Business in your backyard

We’ve all been there – yet another lackluster company meeting in which no amount of coffee can keep your eyes from glazing over; you’re stationed idly, enclosed in sterile space as you steal longing glances at the picturesque Rocky Mountain scenery.

For many companies, routine meetings lack focus and a clear agenda, ultimately wasting valuable time and energy.

“Poor planning can ruin a meeting,” said Deborah Borak, director of global accounts for ConferenceDirect, a meeting and conference planning resource. “If the attendees do not know what the goal of the meeting is, they won’t know if they have met the objectives.”

According to Ralf Garrison, director and senior analyst for Denver-based Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP), business meetings have the potential to set the stage for creativity and innovation, but often such success requires taking professionals out of their natural habitats.

Luckily, “Colorado is one of the best places in the country to combine vocation and avocation – what you want to do and what you have to do,” he said.
And travelers tend to agree, based on the $15.9 billion spent on in-state tourism in 2011, according to Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

While the temptation of traveling to exotic destinations may seem idyllic, Garrison suggests checking into Colorado resorts for the most worthwhile experience with your professional peers, most substantial psychological shift away from the office and the most bang for your buck.

Here is a roundup of resorts to take your company’s meeting out of the box but not too far from home.

Tip: Find the appropriate environment for your needs. Depending on the size and scope of your meeting, each resort offers vastly different experiences.

Snowmass Village
The Westin Snowmass Resort and Wildwood Snowmass, formerly the Silvertree Hotel and Wildwood Lodge, underwent a nearly $55 million overhaul that was unveiled in November last year. The makeover includes retail and restaurant additions. Connected to the refurbished lodging facilities is the Westin Snowmass Conference Center, which boasts 18,000 square feet of space to accommodate large-scale events such as trade shows and association conferences.

“Very few mountain destinations have conference centers capable of hosting large groups – 1,000 or more – in a single large meeting room,” said Mike Pierson, president and CEO of Resort Industry Marketing LLC. The organization’s 38th annual Mountain Travel Symposium is scheduled to be held at the Westin Snowmass Conference Center April 7-13. Though MTS has nearly 1,100 attendees – what Pierson calls “networking nirvana” – the majority of resort lodging properties in the mountains comfortably accommodate smaller groups of 100 to 200 people, he said.

“Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Basically you’ve got to choose what serves your particular audience,” Pierson said.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch & Spa

Just outside of Winter Park, the privately owned ranch-resort offers guests 6,000 acres to stretch their legs beyond the confines of a cubicle. “We get a lot of board retreats, leadership meetings and corporate events where people want to feel like they’re going somewhere special and private to get their work done,” said Devil’s Thumb Director of Sales Julie Branstrom.

The getaway offers consistent rates year-round and roughly 12,000 square feet of meeting spaces, the largest of which is a 2,800-square-foot remodeled barn. Though more rustic than the average, the space is fully equipped for audio-visual presentations and other technology that may be necessary.

Tip: Spark Conversation. Many traditional meetings are notorious for formats that feature lengthy lectures and mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations to visually appease the crowd. “We’ve seen a shift from having just a general session to groups looking for unique spaces for breakouts,” said Scott Gubrud, director of marketing and sales for Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

Park Hyatt at Beaver Creek

With more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek offers exhibit halls and boardrooms to set the stage for the info sessions bound to make their way onto any professional meeting agenda.

But “the subject of the meeting is never really the main attraction,” Garrison said. “What it really ends up being about is the networking that creates relationships among the people who attend the conference … conversations out in the hallway, drinks over dinner …” or en route. Though no group has yet to take the ride, Park Hyatt has pitched its idea to arrange gondola rides for brief one-on-one or small group breakout appointments.

Keystone Resort and Conference Center
As one of the centralized hubs to take your business away, but not too far, Keystone Conference Center provides 40,000 square feet of meeting, exhibit and function space. Keystone confidently declares its “meetings are so great, you’ll want to stick around after they’re over.” As such, the resort promotes playing hooky a day before or after the main events, with one night of complimentary lodging upon group booking, with certain restrictions and requirements.

Moreover, an exhaustive list of activities helps break up the day and encourage team building, including: wagon rides and s’more receptions through Soda Creek Valley, wine tastings or group fly fishing lessons along Keystone Lake.

Tip: Retreat, Relax, Regroup. Group meetings can spur hard-working urbanites to find peace and newfound productivity. By displacing members of your business team even an hour from the office, professional peers can strengthen camaraderie, enhance leadership, build momentum and motivation.

The Peaks Resort and Spa
Though more off the beaten path than most resorts statewide, Telluride has risen to its challenges, marketing its quirks and dramatic après ski and summer tee options. The Peaks, the largest hotel in Telluride, houses four restaurants, sunset decks and the largest spa facility in the state for some luxury and relaxation.

The Town of Vail – modeled after the Alpine villages of Europe – has one of the most pedestrian-friendly layouts in the state. But that’s just the tip of the health-centric iceberg, as the Vail Valley Health & Wellness Initiative – a program developed by the Vail Valley Partnership – has helped promote the area as a health and wellness center. Consequently, Vail may be attractive to medical education programs and conferences, as well as businesses interested in improving the well-being of their team members.

“We’re very specifically oriented to Vail because Vail epitomizes health and well-being,” said Jamie Stone, president of the nonprofit group DiscoverWell TM. Her signature event, Vail Living Well Summit, is an interactive, health-centered assembly dedicated to developing Vail as a hub to connect health leaders with interactive experiences. The 2013 event will be held Sept. 19-21 at the Sonnenalp in Vail. As part of a strategic alliance, Sonnenalp will handle the event logistics and management, working with other hotels and restaurants throughout Vail Village to best meet attendees’ needs.