Few meeting professionals can say that the best tour guide they ever had was a Saint Bernard named Bruno. Nary a few organizers can boast about being treated like royalty in a castle in the middle of the wilderness. Even fewer can say they imagined a tipsy Ansel Adams sitting 34 feet high in the rafters above a meeting.
The grand and historic mountain resorts and lodges of North America offer transforming retreats and a chance create an unforgettable group experience. Following are five Western standouts.
Fit for a king and queen! Tucked into the wilderness of Alberta is the “Castle in the Rockies," Fairmont Banff Springs. The history of this venerable UNESCO World Heritage Site is so storied and royal that entire books have been written singing its praises and detailing its guests. But according to David Roberts, regional vice president, Canada’s western mountain region for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and general manager, Fairmont Banff Springs, one of the greatest mountain hotels in North America isn’t about to look back.
The modernization plans under way include a focus on sustainable and world-class cuisine that will include a wide variety of offerings from over 10 in-hotel dining and imbibing venues.
“One of the attributes we offer is that meeting planners don’t have to arrange outside dining and cocktail hours,” Roberts said. “With so many world-class, in-hotel options, planners can keep track of their delegates.”
Delegates, indeed. Many world dignitaries and royal types have found retreat at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Stunning vistas, pampering spa treatments or spotting a family of elk while enjoying a cocktail made from scratch through its Fame program are a few of the highlights. All food is locally sourced, including farm-raised chicken from the local Hutterite community and 40 head of cattle on the Montana border.
The modernization also includes a complete renovation of the conference rooms and significant upgrades to guests rooms, in addition to other changes.
Like Canada's current prime minister, this fine Canadian property is poised for the future. To highlight the Fairmont Banff Springs’ new world order, Roberts stated, “Dinner jackets are not required." Sound the trumpets!
Built by the co-inventor of the Stanley Steamer in 1909 and famous as the inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining, The Stanley Hotel offers a beautiful historic setting, cutting-edge meeting spaces and fun-filled entertainment.
The venerable property is giving new meaning to the phrase "think outside the box." Its brand-new, 300-seat, 19,000-square-foot Pavilion amphitheater has an 11,000-pound glass wall that levitates up to reveal a granite rock waterfall and pond. The Pavilion has a geodesic design that wraps around a rear-facing pond.
“Our meeting spaces are designed to be multidimensional and inspiring. We believe one-of-a-kind meetings deserve a one-of-a-kind venue," said Reed Rowley, senior vice president of business development for Grand Heritage Hotel Group. "With 12 different freestanding buildings on our hotel campus and now with the addition of the Pavilion, guests get an unprecedented level of customization and exclusivity."
This is all part of a $40 million investment in new rooms, facilities and programming.
Boasting a lineup of over 30 year-round entertainment events that range from comedy festivals to concerts, The Stanley is redefining what goes bump in the night.
In 2016, The Stanley opened The Aspire, a new freestanding building with 48 upscale rooms for those looking for a little modern touch in an otherwise historic campus. A $4 million spa will open at The Aspire in June.
Meanwhile, teambuilding partner Kent Mountain Adventure Center offers everything from hiking to ice climbing and snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Stanley also offers the legendary Night Spirit Tour. Who knows? You may even get some great planning advice from an original hotel staff member…from 1909. Boo!
What’s your fancy? Fine dining? Falconry? The Broadmoor seems to have it all, including a whopping 185,000 square feet of event space led by the AAA Five-Diamond Penrose Room.
With access to the world’s largest Western art collection, the Broadmoor has defied aging with a desire to be the best.
“The Broadmoor opened in 1918 and was the gateway to the West," said Barry Brown, vice president of sales and marketing at the property. "Here’s this European elegance in a Western setting. You get to experience this great luxury, and meanwhile, you’re having an authentic Colorado experience."
But not all that glitters is only gold. Groups can choose to have luxury all around, or they can opt for one of three wilderness experiences, including the popular 8,500-square-foot Cloud Camp Lodge. With panoramic views of Colorado Springs, groups can sleep at the lodge or in private cabins, participate in sunrise yoga atop Pikes Peak or join a cooking class with the wilderness chef as they prepare the property's famous sweet tea-brined fried chicken.
There is also a theater, outdoor movies and fly fishing.
“There are so many group activities at The Broadmoor, but the favorite is the Wild West Experience. You get to learn team archery, pellet gun sport shooting and the tomahawk toss”, said Allison Scott, communications director at the hotel.
Horace Greeley once wrote “Go West...!” The Broadmoor in Colorado may be as far west as you will ever need to go.
Ansel Adams and his wife Virginia were participants in the famed seven-course Bracebridge Dinner, a Renaissance-era feast and play at The Ahwahnee, now known as The Majestic. It is said that Adams was so committed to playing the role of the jester that after a few healthy drinks, he climbed the stone pillars all the way up to the 34-foot rafters. This is just one of many tales of notables like Queen Elizabeth II, who have stayed at one of the most historic lodges in North America.
From its opening in 1927 to present day, The Majestic offers groups of up to 550 a chance to meet and teambuild in a gorgeous valley. The meetings theme is Productivity Set Free. Rather than paintball, activities relate to and connect with the natural surroundings. Attendees will wake to fresh coffee and the crisp mountain air and enjoy a day of guided horseback trips or backpacking. In the winter, imagine the sound of snow crunching under snowshoes on the Yosemite floor.
“The beauty of the property is unmatched, said Lisa Cesaro, Aramark marketing manager, Yosemite Hospitality. "We strive to source food for our events locally from nearby San Joaquin Valley, and our meeting spaces look out on awe-inspiring views. But it’s really the storied history of the entire Yosemite area that creates unforgettable group experiences."
With its towering ceilings, one-of-a-kind programming and unique look into the past, a stay at The Majestic Hotel Yosemite is unforgettable, and if you peek out the window, what you see may take your breath away.
Finished in 1938 as part of the Works Progress Administration, Timberline Lodge is a shining example of the might of the American worker.
“We make a point of telling our storied history of the men and women that built this property," said John Burton, the lodge's director of marketing and public relations. "Tales of carving logs, the bending of steel along with the will to achieve a great project through our Interpretive Center Tours foster what we refer to as our 'Intrinsic Value' philosophy. The history of the property fosters collaboration."
Resting at an elevation of 6,000 feet, it boasts an 800,000-pound stone fireplace to welcome guests., and it’s one of Oregon’s largest tourist attractions, with year-round skiing. You might even see Olympic gold medalist Shaun White stepping in off the slopes.
The Timberline has the best of both worlds, with new-world mountain cuisine and a cozy, rustic 1930s lodge feel. Favorite group attractions are the Silcox Hut that sleeps 24 and Phlox Point Cabin, a 1930s on-slope warming hut offering street tacos and local beer and wine.
The Timberline offers 17,000 square feet of meeting space and a 220-seat amphitheater. The lodge can accommodate 500 guests, and the entire property can be exclusively yours along with two on-staff Saint Bernards named Heidi and Bruno for doggy-led group snowshoe expeditions.
So, take a deep Oregon breath and bring your hiking and ski boots. The Timberline is one giant, gorgeous warming hut with Bruno and Heidi awaiting your arrival.