Looking for an exceptional mountain outing that has memory-making and team-building opportunities galore? We’ve found adventures that involve helicoptering to a dog-sledding camp, having a sleepover or skijoring with adoptable pets, walking through the forest with a wolf, dining in the wilderness with a llama and mingling with mustangs.
While many ski towns offer dog-sledding adventures, we’ve never run across one quite like this—and it doesn’t take place in a ski town! When thinking of dog sledding, the state of Alaska most certainly comes to mind, and this canine adventure involves boarding an Era Helicopter that holds up to six people on Douglas Island near Juneau and taking a half-hour ride over incredible views and glaciers. Rounding the corner of Norris Glacier, participants see nearly 180 sled dogs and camp set up for 20 people who live at Alaska Heli-Mush’s “Dog World” during summer months.
Linwood and Dalton Fiedler, a fatherand-son duo, run Alaska Heli-Mush, a family-owned company. Linwood has competed in the Iditarod Race 20 times, and Dalton also brings a wealth of experience racing sled dogs. An Extended Adventure Dog Sled Tour allows small groups to spend two and a half hours at the camp, learning to harness the dogs, drive a dog sled, take care of the dogs and live on a glacier. Participants can expect to mush approximately 5 miles with a dog team and guide. The tours are available from May through the beginning of September, based on snow conditions.
“It is an out-of-the-world experience, especially for people from places that don’t even have snow. It’s a hands-on experience and would be a good team-building adventure,” says Sarah Lowell, base manager for Era Helicopters.
Not only is The St. Regis Aspen Resort dog friendly, the property has partnered with a certified professional dog trainer to assist in training guests and their dogs (or an adoptable pooch on loan from the Aspen Animal Shelter) in the art of skijoring on local trails and fields in Aspen, Colorado. Skijoring originated as a Scandinavian winter sport in which skiers are pulled by a horse, dog or motor vehicle. In this case, both the dog and person wear a harness attached by a towline. The human powers through the snow with skis and poles and the dog also pulls, creating a blend of teamwork and exhilaration. A portion of proceeds goes toward operating costs of the shelter.
Another beyond-the-norm experience with animals is walking down a forest road with a wolf and going home with a photo CD of the experience. At Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center in Divide, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, groups first see the resident wolves, coyote and fox and learn about native plants, trees and mountain ranges from a guide. The Walk on the Wild Side option is available year-round on Thursdays and Sundays. Monthly fullmoon tours offer a glimpse of wolves when they are especially active and the chance to interact with one of the ambassador wolves.
Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center regularly works with The Broadmoor, a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star hotel in Colorado Springs, and its preferred destination management company, DSC, Destination Services Corporation. “We make it very exclusive for their clients,” says Darlene Kobobel, president/founder of the center. “We do a tour and meet and greet, and guests can go in and take photos with the animals.”
At first, people “gingerly walk around,” she says. “By the time they leave, they say it’s the best day ever and one of their highlights was to go in with the wolves.”
Pet Sleepovers & Llama Lunches
For attendees who miss Fido or Miss Kitty while traveling, meeting planners can offer the unique option of hosting a sleepover for an adoptable pet at pet-friendly accommodations near Kanab, Utah, home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and located in close proximity to Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks and Lake Powell. Many of the hotels offer a discount for guests volunteering at the sanctuary, and some even donate part of their pet fee to the sanctuary when guests host sleepovers. There also is the option of sharing one of the sanctuary’s on-site cottages, cabins and RV sites with an adoptable cat or dog (possibly even a rabbit). It is important to note that a participant must have volunteered at least once during a current stay in the animal care area where the sleepover guest resides.
If a sleepover isn’t doable or appealing, an outing with a sanctuary cat or dog is a great option. Dogs can be taken on a hike in the canyon or perhaps on an outing downtown for lunch or exploring, while special options are available for felines twice a week. A fun CSR project for groups is working with birds, pigs, rabbits, horses, cats, dogs or wild critters and preparing meals, cleaning, grooming, walking and socializing with the animals.
In Taos, New Mexico, the eight-room Palacio de Marquesa teams up with Wild Earth Llama Adventures to offer guests a Take a Llama to Lunch Wilderness Day Hike, an ultraspecial way to explore the Sangre de Cristo Mountains or Rio Grande Gorge. Small groups can book a package that includes two nights of lodging, breakfast and the llama trekking. Wooly hiking companions carry the gear and ingredients for a gourmet lunch, and naturalist guides share information about history, wilderness skills and southern Rocky Mountain flora and fauna, including edible and medicinal plants.
Outings with Wild Earth Llama Adventures are popular for corporate groups and incentive trips. “It’s such a unique experience—one your guests will talk about for years; I know, because I still get comments on it. Bonding with your own llama, as well as your colleagues, doesn’t happen every day,” says Lucy Eisele, principal of Integrity Incentives, located in Big Lake, Minnesota.
“Guests are always thrilled by the trek in the Ojito Wilderness or Sangre de Cristo Mountains accompanied by Wild Earth’s sure-footed and gentle llamas,” adds Sally Lane, co-owner of Destination Southwest and Southwest HospiTotally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Owner Stuart Wilde’s gourmet lunches add an extra highlight to every adventure.”
There aren’t many things more romantic than the concept of wild mustangs roaming the West. Groups can connect with the spirit of these magnificent creatures through two amazing options in Utah and Nevada.
Located only a quarter-mile from Snow Canyon State Park in St. George, Utah, Red Mountain Resort offers M.E.E.T. The Mustangs (M.E.E.T. is an acronym for mustang, educational, experiential, training) to groups in partnership with the nonprofit Windhorse Relations, which operates Kayenta Korrals nearby. The organization’s 30 mustangs were adopted from the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Program and born in herds that roam in Utah, Nevada and California.
M.E.E.T. The Mustangs is offered to Red Mountain guests as a paid excursion on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and can be booked for groups in advance. This adventure combines the founders’ professional training skills and experience in education and the wild mustangs’ intelligence, awareness and physical abilities. The hands-on team-building activity focuses on areas such as leadership, relationships, compromise, problem solving, collaboration, teamwork and communication, with no horsemanship skills required.
Mustang Monument, an eco-resort that opened in 2014 and is situated on 900 square miles in northeast Nevada, offers inspiring corporate meeting spaces, adventurous team-building exercises and plentiful interaction with the rescued mustangs. Guests are encouraged to observe the horses running free on the range, and experienced riders can saddle up on mustangs that have been trained and go on day rides up Spruce Mountain. An unforgettable morning excursion involves boarding a horse-drawn wagon to feed hay to mustangs on the range. Mustang Monument can accommodate up to 40 in luxury cabins and hand-painted tipis.
Outings with animals have a special quality of bringing out the best in people and work teams. Maybe it is the passion, goodness and exuberance of these creatures that rub off to create a connection that spills over into unforgettable experiences.