One of the most popular features of Snowmass is that 96 percent of lodging is ski in/ski out and only steps away from hiking, mountain biking and other fair-weather fun. Lodging properties with meeting space, the 18,000-square-foot Westin Snowmass Conference Center and 8,000-square-foot Base Village Conference Center managed by Viceroy Snowmass are prime places to mix productive meetings with outdoor recreation.
“People love the ability to have early meet-ings and breakfast, go ski and come back for late afternoon meetings. There are not many places in the world that can offer this,” says Snowmass Tourism Group Sales Director Fred Brodsky. “You can get a bit rustic with an activity and still get buttoned up for a really nice dinner.”
It’s also possible to go immediately from ski boots to bowling shoes at Slopeside Lanes in the base village, featuring eight full-sized lanes, a lounge area, upscale bar food and wood-fired pizzas. Or check out the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center, which chronicles the 2010 discovery of what is believed to be the best high elevation Ice Age site at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass.
Feels Like Home
When a meeting or event planner wants to retire in the town where their organization holds a meeting every year, it’s not hard to con-clude that a destination has done its job and done it well. Leslie Ristine, administrator for the Pennsylvania-based Hand Rehabilitation Foundation, has coordinated a five-day Upper Extremity Tutorial in Snowmass for the last seven winters and says, “I have so many friends there; I love the place!”
In addition to the people, Ristine gives the location high marks for skiability and beauty. “Snowmass is one of the prettiest mountains to ski, and there are wide trails that are easy for nonhardcore skiers. Plus, there is a lot to do for nonskiers.”
Her group typically includes 50 to 60 attend-ees, 20 faculty and a dozen or so companies that exhibit and provide product demonstrations. All happenings take place at the conference hotel— either The Westin Snowmass Resort or Viceroy Snowmass, based on availability—except a gathering held every year at a private home.
Plenty of time for skiing is mixed in to give attendees the chance to have one-on-one time with faculty, and approximately 70 percent bring their families. “The intimate setting puts this conference apart from our other meet-ings,” she says.
Small Town Aura
Many groups return to Snowmass year after year and have noticed the dramatic changes over the past decade with the addition of a new base village and well-known hotel brands such as Viceroy Snowmass, The Westin Snowmass Resort (a total overhaul of the for-mer Silvertree) and the neighboring retro-chic Wildwood Snowmass, now the Holiday Inn Express Snowmass Village.
The Westin offers 5,000 square feet of meeting and event space within the hotel, and Viceroy adds more than 9,000 square feet of on-site options. No meeting space is available at Holiday Inn Express, but the hotel’s Bar at Wildwood and Black Diamond Noodle Bar are available for events.
The mall level, where The Westin and Holiday Inn Express are located, and the new base village are connected by a free gondola ride and Fanny Hill, an amphitheater area used for free summer concerts on Thursday evenings.
The ideal corporate group size for Snowmass is now 20 to 900, notes Brodksy, who says despite the changes the town’s per-sonality has remained the same. “Snowmass has maintained its small-town charm and fla-vor and has lots of independent operators who are invested in the community, which creates connections with groups,” he says.
Most Snowmass lodging properties provide free shuttle service to and from the airport, located only 6 miles away, and the public trans-portation system makes it unnecessary for visi-tors to rent a car even when traveling the 9 miles between Snowmass and downtown Aspen.
Food & Fun
“Snowmass is very self-contained, which is what our group needs,” says Coleen McMahon, man-ager of meetings and exhibits for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which has held a July workshop at the Westin or Viceroy for the past five years that includes 50 attendees and 28 faculty. “Snowmass Village is conducive to the group being able find that one restaurant or bar to network socially between the attendees and faculty at the conclusion of the meeting each day.”
McMahon plans an opening reception and barbecue at the conference hotel one night and encourages attendees to explore Snowmass the other evenings, noting that Wednesday evening Snowmass Rodeos and Thursday night concerts are popular with attendees.
“At the conclusion of the meeting, we do go off-site for dinner and have gone to the Snowmass Club as well as The Edge to thank everyone,” she says. “The Snowmass Club has been great to work with. The group likes that we have the outdoor area or they can go inside, which is still very comfortable.”
Snowmass Club, located only a few minutes from the base village, has two restaurants with oversized patios, three meeting rooms (the largest holding up to 100 for dinner or 120 for meetings), a 4,800-square-foot lawn area, 18-hole championship golf course, 13 indoor and outdoor tennis courts and spa services.
Examples of other restaurants well-suited for private dining options, Brodsky says, are Snowmass Kitchen at the Westin, Artisan Restaurant & Bar at Stonebridge Inn, Eight K at the Viceroy, Base Camp and Ricard. The ski area’s mid-mountain Elk Camp, accessed by gondola, is the setting for popular Valhalla Nights in summer and Ullr Nights in winter and can host up to 800 for private events. A more intimate setting on the mountain for a gourmet lunch or snowcat dinner is Lynn Britt Cabin.
Large groups of several hundred also enjoy barbecues at Spider Sabich Picnic Area, suggests Kristi Kavanaugh, managing director of worldwide sales for Aspen Skiing Company, which owns the four Aspen/Snowmass ski areas.
“New this year is our tubing hill that is also available for groups and already wildly popular in its inaugural season,” she says. “Aspen Skiing Company also is creating a Winter Olympics program for group team-building.”
AACR attendees are usually able to squeeze in an outdoor activity, often arranged through Blazing Adventures, into a busy workshop schedule. Outdoor adventures that the outfit-ter guides include rafting, inflatable kayaking, biking, stand-up paddle boarding, scenic jeep tours and snowshoeing. Staff also can help line up snowmobiling, dog sledding, winter fly-fishing and backcountry powder excur-sions in winter. A four-wheel drive tour to the historic Burlingame log cabin with Blazing Adventures for a sunset dinner is a popular June-through-September option.
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies offers leisurely two-hour snowshoe tours with a naturalist twice a day from the top of Elk Camp Gondola, with the cost including snowshoes, a hot beverage and a snack. Free one-hour hikes with naturalists are offered from the same loca-tion and cover a similar route in the summer.
Not only has Snowmass added several amenities in the last decade, the festival calendar also has blossomed. “Groups are opting to book up against or over the amazing festivals,” Brodsky notes, giving Snowmass Mammoth Festival in June and Snowmass Balloon Festival, JAS Aspen Snowmass and Snowmass Wine Festival all in September as examples. “You don’t go to any-place in the mountains to sit in the ballroom all day long but instead to experience the culture.”
Sold on Snowmass
Every year, McMahon finds something new that leaves her awestruck, from the Maroon Bells to Mt. Daly or hiking up to Yin Yang. “The entire area is breathtaking,” she says, “and I look forward to going back each year.”
She confides, “Snowmass is a gem of a loca-tion, and I hate to almost say how wonderful it is because I want to keep it a secret so that it remains as wonderful as it is. Snowmass offers everything that Aspen has, and then some, and very important to us is that it is at a value that fits our budget.”