Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Home Mountain MTN News Dining in the Great Outdoors

Dining in the Great Outdoors

By Julie Bielenberg

Gather around the table, sample delicious local cuisine, and marvel at the astonishing scenery of the U.S. Mountain West.

Fresh air, fresh ideas, fresh conversation. Outdoor venues have always provided events with a welcome element of surprise (and sometimes a bit of unpredictability with weather and wildlife). Post-pandemic trends have included the ramping up of society’s interest in getting outside, with the mountains being particularly popular destinations due to abundant open space and plenty of room to spread out and breathe. Whether on the water or near inspiring architectural gems, these outdoor spaces encourage groups big and small to gather and share a meal.

Waters With a Wow Factor
Let the light breeze of the lake, sounds of the roaring river, or enchantment of a waterfall make events extra memorable.

Shore Lodge in McCall, Idaho, provides a picturesque setting with a pristine lake, mountain views, and enough space to host events for up to 250 guests. Planners can choose from a variety of outdoor spaces including at the resort’s marina, Pool Patio Bar, a self-contained food truck that can be parked anywhere on the property, and a poolside/lakeside deck.

Why not have a waterfall as a backdrop for dinner? The Broadmoor, a resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, owns and operates Seven Falls—a series of cascading waterfalls located less than a mile away from the main establishment. Groups can buy out the entire attraction or the restaurant 1858, which holds up to 100 people indoors and 60 on the patio and is currently open only for private events. Diners at 1858 can admire the beauty of the surrounding rock formations and witness the magnificent sights and sounds of falling water. If time allows, hiking and ziplining are also available at Seven Falls.

“The wonderful part of having meetings at Seven Falls is the fact the venue was built and newly restored while incorporating the natural beauty of the waterfalls, fully integrated with the dining experience,” says John Tobey, owner of Denver-based John Tobey Events. “The culinary team at The Broadmoor creates custom menus for the attendees, and the amazingness of the built-in water feature makes guests’ heart rate and blood pressure go down as they embrace nature.”

Open Space for Big Groups
The return of events has reintroduced big guest lists with equally big needs. Here’re how two outdoor venues shine for large occasions.

The Broadmoor’s Mountain Clubhouse is known for its expansive and unobstructed panorama of Colorado’s Front Range and has become one of the resort’s most popular locations for outdoor corporate gatherings. Accommodating sunset dinners and other events for up to 200, a stone patio sets the scene with meticulous landscaping, wrought-iron lanterns that add ambiance to the space, and a fire pit that beckons guests to toast marshmallows, make s’mores, and sip after-dinner drinks.

In fact, Mountain Clubhouse is an ideal base camp for groups seeking a venue that can transform throughout the day.

“Groups often start with an outdoor breakfast from which teams set out to experience falconry, mountain biking, team-building activities, and other outdoor adventures provided by The Broadmoor Outfitters. Groups then reconvene for lunch, followed by more activities or meetings on-site. They end the day with a casual cocktail hour or barbecue—all of this taking place al fresco in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain,” says Pepper Dombroski, director of sales for The Broadmoor.

“As a Rocky Mountain event planning company, our team is always in search of the perfect mountain getaway for our clients,” Tobey says. “Ideally, the venue is close to all of the modern comforts while still allowing the attendees and guests to be able to feel the exhilaration of the great outdoors. Many out-of-town groups look for the rustic feeling of an alpine getaway while being close to civilization. The Broadmoor experiences provide just that.”

New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley, on the other hand, recently completed an $8-million renovation that included Phoenix Lodge, featuring more than 6,334 square feet of dedicated meeting space. However, the masterpiece is a stunning, 3,700-square-foot deck that can hold up to 300 guests. But the highlight of many conferences and events in the area is the incredible food. Taos Ski Valley’s catering team, for instance, offers unique New Mexican-influenced menus for groups of all sizes. Many of the culinary selections feature ingredients from around the region and are designed to be shared plates and sociable experiences.

Volcanic Landscapes
Sometimes, it’s all about the awe-inspiring views of incredible landscapes—dotted with both volcanic and architectural wonders.

Carlita’s Rooftop, located on the top floor of The Gordon Hotel in Eugene, Oregon, is available for a full buyout and can host up to 30 guests. Various configurations with a DJ, dance floor, lighting, balloons, florals, and signage are all easily arranged by hotel staff. Plus, the hotel’s Ed Ragozzino Ballroom has a beautiful terrace, and the establishment is adding patio tables outside its restaurant, The Gordon Tavern, to make the space more suitable for outdoor events.

It’s the views that draw events to the hotel, confirms Kandace Ballerini, sales and event coordinator for Urban Restaurant Group, which manages the hotel’s restaurant. “From the Ragozzino, you can look onto 5th Street Public Market Alley, providing a stunning view of the restaurants and shops,” she says. “It’s always buzzing with activity, people, pets, artists, and musicians. From Carlita’s Rooftop, you can see the Willamette River, the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, and Three Sisters, a trio of volcanic peaks each rising more than 10,000 feet.”