Figuring out if a property is the right fit for a group is kind of like test-driving cars to get a feel for them. Frequently, there just isn’t time for multiple site visits to find just the right place for a meeting or event, so one factor that might be considered in the mix is a ranking system like AAA’s Diamonds.
Fool-proof? Certainly not. Yet, it is a way to examine several great hotels with mountain locations in the U.S. Mountain West that have earned the AAA Five Diamond rating for multiple years. Of the nearly 28,000 hotels reviewed annually, only 0.4 percent earn a spot on the coveted list. Three of the four properties highlighted here also have landed Five Stars from Forbes Travel Guide.
THE RITZ-CARLTON, LAKE TAHOE
Staying on top of your game means constantly evolving, which is exactly what The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe located midmountain at Northstar California Resort has done since opening in 2009. A huge benefit is the ski-in and ski-out location, and now guests and groups also can spend the day along the waterfront with the property’s Lake Club, which was introduced last June and is just a 15-minute shuttle ride away.
The two-story, stylish waterfront venue along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe features both indoor and outdoor event spaces, including a gathering area, bar and dining terrace on the main floor and an upper-level dining deck. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide amazing views, and the lawn reaches the water’s edge and a private boat pier.
From October to mid-April, Lake Club can be booked for meetings and dinners of up to 36 and receptions for a maximum of 60 people, which can take place in the interior spaces. From June to September, the venue is available in the evenings for intimate events and dinners. The entire Lake Club also can be rented for a full day with direct beach and pier access for water sports such as boating, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding and use of the outdoor spa, fire pit, showers and changing facilities.
“We have the best of all worlds; we have the mountain experience as well as lakefront,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Marian Wilson. “We offer a variety of indoor and outdoor space and access to a world of winter and summer activities.”
Back at the resort, planners can utilize 12,000 square feet of indoor function space that includes a 6,600-square-foot ballroom as well as an additional 15,000 square feet of outdoor space. Located only 6 miles from downtown Truckee, The Ritz-Carlton also features 170 guest rooms, 23 private residences, a 17,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, and an intermountain gondola that connects the resort to nearby Village at Northstar.
The resort’s signature restaurant, Manzanita, offers seasonally inspired California cuisine with mountain influences and has a large outdoor deck, while The Backyard Bar & BBQ serves traditional barbecue. A culinary experience that is complimentary to guests daily is Art of the S’more that takes place around an outdoor fire pit with a “marshmology” cart laden with homemade marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate.
Also available to groups are The Ritz-Carlton’s Impact Experiences, which include social and environmental impact activities catered to the destination such as planting trees with the local Sugar Pine Foundation and marking storm drains and collecting water samples to monitor lake clarity with the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
Paying close attention to details and helping groups create individualized experiences has contributed to the property’s Five Diamond status. Wilson says, “It is the recognition of being a hotel that not only offers an exceptional product but also exceptional levels of anticipatory service.”
FOUR SEASONS RESORT & RESIDENCES JACKSON HOLE
"We are one of only four mountain resorts in North America that can boast both the AAA Five Diamond and the Forbes Five Star rankings,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Cory Carlson. “For us, it is a combination of the physical product right at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the very best in ski-in/ski-out service and a world-class staff that continues to deliver on the standard of luxury associated with Five Star/Five Diamond.”
Creating an overall culture of excellence doesn’t magically happen, it takes dedicated attention to service delivery training to keep everyone on the same page. “To attain and maintain Five Diamond recognition for any hotel/resort is an honor every year for hoteliers,” says General Manager Ed Gannon. “Knowing that you have to earn this recognition each year, we strive to be focused on delivering the very best guest experience and continuously improving our product.”
He adds, “This is not an organic process for us; it does require a training strategy, which varies by departmental needs. We do not strive to deliver standards with mechanical precision; rather, we empower our team to adapt to our guests and be genuine in their delivery.”
Opened in late 2003, the Four Seasons has 158 rooms, including 18 suites and 57 residential units, and a museum-quality art collection throughout the resort. The nearly 11,000 square feet of function space encompasses Cottonwood Ballroom and four function rooms, all on one level.
To help nourish mind, body and soul, a nearly 12,000-square-foot spa features 16 treatment rooms and dining outlets range from The Handle Bar, an American pub and beer hall that has a private dining area and patio, to Westbank Grill, a mountain steakhouse that seats 90 indoors and 26 on a patio. A nice casual option for smaller groups is Ascent Lounge.
A heated outdoor pool is a happy way to relax during breaks in a meeting itinerary, especially with complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate served poolside during winter. Other ideas for impressing guests are booking the poolside patio with outdoor fireplace for a “Clicquot in the Snow” après-ski champagne reception or a wildlife, art and sleigh ride trip, which is an eight-hour adventure that includes Grand Teton National Park, National Museum of Wildlife Art and National Elk Refuge.
The Four Seasons also recently introduced unique fair-weather experiences such as a three-day fly-fishing experience on three rivers, a one-day fishing excursion to Cakebread Ranch, or a half day with Grand Teton National Park Foundation cleaning up and maintaining the park’s trails.
MONTAGE DEER VALLEY
In addition to offering Five Diamond-level ski-in/ ski-out access to the slopes and hiking and biking trails at Deer Valley Resort, Montage Deer Valley is less than five minutes from Park City’s Main Street. Perched atop Empire Pass at a lofty 8,300 feet, much of the property’s 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space delivers beautiful vistas. Three ballrooms range in size from 2,500 to 4,300 square feet and additional options include a salon, boardroom and four smaller meeting rooms, each with its own breakout terrace.
After a day of meetings or enjoying the outdoors, guests have complimentary use of the indoor mosaic lap pool, outdoor pool and private sun deck at the 35,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which is the largest in the state of Utah. Planners also can book the 29 treatment rooms for attendees.
Another great way to unwind is the upbeat atmosphere of Daly’s Pub & Rec with bowling, arcade games, darts, a dozen flat-screen TVs and more. Groups of up to 160 can munch on casual pub fare and pizzas and sip wine, spirits, specialty sodas and local microbrews. For a fondue, cheese and charcuterie experience, head to Vista Lounge, a classic mountain great room that holds up to 200 and connects to an outdoor terrace. Next door, Yama Sushi can be reserved for a maximum of 75 guests.
The resort’s signature restaurant, APEX, serves breakfast and lunch and transforms to APEX Steak in the evening. Groups of 12-150 can dine privately in a variety of restaurant configurations, including a private dining room and a slopeside terrace with fire pits. For something a bit less formal, head straight for Burgers & Bourbon that can be booked for private events with up to 60 guests.
With all of these great dining options, planners can keep attendees moving with on-site Compass Sports programming such as mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, archery and excursions to national parks with expert guides.
Gina Goldstein, a corporate planner in the financial services industry, is planning an incentive trip for 300 in July 2018 that will be based at Montage. Typically, this gathering is an international excursion but her company opted for staying closer to home this year, a move that eliminates long airplane rides and frees up budget dollars for activities like ATV tours, fly fishing, horseback riding and dinners on Montage’s lawn and at Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
She likes that Montage Deer Valley offers very high-end service but a more laid-back feel. For example, the property’s activity planner is coordinating a tour of Yellowstone National Park for the company’s top-tier performers. “This is the type of experience my attendees are looking for, and the person from Montage is helping coordinate all of it!” she says.
The Broadmoor, established 100 years ago in Colorado Springs, is truly “one of the Grande Dames in the United States,” says Leda Abrams, CMM, global director of events for Colorado-based Arrow Electronics, Inc., which has held numerous meetings for 20-600 at the property.
The Broadmoor is the longest-running consecutive winner of both the AAA Five Diamond (42 years) and Forbes Five Star (57 years) awards, which Abrams links to outstanding service and the look and feel of the property. “It’s absolutely one of my favorite properties in the U.S.,” she says.
The high principles flow from 16 core service standards followed by more than 1,800 staff members from 23 countries. Every new team member receives more than 175 hours of training in their first year alone, but the core mantra is simple: treat everyone encountered like your own personal guest.
Arrow Electronics has utilized the private dining space in all of property’s restaurants, a majority of the 185,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, 54 holes of golf and 43,000-square-foot spa facilities. The company also has sent attendees to The Broadmoor Fly-Fishing Camp, located 75 miles west of the resort. The camp is part of the resort’s Wilderness Experiences portfolio that was launched in 2014 and also includes The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp in the mountainous terrain near the resort.
Whether planning a board meeting for 10 or multiday conference for 6,500, The Broadmoor has a wide range of unique venues including a 60,000-square-foot ballroom; 784 lodging units (with 115 suites and 44 cottage bedrooms as part of the mix), The Broadmoor Estate House and two Broadmoor brownstones at the main resort; 20 dining, café and lounge options; and an experienced team of event planners, culinary artists, audiovisual experts and support staff. The Broadmoor partners with DSC to provide a full spectrum of destination services for groups.
In addition to golf and spa options on-site, there are six tennis courts, more than two dozen specialty boutiques and additional activities such as falconry, horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, scavenger hunts, geocaching and laser tag available through Broadmoor Outfitters & Base Camp. One of the most recent additions is the nearby Seven Falls, which the resort purchased and restored after major flooding in September 2014 and added Soaring Adventure zip line courses and Restaurant 1858.
LOOKING FOR MORE?
Try one of these Five Diamond Mountain Options
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North (2001)
The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician, A Luxury Collection Resort (2007)
The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale (2004)
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain (2015)
Château du Sureau (2013)
Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village (2008)
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (2006)
The Little Nell (1991)
The St. Regis Deer Valley (2015)