In tandem with the recent XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, Mountain Meetings looks at the legacy the Olympic Winter Games have left in Vancouver, Salt Lake City, Calgary and Squaw Valley for meetings and events.
30 Nations & 665 Athletes
Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski areas in North America, which helped bring the VIII Winter Olympics to town in 1960. Many of the original 1960 structures have long been replaced with modern buildings and amenities; however, there are still standing relics of the games and plenty of Olympic pride in the town.
Tom Kelly, building manager at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, tells the tale of the storied ski resort during the Winter Games. “At the time, I was the director of sports operations. We built everything for the games,” he recalls. “The Olympic Village Inn is still in place and serves as the hub building for the ski resort. Squaw Valley’s ice rink and ski jump hill are long gone, but the alpine courses are still in use, including the slalom runs.”
Olympic Village Lodge received a facelift in 2014 and now hosts many corporate events, galas, fundraisers, concerts and more in what was once the sleeping quarters for athletes. “The Olympic Village Lodge can hold 750 guests in the space for anything from movie premieres to business functions to trade shows. We host North Face two times a year in this space for their conferences,” explains Sam Kieckhefer, public relations coordinator for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
Kelly also points out that many events take place in The Garden at The Olympic Village. “It used to be the swimming pool, but has been transformed into stunning botanical beds for outdoor events up to 250 guests with a prime view of the aerial tram for an added bonus.”
57 Nations & 1,423 Athletes
In 1988, Calgary hosted the most expensive Olympics up until that time, with significant investment in television and media that resulted in a surge of popularity and tourism for the area. Now there is a bid for another Winter Olympics on the table. Many of the original XV Winter Olympic buildings are still in place and are even on the proposal to host another Olympiad, meaning they are prime for events and corporate functions now.
Canada Olympic Park—now called WinSport—is used as a training facility for athletes and is privately operated along with Olympic Oval, Scotiabank Saddledome, Canmore Nordic Centre and McHahon Stadium. The City of Calgary operates Father David Bauer Arena and Max Bell Centre from the XV Winter Olympics.
Father David Bauer Arena features two large ice surfaces and is home to the University of Calgary hockey team. There is a 1,750-person seating capacity for groups and also a meeting room that can hold 20.
Max Bell Centre also features two ice surfaces, a press box with broadcast accommodation for large groups, seating capacity of 2,121, three meeting rooms each seating 30, an 18,000-square-foot exhibition space for trade shows, and much more, including on-site catering and concessions.
SALT LAKE CITY
77 Nations & 2,399 Athletes
Home to the most recent USA-based Winter Olympics, many of the 2002 snowy and spectacular scenes from the Salt Lake City and surrounding mountains spread worldwide, and the city became a mecca for conferences and meetings that tie into the facilities.
Utah Olympic Park has been maintained and often improved by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. “Groups love to host meetings in Salt Lake City and take the short drive to the park. We have endless options once we get groups there,” says Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “We’ve built a ski museum, world-class ski jumping facility and much more.”
Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation allows groups the ability to take things sky high. “We have aerial ski demonstrations we can do, parades of athletes, team-building with athletes or through our adventure courses, and so much more. We take guests through a bobsled course driven by the athletes—it’s amazing!” says Beck
The facility’s Olympic Oval is home to the world’s fastest ice sheet and was host to events such as speed and figure skating and hockey. Now, it’s even used for indoor soccer and has hosted World Cup qualifying matches. For large groups, it’s natural to take to the ice at the Oval. With more than 1,000 pairs of figure and hockey skates to rent, any group will be happily outfitted.
Utah Olympic Park can host up to 5,000 people, but the venue’s sweet spot is 1,500 to 2,000 guests. Catering is available onsite, and guests can even enjoy a margarita poolside while watching the national team practice aerial jumps into the training pool.
British Columbia, Canada
82 Nations & 2,566 Athletes
Vancouver is the largest city on Canada’s west coast and was home to both the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (Olympic towns now host both since 2001). Vancouver has since been awarded many accolades and ranked the top destination in North America for international meetings by the International Congress & Convention Association.
Richmond Olympic Oval is the most famous icon of the games and features 512,000 square feet of indoor activity and meeting space, plus outdoor plazas with mountain and river views. Today, it houses Canada’s only Olympic Museum, which is suitable for events, along with ROX Theatre, rotating exhibitions and training space for athletes.
We have done everything from oneon-one meetings to entire company year-end parties accommodating 1,000 guests and more. Breakfasts for 200, podium parties, summits … the possibilities are endless,” explains, Heidi Lyons, sponsorship and corporate events coordinator.
“Olympic athletes take part in the events at times, and product launches are popular with our theater for 44 with state-of-the-art motion seats. This is also used for the Vancouver International Mountain Film festival since the athletes and cinematographers can use the facility’s climbing walls, and then watch the film.”
What has become popular in the team-building and strategy sector is the Oval’s Olympic and sport simulators, developed to experience what a world-class athlete feels, sees and hears as they compete on the international stage. Examples include launching off an Olympic ski jump, carving a line in a sit-ski slalom race and traveling at incredible speeds on an Olympic bobsled track
For those looking to create a more relaxed event or even a premiere, ROX Theatre can host film screenings, corporate events, seminars and other programming. Many corporate packages at the Oval also feature access to the adjoining Legacy Suite, a meeting space with views of athletes on the building’s activity level.
The Winter Olympics not only are a beloved international tradition, the venues left behind continue to be iconic and relevant for today’s meetings and events. With massive spaces, state-ofthe-art programming and equipment, and experience hosting cultures from across the globe, prior Olympic Villages are today’s gold medalists for groups.
While these U.S. towns haven’t hosted the Winter Games, they definitely medal as meeting and event destinations and have unique ties to the Olympics.
Beaver Creek, Colorado Springs & Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Mikaela Shiffrin serves as the resident Olympic gold medalist at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, offering ski conditioning tips and booking for autograph events, Q&A sessions, etc. westinriverfrontbeavercreek.com
Groups can train like Team USA in Colorado Springs, home to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center (above). Group tours of the grounds can be arranged to view where top athletes are preparing for the next Olympics, and demonstrations and opportunities to dine with the athletes are available. The facility is operational year-round with more than 50 different sport disciplines utilizing the facility. Ground recently was broken for the U.S. Olympic Museum next to the center, with a completion date of 2019 anticipated. teamusa.org
Steamboat Springs is especially full of Olympic pride. Tread of Pioneers Museum, located downtown, houses Olympic exhibits and hosts Olympic walking tours in summer. This Colorado town also has produced more Olympic athletes than perhaps any other town in North America, so running into someone who is training or has won an Olympic medal isn’t that outlandish. Billy Kidd, Nelson Carmichael, Johnny Spillane, and last year’s victorious Sue White, a gold medal winner at World Winter Special Olympics in Austria, all call “The Boat” their home. steamboatchamber.com
Sun Valley, Idaho
There is a very strong Olympic connection in Sun Valley, such as being home of the first U.S. skier to win a gold medal in the Olympic Winter Games and a key training venue. After bringing home the gold in 1948, Gretchen Fraser mentored Sun Valley’s female skiers for many years, including champions such as Susie Corrock, Christin Cooper and Picabo Street, giving them Tiffany gold four-leaf clover pins. She is buried near Ernest Hemingway in the Ketchum Cemetery. Today, 39 living Olympians call Sun Valley home.
“It’s unprecedented for one location to have five approved Olympic training sites,” says Luke Bodensteiner, executive vice president of athletics for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Sun Valley was also the location for a number of competitions when Idaho hosted the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. visitsunvalley.com
Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, Alaska
Tommy Moe, the last American to win Olympic gold in downhill skiing, now coowns and operates a heli-skiing operation at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, which also offers salmon fishing in the summer along with helibiking and glacier hiking. Groups looking for an adventurous board retreat or executive meeting space away from the hustle of cities are tapping this exclusive outpost. There’s plenty of breakout space both indoors and out for groups of 16 or less. tordrillomountainlodge.com