsibility as administrators to improve our success rate the best we can through programs like Exploring Potential."
Mark Strakbein
Principal – Eagle Valley High School
"Exploring Potential prepares these kids to make a difference and to change the tide of our culture. The program teaches students practical application of values and morals within our society."
Jeremy Lowe
Principal – Vail Christian High School

“What if you could get model communities in this country, and model institutions, schools, businesses and government units that would become islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity? What if we could become models and then transport what they learn and become mentors to others so that this whole spirit of stewardship, of servant leadership, of working at the empowerment process through structures and systems could take root and flourish? I honestly think we could heal our country.”