Site Inspection: Ski In and Ski Out of Meetings in Aspen

Gondola Plaza, Sundeck at Little Nell

Take a Rocky Mountain meeting to new heights

Winter, spring, summer and fall—as the James Taylor song goes—the mountain city of Aspen, Colorado seems straight out of a painting. On a FAM trip hosted by Aspen Chamber Resort Association in September, Smart Meetings got to witness the beautiful fall foliage in the Rockies. Originally settled by Ute Indians, this former mining town morphed into a ski retreat for the rich and famous. Now, it’s an all-year destination with something for everyone.

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Meet and Sleep

The St. Regis Aspen Resort, Kitty

Every night before sunset, guests gather in luxurious The St. Regis Aspen Resort’s courtyard for a ritualistic—and hugely dramatic—champagne bottle sabering, and then everyone gets poured a glass of bubbly. Planners can book a private sabering for events in the more than 29,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. A lucky audience member may even get chosen to sharpen her or his sword skills. The 179-room, pet-friendly hotel recently welcomed its newest permanent resident, a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy named Kitty.

In wintertime, ski down Buttermilk Mountain and right into meetings at The Inn at Aspen, located at the base of the slope. This is where Winter X Games are held annually. Skiers won’t need to drag their wet gear into the ballrooms. A hallway is lined with special lockers designed for skis. There’s 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 122 guest rooms.

Groups will feel smarter just by stepping onto the park-like grounds of Aspen Meadows Resort, A Dolce Resort, which is home to Aspen Institute. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers meet there annually. Since the property accommodates meetings far larger than the 98 guest rooms on-site, planners can arrange shuttle service to and from other area hotels for overflow lodging. American Idol filmed auditions in the LEED Gold-certified Doerr-Hosier Center building a few seasons ago. Receptions can also be held at Walter Isaacson Center, the resort’s welcome center, which was renovated this year. This 40-acre property has 22,000 sq. ft. of function space.

Limelight Hotel has the distinction of being Aspen’s newest hotel—until W Aspen opens next year. It has more than 5,640 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including outdoor patios to breathe in the delightfully fresh Aspen air.

Eat and Drink

At a private dinner at historic Hotel Jerome, an Auberge Resort, which has 10,000 sq. ft. of renovated meeting and event space and 99 guest rooms, sommelier Christel Stiver and cocktail and spirit specialist Luisa Canton went head-to-head in a friendly contest. They each paired a wine and cocktail with all three courses. Diners voted which complemented the food better.

The Little Nell, which boasts the 92 most spacious guest rooms in Aspen, is renowned for its culinary team at Element 47, named for silver’s placement on the periodic table. (Silver was mined in Aspen.) As the only Forbes Five Star restaurant in the city, approximately 50 sommeliers are on staff.

Cooking School of Aspen offers pasta-making classes with a professional chef. After all the chopping and stirring is complete, everyone sits to enjoy the strands of their labor.

Meeting-goers at The Gant, which has 5,500 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, can also get hands-on in the fully equipped kitchens in the one-to-four-bedroom condo units. For team-building, attendees can participate in a progressive dinner. Each team prepares one course and everyone hops from one unit to the next through the night.


Be one with nature in Aspen. Blazing Adventures offers several outdoor group activities, such as hiking the picturesque Maroon Bells, exploring downtown on a scavenger hunt or going white-water rafting. The Little Nell also offers an invigorating menu of activities for nature lovers.

Gondola Plaza is in the backyard of The Little Nell. Take the lift to an elevation of 11,212 ft. to what is perhaps Aspen’s smartest space for private events. Atop Aspen Mountain are two venues available to rent for evening receptions. The Sundeck, a 10,000-square-foot space, can hold 500 guests and the private Aspen Mountain Club (members-only during the day) can accommodate up to 250 people.