Mountain resorts come in all locations and sizes
Victorian, alpine, French Renaissance, European, even Arts and Crafts. Some are small and intimate, while others are large and boisterous. Even the settings feature a wide range, from the atmospheric Blue Ridge Mountains to the charming ski town of Vail.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are 122 ski areas in the United States, operating on roughly 180,000 acres of Forest Servicemanaged land. In 2015 alone, there were 23 million visits to these ski areas, creating some 80,000 jobs and more than $3 billion for local economies. Most ski areas are now year-round destinations, offering nonstop natural-resources-based fun.
When it comes to accommodations, forget the rustic lodge-pole look. Today’s resort has morphed into a casual-chic destination with luxury furnishings, original art on the walls and restaurants serving gourmet cuisine. And if that isn’t enough, there are perks such as bike valets, uber-groomed trails and digital assistants providing dining and recreation suggestions. Your next stay at a mountain resort may change your attitude about meetings with altitude.
Inn On Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina
If you’ve ever wanted to stay on a French estate without leaving the United States, this is as close as it gets. Built by George Vanderbilt in 1895 in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Biltmore oozes Old World European charm. It is America’s largest home, featuring 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces in 4 acres of floor space.
While Vanderbilt’s initial plans called for an inn, it wasn’t until 2001 that the accommodations came to fruition, when the 210-room Inn on Biltmore Estate opened, offering guests a taste of Vanderbilt hospitality. Set on 8,000 acres, the property offers guests access to the beautiful gardens created by Frederick Law Olmsted (think New York City’s Central Park), as well as 22 miles of hiking trails.
Meeting planners will find lots of venues from which to choose, including Cedric’s Banquet Room for 70 (below Cedric’s Tavern), Lioncrest Veranda (picture a Southern porch) for 200 and Amherst Ballroom for 825. Activities range from old-fashioned bonfires to estate tours, including an Upstairs-Downstairs theme that explores how the servants and their 19th-century technology kept the 250- room chateau humming. Estate-grown produce is served in the restaurants year-round.
Salish Lodge & Spa
Good things do come in smaller packages. Barely 30 minutes from Seattle and located above 268-foot-high Snoqualmie Falls, the 86-room Salish Lodge & Spa provides the quintessential Pacific Northwest experience. The lodge was originally built in 1916 as an eight-room inn for travelers to stop at before making their journey over the Cascade Mountains, and soon became famous for its hearty farmhouse breakfast.
After a radical makeover in 1988, the hotel reopened as The Salish Lodge, later serving as the setting for the TV series, Twin Peaks. Fast-forward a few years and a few upgrades, including a $12 million face-lift in 2018, and the lodge has emerged to what we know today: two restaurants, soaking tubs or spa-style showers in each newly renovated room and a spa with Northwest-inspired treatments using herbs from the garden. The famed farm breakfast is still offered, but has grown into a four-course Country Breakfast and includes house-made biscuits topped with honey from the lodge hive.
Meeting planners will find idyllic mountain meeting space for up to 180 people, with rooms offering crackling fireplaces and natural lighting. “The space was beautiful, the staff was amazing, and the food was incredible,” says Francine Munoz, executive assistant at Agilysys, who booked the lodge for a holiday event.
Don’t miss The Attic, a comfy afterhours gathering place with a stone-hearth pizza oven and refurbished bar offering Salish Honey Ale and private label wines.
America’s last frontier is top of mind when it comes to rock-solid mountain meetings. The 304-room, chateau-style Alyeska Resort occupies a stellar location about 40 minutes south of Anchorage in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska’s southcentral coast. It was originally the training ground of 1994 Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe, who loved the world-class ski area, its 1,400 acres of terrain and its 600-plus inches of annual snowfall.
Don’t expect cafeteria food there. The mountain resort serves AAA Four Diamond Award-winning cuisine, with a wine list that grabbed a Wine Spectator award of excellence. Desserts include the everpopular Baked Alyeska. Perks are always special, but who can top the Alyeska’s middle-of-the-night notification when the Northern Lights are glowing, or its quick treks to Anchorage to view the start of the bone-chilling Iditarod, the 1,150-mile dog sled race that travels across the wilds of Alaska. The resort has more than 9,000 sq. ft. of dedicated meeting space and 15,000 sq. ft. of special-event space.
Lodge at Blue Sky
Few one-stop destinations offer as many charming hotels and inns as the Park City, Utah, area. “We chose Park City because we wanted a different experience for our group,” says Diane Walker, a meeting planner with Focused Results. “We normally meet in warm, sunny places like Scottsdale, Arizona, or San Diego, California, and we knew Park City would be an exciting change.”
Come May, sun-lovers will be able to soak up the rays at the new Lodge at Blue Sky just outside Park City, a 46- room Auberge property spanning 3,500 acres that includes a spa, distillery and loads of outdoor activities, including hiking and trout fishing in the on-site stream. Guests can take trail rides and learn the vaquero style of horsemanship made famous by the film, The Horse Whisperer, which teaches total harmony between horse and rider.
Blue Sky’s event venues include The Arena; The Terrace, with views of the Wasatch and Uintas mountains; and Tavern Blue Sky, formerly an 1800s cabin and now a Western-style saloon.
Two other major mountain resorts have finished renovations to the tune of $15 million each. Grand Summit Hotel (located at Canyons Village), with a 290-guest capacity, was shuttered for more than a month last year and reemerged under the flag of the luxury RockResorts group, its first property in Utah. Guests will enjoy upscale suites, a new spa and more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting facilities.
Come summer, the ski lifts will provide scenic rides up the mountain for hikers and mountain bikers. If your group prefers birdies to biking, book tee times in the stunning, 18-hole, 70-par Canyons Golf Course, rolling over 97 acres and featuring 550 feet of elevation change.
Also wrapping up a renovation is nearby Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley. The 180-room Forbes Five Star lodge is named after the legendary Norwegian Olympic Gold Medal skier and designed in a classic ski style that blends cozy alpine with modern amenities. New to the resort are a theater, a coffee bar, an expanded pool lounge and an outdoor event space. For meetings, some 24,000 sq. ft. of facilities welcomes teams for brainstorming sessions.
Sundance Mountain Resort
Robert Redford’s rustic Sundance Mountain Resort is an Oscar-worthy destination with 95 mountain-style guest cottages, 12,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and 5,000 acres of mountain wilderness for exploration. Set at the base of the 12,000-foot-tall Mount Timpanogos, it’s hard to beat the resort’s stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop and proximity (40 minutes) to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Anglers can head to the nearby Provo River, one of the premier Blue Ribbon trout fishing spots in the world, known for its large German Brown Trout, easy wading and beautiful setting. The resort can arrange fly-fishing expeditions with a trained guide. A nature-inspired eco-spa offers mountaintop yoga when weather permits.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Groups looking to escape the hustle bustle of daily life should head to The Broadmoor, one of America’s grandest resorts. Set at the foot of the Colorado Rockies and covering more than 3,000 acres, the resort was built in 1918 in an Italian Renaissance style by a wealthy art collector who used it as a gallery for his collection of art. He patterned The Broadmoor after the grand old European hotels, with superb service and dining.
Today, guests can roam freely around the lavish resort, with its 784 guest rooms, suites, cottages and brownstone villas. A range of activities and amenities are offered, such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs, three golf courses, numerous tennis courts, a fullservice upscale spa and fitness center, and a variety of shops and boutiques.
Eight restaurants cater to guests, including the only Forbes Five Star in Colorado. The adventuresome will want to try fly-fishing, rock climbing, clay shooting or “The Wilderness Experience,” in which guests stay in rustic cabins at The Ranch at Emerald Valley. The Broadmoor has more than 185,000 sq. ft. of function space.
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake
Whitefish Lake, Montana
Inspired by grand old lodges but offering new world comforts, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is the place to step back in time to the easy life of 19th-century mountain living. Just minutes from charming downtown Whitefish, the ski slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort and scenic Glacier National Park, the 156-room, AAA Four Diamond resort overflows with chic comfort: blazing fireplaces, luxury furnishings, heated pools and hot tubs, and loads of mountain and lakefront views.
“Many groups choose to meet in Northwest Montana for the pristine mountain air, breathtaking scenery and recreational opportunities that come with the territory,” says Edna White, sales and marketing director for Averill Hospitality. “But guests are also happy to find that, though the area is off the beaten path, access is easy and the level of service matches better-known destinations.”
Meeting space is versatile and varied at Whitefish Lodge. The Executive Boardroom, Lakeview Regatta room and Boat Club Private Dining Room are ideal for small meetings, while the 6,366-square-foot grand ballroom accommodates 400 for larger events. When weather permits, receptions can be held on Great Northern Terrace to savor the clean mountain air. During cooler seasons, guests can park themselves by warming fireplaces found throughout interior and exterior common areas.
Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center
Breckenridge is one of those magical mountain towns that wrap up log cabins, a colorful, 19th-century gold mining history and modern-day snow activities into a year-round package for travelers and groups.
Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center provides a picture-perfect setting in which to hunker down after a day on the run. The resort is bedecked with exposed wood beams, a mammoth stone fireplace in the lobby and 515 slope-side guest accommodations that range from hotel rooms, studios and one- and two-bedroom condominiums to executive and specialty suites.
Highlights include six hot tubs on the main pool deck and an indoor/ outdoor swimming pool. “The Hub” is the apres-ski bar for drinks or hanging out before taking off on a snowmobile, sleigh ride or dog sled. For meetings, there’s the Conference Center, featuring 40,000 sq. ft. of space for groups.
Whiteface Lodge, Lake Placid
Lake Placid, New York
The 6 million-acre recreation area on Lake Placid in the heart of the Adirondacks has for decades attracted nature lovers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Vanderbilts.
Now there’s another reason to visit: the 96-room Whiteface Lodge, the vision of a former Olympian who used years of building experience to create a rustic property tucked in the woodlands.
Much of the timber for the resort was hand-milled on-site, and accents such as handcrafted Adirondack furnishings and cast-iron fireplaces create a lodge-like vibe.
You’ll also find assorted meeting rooms such as Whispering Winds, capacity 80, which has its own private bar and fieldstone fireplace.
The resort is just a few blocks from the town’s namesake lake and a short drive from the celebrated slopes of Whiteface Mountain.
Vail, Colorado, is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain, home of the massive Vail Ski Resorts. Set within White River National Forest, the European-style Alps village with its cobblestone walkways is a gateway for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. It’s also a summertime destination for golfing, hiking and cultural festivals. Gore Creek, popular for fly-fishing, runs directly through the town center.
Vail’s nearly 5,300 acres of ski terrain lures skiers from around the world. Add to that 300 days of sunshine each year and 370 inches of snow, and you’ll find sports buffs from around the globe making their way there for outdoor glory at its finest. When it comes to accommodations, the 165-room Lodge at Vail Resort chalks up fire pits, alfresco pools, gondola rides (including the Gondola One ride to The 10th restaurant, accommodating 200) and a 7,500-square-foot spa. Groups will find some 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 5,400-square-foot ballroom. If your group overflows, Austria Haus Hotel has 25 guest rooms.
While in Vail, don’t forget to introduce yourself to Emma, the digital mountain assistant who provides on-demand information on weather, restaurants and activities. And if you’re looking for a flash to the past, pop into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, reopening this year after a $2.6 million renovation that includes new exhibits, a theater and interactive displays digging deep into Colorado’s snow-sports history.