A recent visit to Grand County confirmed that if I lived closer, I would definitely spend more time there. Isn’t that how you want attendees leaving a meeting or event in the destination you chose, saying “That was so fun, I can’t wait to return!”?
What I like about Grand County is the diversity of experiences you can have in an area that isn’t overly busy and has a lot of charm. There is a ton of open space, and the locals are friendly. Pretty much all of my experiences in Grand County are winter-based so that is my focus here, but summer and fall are equally as nice.
Being a Colorado native, I’ve long wanted to take the ski train from Denver Union Station to the slopes of Winter Park Resort. The Amtrak Winter Park Express is a great way to transport smaller groups directly to the slopes on Saturdays and Sundays and two Fridays a month from January through March. We first stayed overnight at Hotel Born just steps from Union Station, where groups have a lot of meeting space options, can enjoy a tasty meal at Citizen Rail, and can take a day trip to enjoy Winter Park. Or host portions of a gathering in both destinations (who can beat a city and mountain experience combination?), as there are a variety of lodging and meeting options at the base of Winter Park Resort. Make sure have lunch or dinner at the mid-mountain Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge with lots of windows and spectacular views.
Another property well-suited for groups is Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa north of Winter Park in Tabernash. For the second leg of our journey, our small group of journalists stayed two nights here, enjoyed the 120 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails (there are snowshoe trails as well), tried out the spa, and indulged in spectacular food at the property’s Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon and Heck’s Tavern, including dishes made from delicious Wagyu beef from the ranch’s herd. Some of my favorite meeting spaces at the 6,000-acre ranch are two historic barns and John Ls’ Wine Cellar and Grotto Suraboza for private dining.
From Devil’s Thumb, it’s an easy trip to Winter Park. The owners of Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort, Bob and Suzanne Fanch, also purchased and renovated two Winter Park properties, Vasquez Inn and Trailhead Inn, that have different price points and can be used as overflow for Devil’s Thumb. After making a stop at Hideaway Park Brewery for a beer tasting, we dined in the pleasant private dining room at Volario’s Ristorante located at Vasquez Inn. The Fanches also have been involved in creating the new Headwaters Center, a nonprofit hub for entertainment, events, higher education and water education in Winter Park. The multilevel reclaimed Civil War Era barn from Ohio has 28,000 square feet of possibilities, all with big views. The indoor event space and a patio strung that overlooks the lawn and stage are ideal for dinners, receptions, meetings and more. Plus, there is dynamite Chef Evan Treadwell Culinary Center that can be used for catering, learning and interactive cooking classes, and the main-floor exhibit space will be unveiled soon.
While we didn’t make it as far north as Granby, YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch along with C Lazy U Ranch, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, are definitely worthy of consideration. Plus, there are other guest ranches, hot springs and Granby Ranch, a smaller ski area and year-round resort. Wait, that’s not it! There is the small burg of Grand Lake, which has one of two entrances into Rocky Mountain National Park. There are so many options that you will likely have to bring groups back multiple times!