By Beth Buehler
With 300 days of sunshine and approximately 300 inches of snow per year, 42,000 acres of skiing and 2,427 trails at 25 ski resorts, Colorado accounts for more than 20 percent of ski and snowboard visits in the United States, according to Colorado Ski Country USA.
However, the fun and meeting options don’t stop at the end of winter as ski resorts have become year-round destinations for groups. Check out the following five tips.
Get the Inside Scoop – Colorado ski resorts have group sales people and conference/meeting staff available to help provide ideas, venue information, costs and more. Plus, there typically are destination management companies and destination marketing organizations (e.g., convention and visitor bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, tourism groups) to help as well as local lodging property representatives who are full of examples and suggestions to customize a gathering. Many Colorado ski resorts are Destination Colorado partners, making this website a great place to seek information and requests for proposals all at once.
Schedule Time for Fun – When the itinerary for meetings in the mountains are packed too full to enjoy the destination, I find myself getting frustrated and trying to squish in a quick hike or time to explore. Take advantage of what ski resorts offer to get your group out for some skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, golf, horseback riding, zip lining, mid-mountain dinners and receptions, and more. There is nothing quite like riding the free gondola from Mountain Village to historic downtown Telluride for dinner (or vice versa), taking a hike with the experts at Beaver Creek Resort’s hiking center, going on a scenic snow cat tour at Winter Park Resort or zipping down the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster at Breckenridge. Plus there are team-building companies like CBST Adventures that have all sorts of outdoor and indoor activities to offer.
Not Just for Winter – Business for ski areas in summer and fall has blossomed as tourists and groups have discovered the beauty of these seasons. Plus, Colorado mountain resorts have expanded offerings to include adventure parks, biking trails, outdoor concerts, a whole host of events and more. Many towns with ski resorts like Aspen, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs and Vail sizzle during summer and unveil amazing autumn colors in September through mid-October. Rates in June and on weekdays during fall can be especially attractive for groups.
Get Creative with Venues – Ski resorts are masters at offering creative and unique venues… some may even be off-site. For example, Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain Resort have great conference centers, but make sure to ask about the many other options as well. Ski resorts typically excel at hosting small and medium groups but Mountain Village in Telluride and Vail have demonstrated that with partnering and utilizing a variety of hotels and venues, large groups can be accommodated.
Tap into the Local Vibe – Want to see the mysterious shrines in Snowmass? You need to find a local or go with the executive chef at Viceroy Snowmass. Steamboat Springs has produced more winter Olympians than any other community in North America, and groups can ski with Olympic medalists like Billy Kidd and Nelson Carmichael. Many ski towns also have distillers and microbreweries and farmers’ markets that can be integrated into activities.
Colorado ski resorts each have their own personality and price points, so it is best to match these with your group’s own dynamics. Get out and enjoy the mountains!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.