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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Six months ’til snow days and winter meetings

Courtesy Snowshoe Mountain Resort

At Viceroy Snowmass in Snowmass Village, Colo., meeting attendees can zip right out of a meeting and onto the slopes. The 173-room hotel boasts Colorado’s only ski-in/ski-out ballroom.

“We can stage the skis right outside the ballroom, and they can ski right out from their meeting,” said John Egelhoff, director of sales and marketing for the luxury property. “They could also ski into the ballroom if they’re having a lunch or an apres-ski affair.”

The fun feature illustrates the link between winter recreation and meetings at mountain ski resorts. Plenty of properties across the country can meet that demand, and the winter sports offered at most of the popular resorts are not limited to skiing, a benefit for meeting attendees since not all are budding Lindsey Vonns or Shaun Whites.

To be successful meeting destinations, ski resorts have diversified, offering activities for everyone.

The new kids on the slopes
The Viceroy, which opened in November, sits in the village at the base of Snowmass Mountain, one of four peaks that make the Aspen area a major destination. Snowmass has a vertical drop of 4,406 feet, and the longest run is 5.3 miles.

By David Matheson, courtesy Viceroy Snowmass

The hotel’s more than 9,000 square feet of event space includes the 5,600-square-foot Grand Ballroom, whose floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Roaring Fork Valley. Guests can also enjoy the adjoining 1,000-square-foot terrace, which makes an ideal place for a ski barbecue.
Groups there typically meet in the morning and break for afternoon activities. Nonathletes can shuttle into Aspen for shopping or visit the Viceroy’s 7,000-square-foot spa, whose treatments are inspired in part by the Ute tribe.

Egelhoff said many clients let their attendees choose from among activity options so spots can be reserved.

Activities include indoor and outdoor fun at the Hope Lake Lodge and Indoor Waterpark, which in December opened at Greek Peak near Cortland, N.Y.  The largest ski resort in central New York, Greek Peak debuted in 1958, and it now features 32 trails, two terrain parks, tubing and a Nordic center with groomed cross-country and snowshoe trails.

The family-run operation’s new lodge has 106 condominiums with views of the mountain or Hope Lake. Meeting guests often divide up among condominiums, said Jeff Kryger, director of hotel sales and marketing.

All guests have access to the Cascades Indoor Waterpark, which has more than 500 feet of slides, a wave pool, three-story tube slides and its own cafe.  “Adults like to go down the slides, too,” Kryger said.

More often they will gravitate to the pools and hot tub. “Guests can swim outside in the heated pool under the lights, and when it’s snowing, it’s a pretty cool experience,” Kryger said.

The resort has 2,500 square feet of meeting space, plus an additional 6,000 square feet in the ski area.

“They have a beautiful lobby area, where they set up a bar, with a lovely view of the mountainside,” said Nancy Buckley, business manager for the Upstate Venture Association of New York. “The location is great for networking.”

Attendees often bring their spouses and children, who take advantage of the amenities while the attendees are in session.  Other features include a 5,500-square-foot spa, which sports a feng shui design, and shopping trips to Ithaca, which is less than 30 minutes away.

Snow sensation
Given their names, there’s little doubt about the main attraction in Mount Snow, Vt., and Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.

By David Matheson, courtesy Viceroy Snowmass

Mount Snow is less than five hours from New York and Boston, making it a regional destination for those cities. The 200-room Grand Summit Hotel in West Dover has ski-in/ski-out access to Mount Snow, which has four mountain faces. Carinthia, the terrain park at Mount Snow, is rated tops on the East Coast by by Transworld Snowboarding, SKI Magazine, and Skiing Magazine. There’s also snowmobiling and ice skating.

The Grand Summit, which renovated guest rooms last year, has 15,000 square feet of meeting space. Meeting goers often spend their first afternoon in seminars, followed by a cocktail party, and their second day in morning meetings, followed by an afternoon of play.

Events with a trade show often highlight vendors at an evening cocktail reception, after which guests head to the Snow Barn, a hotspot for late night entertainment, pizza, pool and live bands.
The morning of day three is again devoted to work, and after lunch and trade-show time, attendees might head outside to tube, snowmobile or ski.

Skiing is a primary pastime at the 4,848-foot Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, which has 60 trails and 14 lifts, and is home to Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Most of the 1,400 rooms there are in condominiums that are sprinkled across the slopes.

“We have an upside-down ski resort,” said John K. Hess, director of sales. “Our lodging is on the ridge from the skiers’ perspective. They ski down the hill and get on the lift to come back up.” (Skiers can also drive.) There is also a 146-room hotel at the base of the mountain.

Courtesy Crystal Mountain Resort

The resort’s 40,000 square feet of meeting space includes the Mountain Lodge Conference Center with 12 meeting rooms, a 3,600-square-foot ballroom and a 5,600-square-foot restaurant-lounge. For trade shows, planners can book space in the 15,400-square-foot Expo Center.

A favorite destination for regional religious groups and associations, Snowshoe has night skiing for those who want to work during the day. Other meeting guests opt to work in the morning and take the afternoon off.

The Nurse Anesthesiology Faculty Association, based in Richmond, Va., started as early as 6:30 a.m. and worked until 9:30 a.m. when it met at Snowshoe in March. Attendees would regroup for about an hour before dinner.

Group rates for lift tickets and ski rentals sweetened the conference’s appeal, said Michael Fallacaro, professor and chairman of the Department of Nurse Anesthesia at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Otherwise, the cost of those items can be cost prohibitive,” he said. “We capitalized by booking the first week of March, which moved us out of high season.” There was still plenty of snow.

There is skiing and snowmobiling for the active folks, and horse-drawn sleigh rides for those who prefer to enjoy the scenery. At night, guests can take guided snowcat tours — given in a snow-grooming machine — that highlight the history of Snowshoe Mountain and offer fun facts on how snow is made.

Guests can also enjoy the Tuscan Sun Spa and Salon and the 11 retail shops and 22 restaurants on the mountain.

Winter wonderland in the Midwest
Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Mich., might be smaller than the ranges in the East and West — the vertical drop is 375 feet — but when it comes to amenities, activities and meeting options, the family-run Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa can hold its own.

Known for its green emphasis, the resort has a wind-powered chairlift and a LEED silver-level spa. The freestanding conference center meets the standards of the International Association of Conference Centers.

Planners tend to bundle activities, meals and room rentals so they know the bottom line going into the event. Skiing is the primary winter activity, and groups receive a discount on the ski rate, which is particularly attractive during midweek, when rates drop.

Four kilometers of the resort’s more than 40-kilometer cross-country ski trails are lighted at night for skiing under the stars. Ice fishing can be arranged, and Lake Michigan is less than 20 miles from the resort. “It’s quite the big pond,” said Julie Edwards, group sales manager.
Team-building activities, conducted by a former Outward Bound employee, run all year.

The resort’s 250 rooms are varied: hotel rooms, suites, condominiums, townhomes and resort residences. Those interested in corporate team building appreciate the five-bedroom mountainside townhomes, Edwards said.

Management prefers the mountaintop luxury residences, whose perks include fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, full kitchens, dining areas and private decks.

Westward bound
Of course, some of the finest skiing in the country is out west. The 145-room Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, Mont., counts Whitefish Mountain Resort and Glacier National Park as its scenic neighbors.

Courtesy Glacier County Tourism

Whitefish Mountain, which has a summit elevation of 6,817 feet, has a 2,353-foot vertical drop, and its longest run, Hellfire, is 3.3 miles.

Grouse Mountain Lake offers a shuttle service to the ski area six times a day. In winter, the resort’s golf course becomes a Nordic center for cross-country skiing.

Those who don’t ski can relish winter in a horse-drawn sleigh, on a dog sled or on a snowmobile. They can also take a driving tour around Glacier National Park, or stay warm and toasty in the Remedies Day Spa.

The property has 11,000 square feet of event space, including the 3,600-square-foot Continental Divide Conference Center.

Many groups meet for half a day so guests can enjoy the area. In the evening, sleighs can transport guests to a dinner at a local ranch.

Farther south, the sophisticated happily collide with skiers at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa in Beaver Creek, Colo., which has 190 rooms and suites in a chateau-like setting. The property features more than 20,000 square feet of event space, including the 8,631-square-foot Sawatch Ballroom, whose floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view of Beaver Creek Village and Beaver Creek Mountain. There’s also 2,310 square feet of exhibit space in Heritage Hall.

Beaver Creek, in the Vail Valley, is about 30 minutes from Eagle County Airport, which is served by major carriers.  “Yet we’re in the heart of the Rockies,” said Scott Gubrud, director of sales and marketing for the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa.

The hotel in 2009 finished a nearly $40 million renovation that included an update to the guest rooms and the spa. As a result, the number of rooms dropped from 274 to 190.

Lift tickets and other activities can be bundled. About half the time, however, guests purchase those items on their own. (They still receive a group discount.)

Snowmobile trips zip up to 12,000 feet, offering amazing vistas. Groups also enjoy tubing and dog sledding. With so many rivers, it’s possible to plan fly-fishing excursions, even in winter. An ice-skating rink is also nearby.

A snowcat can tow sleighs up the mountain to one of three restaurants. “They can have a little adventure under the stars and a five-course dining experience,” Gubrud said.  Fireworks displays can make the evening more memorable.

“If you take the time and make the investment to get people to a beautiful destination like this, make sure guests have time to enjoy it,” Gubrud said.