By Beth Buehler
When meeting in Colorado’s beautiful mountain terrain that stretches through more than half the state, planners can fly attendees into a wide variety of regional resort airports to save valuable travel time. Here are a few things to consider, as well as a list of Colorado airports.
Mountain towns are worth getting to. Yes, flying into cities can be cheaper but resort airports often can make a trip easier and quicker. The airports are smaller and the security lines typically short, making it a simple and relaxed experience. They also are used to handling a fair number of private and chartered jets as well as commercial schedules. However, the real bonus is offering a Colorado destination that will catch the attention of attendees and provide activities and venues that are especially unique.
Talk to local experts. When considering possible locations for a meeting or event, seek out the experts at local convention and visitor bureaus, tourism boards and Chambers of Commerce as they regularly assist groups and use airports around the state for their own business and leisure travel. They also know when the most flights come in an out, depending on the season.
For example, since I live in Crested Butte, a ski town in southwest Colorado, I always look first at options from the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport and Montrose-Telluride Regional Airport. Depending on cost and number of people in my party, I may move on to Walker Field – Grand Junction Airport followed by the Colorado Springs Airport and Denver International Airport. Industry pros that live and work in places like Aspen, Telluride, Vail, Steamboat Springs and Durango go through the same process. Destination management companies (DMCs) also are a wealth of knowledge about transportation and can handle this and any other detail for a meeting or event.
Look at all the costs. The amount you save in flying a group into a larger airport for a mountain meeting may be eaten up in valuable time lost or ground transportation costs to the destination. It’s no surprise that this depends on how far away the mountain destination is located from the airport, how many people need to be transported and what sources of ground transportation already exist. Pretty much all resort airports have shared shuttle services that can deliver guests directly to their accommodations.
Flying into Denver and getting off the plane there for a meeting in Telluride, located in far southeast Colorado, makes little sense for example. However, flying into DIA and heading to Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Keystone is the norm. A flight into the Colorado Springs Airport provides especially quick access to the city’s surrounding mountain terrain.
Ground transportation as part of the mix. Most attendees, especially those who don’t reside in cities, are used to having travel time to and from airports. Think about how to utilize that extra time in the itinerary. If several attendees will be on a charter bus or a shuttle, get them up to speed about the meeting/event itinerary, figure out a networking activity, stop at attractions, visit microbreweries along the way, or have a picnic at a scenic overlook. At Denver Union Station, groups can board Amtrak and be delivered to mountain towns like Fraser, Granby and Glenwood Springs. On weekends from January through March, a train delivers passengers directly to the slopes at Winter Park.
Colorado’s resort airports are great options when booking mountain meetings. You might find them so convenient that you’ll always want to fly into smaller airports!
Beth Buehler, editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, lives in the mountains, has planned numerous meetings and events, and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.