Looking at a Colorado Map, Copper Mountain, Crested Butte and Monarch form a nifty triangle, with Monarchlocated at the driving center about 75 minutes from both. All three offer reasonable rates for groups, dynamite outdoor activitiesin winter and distinct atmospheres that will be remembered long after the last person returns home.
This former mining town, founded in 1880, oozes charm and friendliness. The historicdowntown, filled with locally owned shops, galleries, coffeehouses and restaurants, is only 3 miles from the ski village, Mt. Crested Butte, and a 10-minute ride on the free, colorfully painted Mountain Express buses. The ski area base is home to the bulk of meeting and event space in the valley, with a conference center at Lodge at Mountaineer Square and additional options at the nearby Elevation Hotel Spa and Grand Lodge. Nordic Inn and WestWall Lodge have smaller gathering spaces. Taking a sleigh pulled by a snowcat to the mid-mountain Uley’s Cabin and Nordic skiing or snowshoeing along tiki torch-lit trails to Crested Butte Nordic Center’s Magic Meadows Yurt make for especially unique dinner trips for groups. Restaurants in town like West End Public House, Maxwell’s, Lil’s Sushi Bar & Grill, Slogar and The Wooden Nickel have private dining spaces, while Montanya Distillers and Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum are perfect for receptions.
Montgomery Coscia Greilich, LLP, an accounting firm with offices in Dallas and Austin, Texas, has been bringing employees to Crested Butte for seven years. "We go for two reasons: first, to to thank our employees and, second, to kick off our strategic plan for the upcoming year," says Sharla Gunn, manager and senior executive assistant, who has planned the January trip for five years.
The group stays from Thursday to Sunday and has grown from 75 participants to 250, with most arriving on a chartered plane. The first day is devoted to getting everyone settled at Lodge at Mountaineer Square and Elevation Hotel & Spa, attending meetings, and dining at Slogar and Maxwell’s downtown. During free time on Friday and Saturday, about 50 percent choose skiing and snowboarding, Gunn says, while the rest select from activities such as a zip-line tour, dog sledding, horseback riding, snowmobiling and visiting the spa. Dinner on Friday is at the slopeside Butte 66, and Saturday evening is a dinner and party at the conference center ballroom. Time is carved out for additional meetings on Saturday and Sunday.
"You can’t beat the people in all of Crested Butte," Gunn says. "At Lodge at Mountaineer Square, the people are especially great to work with, and it’s a really nice location."
Groups can also take advantage of Fresh Tracks with a ski patroller or instructor before lifts open, bonfires at the top of Painter Boy chairlift at Ten Peaks, snowshoe tours and the Adventure Park. Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms more than 55 kilometers of trails in and around town and has a covered ice rink.
For small groups or executive retreats, Eleven’s Colorado Experience’s high-end Scarp Ridge Lodge will certainly impress and is available only for buyouts. Meet a snowcat at the front door and travel out to Irwin for premier intermediate and advanced snowcat skiing.
With more than its fair share of powder days, Monarch Mountain is such a fun and reasonably priced skiing and snowboarding experience that any concern about no lodging at the base area should be swept away. Its snowcat skiing is especially popular with corporate groups consisting of up to 12 experienced skiers and boarders, and an expanded and remodeled base lodge that debuted last ski season has created more options for meetings and meals.
Monarch is best paired with lodging, activity and meeting space options in nearby Nathrop and Salida. Several of Colorado’s most picturesque 14,000-foot peaks are the backdrop for Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort west of Nathrop. A new 10,000-square-foot spa and new Japanese-style cascading pools next to Chalk Creek are among the latest additions to the resort, which can lodge up to 250 and host a maximum of 500. The 4,800-squarefoot Pavilion is one of the most popular event spaces, and a conference center and conference cabin can hold around 85 and 95 people. The lawn area by the Pavilion and a meadow provide idyllic outdoor function space, and the on-site restaurant has a spacious deck and back dining room for private events.
Sleeping quarters run the gamut of 27 two and three-bedroom cabins to lodge rooms and hillside hotels. Besides access to the hot springs, guests also have free use of the day spa and group exercise classes. There are activities galore nearby such as hundreds of miles of snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails in winter.
Salida also is a good match with a bustling downtown filled with shops, restaurants and galleries, along with the SteamPlant Event Center overlooking the Arkansas River and new 13-room Palace Hotel only a half-block away. Renovated five years ago, the 1887-era power plant has a 220-seat theater, 1,800-square-foot ballroom with adjoining lobby and art gallery, riverside annex that holds up to 100 or can be divided into three rooms.
"We do a lot of state and regional meetings because of our
central location between Denver and the Western Slope," says Event Center Director Michael Varnum, noting the facility will host 350 for the Colorado Creative Industries Summit in May.
It’s even possible to spend one day playing in the snow at Monarch and the next riding bikes in Salida, which receives little snow. Plus, winter is a great time to book the SteamPlant and other venues in the area when they aren’t quite as busy. Possible places to gather for food and drink are Shallots, Laughing Ladies, Currents and Wood’s High Mountain Distillery.
"You can do a really great group getaway or teambuilding on the cheap here," confirms Chaffee County Visitor’s Bureau Marketing Director April Prout- Ralph. "Because it’s less expensive here, you can afford to get in a half day of activities."
If a classic Colorado ski resort surrounded by a modern village is more your group’s style, Copper Mountain might be the perfect solution. "People love when they get into the village and see how close everything is to the conference center and lodging," says Director of Conference Sales Carol Schmidt.
Featuring 68,000 square feet of meeting space and breakout rooms, with some available only in fair weather, Copper can host gatherings of up to 1,000. The Copper Mountain Conference on Multigrid Methods (odd-numbered years) and Iterative Methods (even-numbered years) has been held at Copper Mountain for approximately 25 years and for good reason, says Annette Anthony, business manager for Front Range Scientific Computations, Inc., which organizes the conferences in cooperation with the University of Colorado and Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
Not only is the area "beautiful and an easy drive," she says, but the layout of the village works well for building camaraderie. The slopeside conference center with a large ballroom and several meeting rooms earns high marks from attendees due to the large windows with views of skiers, she notes. Typically 100 to 200 mathematicians and students from around the globe attend the March or April gathering that kicks off with a reception on Sunday and features meetings from Monday through Friday. Free time is for enjoying the slopes, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, tubing and, if weather allows, biking, in nearby Frisco.
"For a lot of the students, it’s the first time they’ve been in snow, and they think it is amazing," Anthony shares. "Copper does an incredible job. I organize the conference, but I don’t do anything!"
Copper Mountain’s lodging is strictly condominiums, and there are plenty of teambuilding and leisure options. Secret Access is built into group lift tickets so attendees can board the chairlift at the base in a special lane to avoid lines and to get as much time on the slopes as possible during meeting breaks. Ice skating, free snowshoe tours, training time at Woodward at Copper and the tubing hill are possible outings at Copper, and Frisco Nordic Center offers Nordic skiing, sleigh rides and snowshoe tours.
A more recent development is the "move toward sustainability and offering a natural, holistic experience," Schmidt notes. The resort is composting, recycling, adding organic foods, offering farm-to-table menus and securing a variety of yoga events.
Copper Mountain and the rest of the destinations mentioned, except for Monarch Mountain, are year-round gathering spots with much to offer. Summer and fall meetings at this trio of options deliver a whole new palette of activities, additional venue options and weather and scenery that are truly divine.