High Impact Adventures
Whether the draw is sipping cappuccino in a European-style village or downing a beer with a cowboy in a western bar, America’s traditional wintertime mountain destinations offer a wide variety of summertime and late fall appeal.
Yellowstone National Park, with its abundant opportunities for hiking and horseback riding, whitewater rafting and trout fishing, is an ideal summer meeting destination. And Big Sky Ski and Summer Resort provide spectacular views of the park.
In all there are 554 guest rooms at the resort; 200 of them are in the Huntley Lodge, 94 in the Shoshone Condominium Hotel and the rest in small condo buildings. The resort also offers 21 meeting rooms, with the largest seating 650 theater style.
Huntley Lodge has the swankiest dining room at the resort. Evening entertainment includes hayrides, outdoor barbecues, dancing, live entertainment and – what else? – ski movies. The resort also sports an 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf course, two swimming pools, three whirlpool spas, tennis, a health club and sauna.
History has been carefully preserved in the small Victorian silver mining town of Aspen, where skiing and culture have been synonymous with the town’s name for ++over 50 years.
Famous for its night life, the celebrity-frequented village offers a wide selection of bars and nightclubs featuring live bands, jazz, disco and country western dancing. Visitors may spot some of their favorite musicians at the Hard Rock Café. And Planet Hollywood, only one of Aspen’s 100-plus restaurants, surrounds its patrons with movie memorabilia.
Aspen is unlike any other small town. Prestigious retailers such as Donna Karan and Chanel have set up shop amid the existing array of unusual boutiques, creating a shopping Mecca for those so inclined.
And to add to its year-round group appeal, Aspen offers a wide variety of conference facilities ranging from small lodges and intimate B & Bs to full-service hotels like the luxurious Mobil four-star, AAA four-diamond landmark 93-room Hotel Jerome, an elegantly-restored Victorian building which opened in 1889 and today is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
The hotel’s main lobby, dominated by an imposing fireplace relief carved in oak with a silver dust mantle, is the first indication of the legendary character of the Jerome, built during the height of the Colorado silver boom. The Hotel Jerome accommodates meetings for up to 300 and as many as 500 for receptions, offering over 7,500 square feet of five indoor meeting and conference rooms and over 1,800 square feet of outdoor function space. The largest conference meeting space is the 3,450-square-foot ballroom.
Alternatively there’s the Inn at Aspen Resort & Conference Hotel with its 119 rooms and three large meeting rooms that can accommodate as many as 265 meeting attendees.
What skiing is to winter, white-water rafting is to summer. Aspen offers the summertime meeting attendee the Colorado River’s roller coaster ride through South Canyon Rapids, as well as rides through calmer waters. For the more sedate, fly fishing in the gold medal trout streams around the area is purported to be the ultimate sport fishing experience.
In addition to water sports, Aspen offers the famous Aspen Music Festival from mid-June through August, a hot air balloon festival and a film festival. Then there’s breakfast trail rides, a day-long cattle drive with a local cattle moving company, reminiscent of the movie City Slickers and hot air balloon rides at dawn – capping off the landing with the traditional balloonist’s champagne ceremony.
The nearby historic ghost town of Ashcroft features mountain dining and llama treks. Led by experienced mountain guides, corporate meeting and incentive guests can enjoy hiking through the picturesque White River National Forest while llamas carry their gear. The hike is on gentle and scenic terrain with a gourmet lunch served at the base of a large peak.
Clearly, the founders of Vail, CO, decided to model the quaint town after a European-styled alpine village. Today a distinctly alpine European flavor permeates Vail and nearby Beaver Creek. Hand painted floral exteriors on several lodges and boutiques and Belgian horse-drawn carriages throughout the pedestrian-only streets create a charming atmosphere.
Just as the 1980s marked the emergence of Vail as one of the world’s premier ski resorts, the 1990s have ushered in the Vail Valley’s growing reputation as one of the country’s most breathtaking golf destinations. At an average elevation of 8,200 feet, balls fly 20 percent further than at sea level, the views match any course in the nation and at last count there were nine spectacular 18-hole courses with at least three more in the planning stages.
Summer brings sunny, 70-degree days and hillsides waist deep in wildflowers to the Vail Valley. A typical group gathering might begin with a Bavarian-style reception featuring traditional German accordion music, beer and bratwurst. It can also include a tour of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens (displaying 2,000 plant varieties) and an interpretative nature walk, followed by an afternoon at Piney River Ranch. Situated at the base of 13,000-foot peaks, it offers horseback riding, fly fishing and majestic mountain scenery to enjoy from a lakeside deck. Highlights of evening dinner at the ranch are the Rocky Mountain specialties of trout, elk and venison.
The valley’s variety of lodging options ranges from the very small to larger hotels and resorts such as Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek (295 rooms), Marriott’s Mountain Resort (349 rooms) and Vail Cascade Hotel & Club (339 rooms). Although Vail Cascade offers 46,000 square feet of total meeting space compared to 23,000 square feet of space for both Hyatt and Marriott, Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek claims the largest meeting room (10,000 square feet) and Marriott’s Mountain Resort at Vail offers the most meeting rooms – l7.
The Ford Amphitheater is an outdoor setting for groups of 1,600 or less. Dobson Arena can handle gatherings up to 2,400 people and Beaver Creek offers a state-of-the-art performing arts center.
But it is the 4-Eagle Ranch that allows meeting and travel incentive groups to sample the real West with outdoor barbecues, hayrides and even a cattle round-up.
Utah is the site of two ski areas, Park City and Sundance, both of which double as summer destinations.
Park City is renowned for its three great resorts: exclusive Deer Valley Resort, Park City Ski Area and Wolf Mountain. And Sundance – 15 miles northeast of Provo and one hour from Salt Lake City – is the realization of Robert Redford’s dream. Set among spruce groves and mountain streams within the campus of the renowned Sundance Institute is 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Only 40 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, Park City is easily one of the most accessible mountain resort communities in the country, yet offers the ambiance of a small mountain town. The first glimpse of Park City is one of peaked roofs and quaint spires dotting the town surrounded by summer green mountains laden with purple, white and yellow wildflowers.
Conceived in the turn-of-the-century silver boom, Park City’s historic Main Street is sprinkled with restaurants, nightspots, designer boutiques and galleries. It’s the town’s grand Victorian homes and rowdy saloons that transport visitors back to the days when fortunes were made one day and lost the next.
One of Park City’s most popular attractions isn’t on the map. It’s the pleasant summer climate. Referred to as automatic climate control, the moderate temperature enhances any summer activity, whether it be golfing a championship course, playing tennis on a clay court or bicycling its miles of paths. For the meeting planner, however, Park City’s 17 resorts and hotels with 3,500 rooms and its ability to accommodate groups from 6 to 60 is also a draw.
Providing groups with approximately 600 guest rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space (Park City’s largest conference center) is The Inn at Prospector Square and Conference Center, which also is adjacent to and offers the facilities of the Prospector Athletic Club, an officials training site for the U. S. national ski team.
At the opposite end of the meeting spectrum is the Washington School Inn, a distinctive executive getaway. Designed to be a true mountain retreat, the inn offers 15 rooms decorated in the Victorian style and accented in rich hard woods; but it is centrally located in the heart of Park city’s historic Main Street district. This jewel of a facility offers two distinct meeting spaces, including the adjacent Executive Center.
Founded in 1969 by Robert Redford and a group of investors, Sundance is a mountain community with year-round activities on 6,000 spectacular acres of protected wilderness. The area’s one- to four-bedroom luxury mountain homes on the mountainside above Sundance Village cater to groups.
Meeting facilities are set among spruce groves and mountain streams, and conferences can be held in three buildings.
The 2,000-square-foot Creekside accommodates 50 classroom style and 125 for dining. The 4,500-square-foot Sundance Rehearsal Hall can handle 250 for dinner or 300 theater style. An additional venue option can be one of Sundance’s two Yerts – mountain wooden tents with canvas tops, each accommodating up to 45 for banquet or theater-+style seating.
After meeting hours, the recently completed Rails-to-Trails route gives off-road cyclists a historic 29-mile ride from town along the old Union Pacific Railroad.
And there is an abundance of mountain biking trails in the area, including Deer Valley Resort’s lift-served terrain. Deer Valley, a historic mining town, is located in charming Park City.
The cultural season is kicked off each summer with the “Music in the Mountains” series and Sundance Summer Theater features theatrical performances of Broadway musicals.
Among Utah’s recently-hosted mountain meetings is Allstate Insurance’s Staff Council for Attorneys.
Jackson and its three resorts – Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Ski & Summer Resort and Snow King Resort – offer hundreds of thousands of acres of accessible back country, moose wandering through town, two spectacular national parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton), majestic 13,000-foot peaks surrounding a pristine river valley and authentic western ambiance.
Summer meeting attendees are tempted by golf courses designed by legends Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Arnold Palmer, as well as the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club and Teton Pines. Visitors can participate in a true cowboy experience – a chuck wagon style meal accompanied by a western show. But the real show can be found in any of the many local bars that serve up live music and real cowboys.
Meeting venues include the 40,000-square-foot Snow King Conference Center, only six blocks from the Town Square. With its split peeled log pillars and river rock fireplace, the center provides an authentic Western background.
Adjacent to the conference center is the 204-room Snow King Resort offering its own meeting facilities, of which the 5,300-square-foot Grand Teton Room is the largest.
New on the meetings scene is the National Museum of Wildlife Art. This venue’s 4,900-square-foot grand lobby overlooks the National Elk Refuge, home to thousands of elk.
Also available as a conference site is Grand Targhee’s Teewinot Lodge and Rendezvous Conference Center, featuring four meeting rooms and a mountainside conference tent and 48 hotel rooms.
Grand Targhee’s most unique meeting offering is its rent-a-resort concept for groups seeking a very private, yet full-service resort setting.
The California-Nevada state line runs north and south through Lake Tahoe, appropriately named the “Jewel of the Sierras,” – also North America’s largest, highest and deepest alpine lake with water so clear a dinner plate would be visible 75 feet below the surface.
While the surrounding areas of Incline Village, Heavenly and Squaw Valley (site of the 1960 Winter Olympics) have made the name Tahoe synonymous with snow-filled fun, it’s the warm weather combination of indescribable beauty, fresh alpine climate, casino gaming, internationally acclaimed entertainment and a historic past that makes the destination a perfect business retreat. With several 24-hour casinos on the South Shore, including Caesars Tahoe and Harrah’s Casino & Hotel Lake Tahoe that showcase talent like Jay Leno and David Copperfield, Tahoe is the only gaming destination that can offer casino excitement indoors and one of the world’s most stunning scenic backdrops out of doors.
The Cal-Neva Resort is on 14 acres at the California-Nevada state line. The resort has the distinction of providing a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe from each of its 200 guest rooms. Cal-Neva also gives the meeting planner more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as the only full-size showroom and stage on the North Shore.
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino is on Tahoe’s shore line in picturesque Incline Village. Its 458 rooms, including 48 suites, are decorated in classic lodge style and its 23,000 square feet of flexible meeting space includes a recent addition – the $5 million Lakeside Lodge for groups of up to 690. It’s an amazingly versatile venue.
One of the area’s most dramatic conference destinations is the 405-room Resort at Squaw Creek. Set on 629 acres at historic Olympic Valley, the resort’s 33,000-square-foot conference center has 36 state-of-the-art conference rooms including a 9,525-square-foot junior ballroom. The Resort at Squaw Creek offers a championship Robert Trent Jones, Jr. 18-hole golf course, tennis center and executive fitness center. And the lake’s smorgasbord of activities are made even more enjoyable by the exceptionally clear water. Scuba divers are treated to a high degree of visibility in Tahoe’s waters where 55- to 68-degree temperatures are the summer norm. Beyond sailing and the high-speed excitement of water skiing is “scurfing,” a cross between water skiing and surfing.
Fishermen are treated to an almost 200-square-mile lake teeming with game fish including Mackinaw (lake trout), brown, rainbow, eastern brook, golden and cut-throat trout, whitefish and Kokanee salmon. And there are numerous golf and tennis facilities. However, purists say there’s no better way to experience the region’s incomparable natural resources than on foot.
Lake Tahoe, with its perimeter spanning thousands of square miles of forest, is a hiker’s heaven. Full-moon hikes can be the highlight of any corporate and incentive event. Real back country enthusiasts might opt to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail, a trail that will wend around the entire lake, through two states and six counties in a 150-mile loop past alpine meadows, mountain streams, rugged ridges and areas of historic significance.