Ski destinations are more than just winter leisure getaways nowadays—their allure extends to incentive groups, small corporate retreats and even annual association meetings, thanks to improved infrastructure for group travel and their winter wonderland magic that draws higher attendance and drums up genuine excitement with attendees.
Two destinations in particular—Snowmass and Park City—have significantly upped their games for groups. Here’s why you should consider these popular ski vacation spots for your next business trip.
With its 14,000-foot peaks and a 3,342-acre ski mountain, Snowmass is a wow-worthy backdrop for meetings. Many groups agree, with the destination playing host to thousands of successful meetings annually, according to Mark Scheller, group sales director for Snowmass Tourism.
Photo: The newly completed Snowmass Base Village. Credit: Jeremy Swanson
In a state chock-full of impressive ski destinations, Snowmass stands out for a few key reasons. The destination’s 32 lodges are 95% ski-in and ski-out (or hike-in and hike-out during the summer), meaning planners can save on transportation costs since attendees can simply walk to activities and meeting venues.
Snowmass is also nine miles from the Aspen/Pitkin County airport, which has nonstop service from three major airlines and 38 direct flights from big markets like Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver, making it easy for attendees to reach from multiple origination points.
Additionally, Snowmass Village is home to 80,000 square feet of facilities, ranging from high-tech ballrooms to on-mountain teambuilding tents.
Photo: Cross-country skiing in Snowmass. Credit: Jeremy Swanson
In the past two years, Snowmass Village has undergone a major transformation that makes it even more attractive for meetings, anchored by the opening of the $600 million Snowmass Base Village, a development at the bottom of the Snowmass ski area that now serves as the central hub of Snowmass.
Snowmass Base Village completed phase one with new hotel Limelight Hotel Snowmass and event-capable The Collective Snowmass in 2018. The second phase just wrapped up in December 2019, adding new retail, restaurants and condos, among other additions.
[Related: 6 Meetings-Friendly Mountain Resorts That Get Groups Active]
Limelight Hotel Snowmass adds to the already wide variety of accommodations available for groups of all sizes and budgets, from the Westin Snowmass, which has 254 rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space (including a conference center), to the luxury retreat Viceroy, which just wrapped a full renovation of its rooms.
Snowmass, of course, is famous for its skiing amenities during winter.
“It’s very popular among groups and organizations where ski access is the draw to attendee participation,” Scheller said. “For these planners, the agenda is designed to accommodate plenty of time for the full slope experience.
“Larger ski groups are generally booking years in advance, so it is not terribly difficult to book during ski season,” he added. “However, it is still based on demand. Snowmass also sees a lot of continuing education meetings for the legal and medical industries, as well as incentive trips.”
Other popular winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and indoor activities like rock climbing.
Park City, Utah
Like Snowmass, Park City is an ideal ski destination for its incredible accessibility. Two ski resorts and its idyllic downtown are just a 35-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport.
“Our ideal groups are between 50-250 and we are becoming more well known as an incentive destination,” said Tonya Sweeten, vice president of group sales for Visit Park City. “About 60% of our groups are corporate, which includes the incentive market, and 23% are association.”
Photo: Group meal at the Bridge Cafe in Park City. Credit: Park City Chamber Bureau
Sweeten added that the hotel inventory in Park City also pairs well with small retreats and conferences. Collectively, the destination offers 125,000 square feet of meeting space.
The two ski bases—Canyons Village and Park City Mountain Village—offer a wealth of accommodations, shopping and restaurants, with easy ski-in/ski-out access to the mountains.
But Park City has a lot to offer groups visiting in the spring, summer and fall, too. The combined 4,000 rooms in the destination, plus unique activities like alpine disc golf, hot air ballooning, mountain biking and art galleries in Park City’s historic downtown offer ways for outdoor enthusiasts and non-skiers to enjoy the mountain culture—and often at a more affordable price.
Photo: Hot Air Balloon Festival, Park City. Credit: Park City Chamber Bureau
New lodging options continue to get added to Park City’s already robust collection that includes meetings-friendly hotels like Newpark Resort Hotel & Conference Center and Grand Summit Hotel, which recently reopened following a $15-million renovation. Construction has begun on Pendry in Canyon Village and is scheduled to open in winter 2021.
Another group magnet in Park City is Utah Olympic Park—the home training facility for some of the most celebrated athletes in sports history. UOP can provide access to Olympic athletes from the U.S. Speedskating team that you can invite for demonstrations or to speak during your event.
Jane Whitener // Meeting Planner // University of Illinois-Chicago
Please describe your meeting.
This year will be the 44th offering of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) “Midwinter Symposium on Practical Challenges in Otolaryngology,” a five-day continuing medical education program sponsored by the UIC College of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The primary audience is physicians and surgeons in the specialty of otolaryngology.
Why did you select Snowmass?
Our meeting, established in 1977, has been held in Snowmass Village from the beginning. The world-class stature of the four-mountain Aspen/Snowmass resort complex was a major consideration in selection, ensuring the meeting would be well-positioned to attract an audience from the U.S. and abroad. Beyond that, the ski-in/ski-out design of Snowmass made it the perfect setting for combining professional education with recreation and leisure time with family and friends. Everything in the Village is easily accessible, either walkable or using free Village shuttles. Free bus service connecting all four mountains throughout the day and into the evening serves both skiers and those who wish to spend time in Aspen.
What venues did you utilize?
All organized activities associated with the meeting are held at the Viceroy Snowmass, which has served as the meeting’s headquarters since 2017. This property is an ideal fit for our attendees in terms of quality, meeting space, sleeping rooms and its comprehensive range of amenities.
What was the feedback from your attendees?
Whether they stay at the Viceroy or offsite at other locations in the Village, attendee feedback on the Viceroy is universally positive.
Did your group participate in any classic Snowmass activities outside of the meeting?
Over the years, we have found that our attendees prefer to arrange their own activities outside the meeting, so our focus is on providing supporting information and services. For example, we make discounted lift tickets available through the meeting, confirm discounted rates on equipment rentals, and are available to provide information and assistance on a range of activities and services from ski school to spa services.
Your group is returning to Snowmass in 2020. What convinced you to book there again?
While the above might come close to saying it all, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and commend the value-added services of Snowmass Tourism. You might think at 44 years we wouldn’t need any outside assistance, but that’s never the case. Just like the Village itself, they have a way of making everyone feel like family.
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