Vail's reputation as America’s posh getaway ski town is no secret. But locals will tell you that summers are just as lovely. Longer days mean more time to take in the breathtaking scenery, heart-thumping river rapids, expansive mountain trails and cultural spectacles.
When people visit Vail, they expect something a little different. “Vail is truly ‘like nothing on earth,’ as the tagline says. For groups, Vail offers everything you know as a leisure visitor—European-inspired pedestrian villages, great culinary options, wonderful special events—and much more tailored to a group audience,” says Chris Romer, president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership.
Vail’s hospitality experts are always looking for new ways to exceed expectations. “Vail is a luxury destination with first-class, top-notch services,” says Ashley Robertson, senior marketing manager, for DSC, Destination Services Corporation, headquartered in Avon. “Vail can satisfy the 100-percent thrill seekers and those who like to stroll and take in the views; there is something for everyone.”
Resorts to Impress and De-stress
Vail’s most revered properties are even better this summer thanks to in-house improvements. Beth Faller, vice president for Event Travel Management, brought a small group to The Sebastian Vail for a leadership retreat in late 2014. “I love all the renovations that have been done in the past five years,” she says.
“There is [clout] with the clients in just the name, Vail,” says Faller. “And now, with all the activities, the ease of getting there plus the new renovations, there is even more value.”
The Sebastian Vail recently renovated its 84 rooms and 16 executive suites, six of which can be configured as two-bedroom suites. The rooms’ décor includes inviting textures and rich hues of blues, silvers and browns. “The guest rooms are now congruous with the lobby and the other areas of the hotel,” says Annie Lynch, corporate director of sales for Timber Resorts, the management company, “particularly with limited prints by Manuel Felguérez, a Mexican abstract artist.” MSN.com recently recognized the hotel as No. 1 in its Best Hotel in Every State ranking.
In June, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail’s lobby and bar will have a new look. As a result, Fireside Lounge is now centered, affording guests views of the mountains.“It will be the new heartbeat for the hotel,” says Scott Gubrud, director of sales and marketing. Higher ceilings and patio fire pits provide an inviting space for group breakfasts and lunches inside and out.
A conference might only last for three days, but Vail is the perfect place to linger and stay a few extra days. Vail Cascade Resort is offering an extend-a-stay discounted rate at 20 percent off. “Summer is Vail’s hidden-gem season,” says Katie Johnson, CHDM, director of mar- keting and public relations, “and guests enjoy staying longer, especially with their families.” Vail Cascade offers Kid-Venture (between Memorial Day and Labor Day) with movie nights and s’mores by the fire as well as custom excursions for hiking and horseback riding.
The name Vail has a certain level of influence, Faller says, and that goes a long way to motivate people to attend the meetings. “But as we know, it’s really all about the destination and the activities once the meeting is over,” she says.
No one knows this better than Darryl Bangert, co-owner of Sage Outdoor Adventures. When he or his staff takes guests on all-terrain vehicles (ATV) high above the Vail Valley, he stops the ride and reads a poem. To appreciate the significance of where they stand, he asks for a few minutes of silence. “We help people touch the essence of nature when they are with us,” says Bangert. He expected his guests, especially the macho, burly ones, to protest. Au contraire. “The groups I think will be the least stirred are the most moved.”
Sage Outdoor Adventures offers river rafting of all levels, horseback riding for beginner and experienced riders, ATV Mavericks, and sporting clays and skeet shooting. While some guests might shy away from activities like kayaking, every activity can be geared to all comfort levels. For instance, last summer the staff from the Colorado School of Mines climbed aboard ultra-stable inflatable duckie kayaks. “They don’t roll, and everyone had a hilariously good time,” says Lynch, who arranged the event.
DSC offers Paddle, Jeep, Saddle, a sun-up to sun-down day that includes paddle boarding, jeep and hay rides to a barbecue lunch at Bear Ranch, afternoon horseback riding and an evening ranch dinner with country line dance instruction.
Two venues, Piney River Ranch and 4 Eagle Ranch, are ready to give guests an Old West experience. “Visitors need to get out of the hotel to say, ‘Yes, we are in Colorado,’” says Monique Busold, general manager of Piney River Ranch. From fly-fishing and canoeing to horseback riding and hiking up toPiney Waterfalls, guests have a chance to experience the beauty of the Vail area.
The stunning 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott puts on a show the first Thursday of every month with a Western dance night. “Tuesdays are Western family night at 4 Eagle,” adds Kristen Mehan, director of events. “We have Cowboy Bob, who does magic tricks, and there is a seed-spitting contest, a mechanical bull, bounce house, buffet and musicians [June to mid-August].” On certain Wednesdays in the summer, cowboys and cowgirls compete in a full-on rodeo with roping, bull riding, barrel racing and saddle bronc riding.
Culture & Fine Dining
Summer is culture season in Vail. Romer suggests folding in existing events into group activities, such as Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Vail Jazz Festival, International Dance Festival and free summer concerts, all at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. A new find is Larkspur, as the owners recently shifted their restaurant into a group space for concerts and custom catering.
Lastly, don’t forget the food. Vail Farmer’s Market and Art Show is the state’s largest market, says Romer. Chef/owner John Michel at Left Bank offers hands-on cooking classes for up to 14 people in his restaurant kitchen, followed by a sit-down dinner and wine.
Robertson incorporated Kelly Liken, a Vail celebrity chef, into activities with an outdoor demo kitchen. “We are always looking for ways to offer unique events that guest wouldn’t do on their own,” she says. And, The Sebastian Vail puts on Master Chef group activities and mixology classes with the Frost bar staff.
No matter the time of year, Colorado’s alpine village of Vail continues to be a strong attraction for meetings and conferences of all sizes. The town is waiting to show you why Vail is truly extraordinary.