Steamboat Springs When Dr. Thomas Clark received a request from a young man in Pakistan to attend a four-day conference on mountains in Steamboat Springs this month, he was hesitant at first.
With the overshadowing concern of terrorism, Clark, a professor of planning and design at the University of Colorado at Denver, was reluctant to get a visa for the man so he could attend the conference.
But when a picture of the Pakistan mountains and a six-page handwritten letter followed the request, Clark's mind was changed.
"He told us of his passion for the mountains, for saving those environments. He was just desperate to come," Clark said.
The man from Pakistan is not the only one willing to go to great lengths to attend the international conference on Mountain Resort Planning and Development in an Era of Globalization, which will be from Sept. 25-28 in Steamboat. Presenters from North America, Europe, Asia and New Zealand will gather in Steamboat to discuss the sustainability of mountain communities.
The conference is also part of the United States and United Nations' Year of the Mountain celebration and is listed on the U.N.'s calendar of events.
"There are mountains all over the world. Mountains express to me something worthy, beautiful and interconnected. Without caring for them and if we don't preserve them, the world would be a much less happy place," said Clark, whose is director of the program in western lands, resources and development for CU at Denver.
That program along with the university's Department of Geography and the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia are presenting the conference.
The city of Steamboat Springs and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments are supporting the four-day conference at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.
Second-home ownership, sustainability, preservation, global tourism, transportation and affordable housing will be discussed from an international standpoint.
Clark calls the conference, which has been in the making for two years, one of the biggest achievements in his professional career. It follows a theme similar to a conference the university held in Vail in the early 1990s.
Steamboat Springs City Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner, who was involved in that conference, has been instrumental in bringing the 2002 summit to Steamboat.
"It is very exciting to have the conference here in Steamboat Springs. It speaks to the people coming here as to what we are and what we have created," Stettner said.
Stettner will be part of a panel discussion on the change and future of Steamboat during the second day of the conference. It was the city's changing dynamics that drew the conference to Steamboat, Clark said.
"It is a town with a long history with deep roots in the mountain resort activities. It is a place that has (flourished) despite its relative inaccessibility," Clark said. "It is a place that is growing rapidly and is changing."
Although the conference is pulling speakers from around the world, Stettner will not be the only familiar face. Colorado Mountain College's Diane Mitsch Bush will talk about local policies to preserve agriculture, wildlife habitat and open space. The conference will also have former city planner Caroline Lamont, who is now working for a consulting group in Whistler, and Ekaterin Vlahos, who was born in Moffat County and is a professor at CU at Denver.
Stettner also said keynote speakers Kurt Culbertson, Terry Minger and Myles Rademan have all spoken in Steamboat, along with presenters Ford Frick and Sherry Dorward.
Clark said the key was getting the keynote speakers and then asking people from all over the world to submit papers. The conference will be a mixture of speeches, morning plenary sessions, two daily breakout sessions, panel discussions and field trips.
The final two days will have field trips to the hot springs, historical preserved buildings in Steamboat, Howelsen Hill, ranches and the Vail Valley.
"What better way to educate?" Clark said of the field trips. "You can only talk so much. You got to go out and look around."
Clark is hoping the conference will bring 200 to 300 people. And he is looking for a group that pulls community leaders, the ski and tourism industry, professional planners, consultants, nonprofits and Steamboat residents.
"This does not happen every day," Clark said. "It may be the only such thing like this in Steamboat."