Outdoor fun in the mountains unites groups in a spectactular fashion.
More now than ever, planners are seeking ways to get groups outside, and wellness trends in the industry are pushing meetings from being staid to energetic. As coworkers and colleagues come together after months in home offices, gathering in the mountains is both visually appealing and full of adventure. Get your groups to mix, mingle, and try something new together with these outdoor activities.
Paddle, Hike, and Soak
Based in Boulder City, Nevada, Evolution Expeditions has been running kayak tours since 2006. Today, the outfitter offers fully customizable options that also include hiking for groups of up to 60 guests, whether it’s a half-day break from meetings or a full-day expedition.
For example, the Kayak Hoover Dam and Hot Springs Hike tour involves seven hours of paddling, hiking, and soaking in the beauty of the Black Canyon. Participants paddle from the base of Hoover Dam and down the Colorado River to view waterfalls, learn about local wildlife, kayak in the Emerald Cave, hike, steam inside a sauna cave, and soak in geothermal hot-spring pools. The other two itineraries are three and four hours, with Spanish-speaking guides available for all tours.
Customized food and beverage packages are also available and can include roasting s’mores around a bonfire. In addition, Evolution Expeditions offers round-trip shuttle service for groups meeting in Las Vegas and other locations within southern Nevada. evolutionexpeditions.com
You may have heard of heli-skiing, but what do you know about heli-fishing? Northern Escape offers both. Home base is Northern Escape Mountain Lodge, located along Treston Lake deep in the Skeena Mountains near Terrace, British Columbia. This off-the-grid wilderness lodge has 10 guest rooms with en suite bathrooms, a skilled culinary team, hot tub, high-speed Wi-Fi, and meeting facilities, making it a perfect option for an executive retreat. Electric bikes, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes are available to use on-site.
Northern Escape customizes trips based on a group’s desires, whether it’s exploring serene river fishing holes accessible only by helicopter or flying straight to the ocean and boarding a boat for a day of salmon fishing near the city of Prince Rupert. The helicopter stays with the group for the entire day, so it’s possible to fish multiple locations. Whale watching and grizzly bear tours can also be arranged. summer.neheliskiing.com
Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, located on the banks of the Talachulitna River and Judd Lake only 40 minutes from Anchorage by air, is another ideal base camp for small meetings and team building. With two 11,000-foot volcanoes and Denali (North America’s tallest peak) as a backdrop, guests can try wakeboarding, wake surfing, alpine hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, waterskiing, whitewater rafting, foil boarding, and river kayaking.
For a snow and water combination, the Kings and Corn program involves heli-skiing “corn” snow in the morning and fly fishing for Alaska king salmon on the Talachulitna River at night, an opportunity available during a one-month period in June and July courtesy of the 22-hour summer sun.
A helicopter can also whisk groups to the 4,000-foot start of the only via ferrata in Alaska, which is situated on the edge of Triumvirate Glacier. Guests use carabiners to fix themselves to a cable, unclip one at a time at specific anchor points, and take breaks at various scenic viewpoints. Or for something milder, head out on a vintage 1956 plane that holds up to nine passengers for flightseeing over Denali National Park & Preserve, bear viewing at Katmai National Park & Preserve, and more. tordrillomountainlodge.com
For groups looking to test their mettle and fitness in the Lower 48, Escape Adventures’ six-day Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park excursion begins in Jackson, Wyoming, and offers a combination of mountain biking, rafting, hiking, and rock climbing. All land expenses and services are included in the cost, and tours can be customized for groups with lodging in the form of camping or staying at casual inns. Many other tours are available in the United States, Canada, and beyond. escapeadventures.com
When meeting at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, in Truckee, California, groups can relish the best of both worlds, lodging in the heart of the mountains and spending a day on the water at the property’s Lake Club only a short shuttle ride away. With direct beach access and a private boat pier, Lake Club specializes in water-based activities, such as complimentary kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Planners can set up experiences like daytime and sunset cruises on luxury MasterCraft boats. Changing and shower facilities, food and beverage service, and indoor and outdoor places to lounge and network are available. Lake Club is ideal for groups of up to 40. ritzcarlton.com
Anna Kim, founder of the My Travelanthropy blog, recently took part in a group forest bathing wellness experience through Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta, that is offered from March to November. “You don’t actually bathe in the forest,” she explains. “Rather, you hike into the forest with your guide, connect with nature by doing various activities, and finish the tour with a tea ceremony featuring tea made from fresh juniper berries. Forest bathing helps you be in the moment through meditative-like practice and connect with nature in a deeper and more profound way to help relieve stress and anxiety.”
A Wide Variety in One Location
Not only is there an impressive selection of mountain activities available at Colorado’s YMCA of the Rockies–Estes Park Center, it is also a place that’s easy on the budget and suits a wide range of accommodation preferences: The YMCA features nine lodges and retreat cabins with six to 16 bedrooms. The adventure hub is surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park and offers outdoor yoga, archery, axe throwing, challenge courses, fly-fishing, disc golf, horseback riding, miniature golf, tennis,
volleyball, climbing, and whitewater rafting. In the winter, ice skating and snowshoeing are available. ymcarockies.org
Also in Estes Park, Kent Mountain Adventure Center sets up and leads trips on the local via ferrata. Via ferrata means “iron path” in Italian and became widely known as the name for metal ladders and cables used by mountain troops in World War I. The path provides beautiful vistas of Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding valley (typically only available to rock climbers). Kent Mountain Adventure Center also guides hikes and has a snow school. kentmountain.com
The Lodge at Blue Sky in Park City, Utah, is all about variety with activities happening on the property’s 3,500 acres and open to the public with or without an overnight stay. Highlights include an 18-stand sporting clay course, equine experiences, classes at Gracie’s Organic Farm, unique wellness programs (e.g., heli-yoga, aerial yoga, and alternative energy journeys), and hands-on cooking classes to make wildflower bread, Utah trout, handmade pasta, and more. aubergeresorts.com/bluesky
Getting to Dinner Rocky Mountain Style
Nestled in a peaceful meadow, Beano’s Cabin at Beaver Creek in Colorado is a hand-hewn log cabin and recipient of both the AAA Four Diamond and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. The getting there is half the fun with a scenic wagon or horseback ride in the summer or moonlit sleigh ride through pine and aspen forests in the winter. A crackling fire, delicious five-course dinner, and musical entertainment are part of the experience.
“Beano’s Cabin is a spectacular venue in the middle of Beaver Creek Mountain only accessible by specialized vehicles (or skiing!), which makes for an exclusive and private experience. This log cabin is the perfect combination of where mountain adventure meets rustic elegance,” says Shelby Polfliet, associate director of creative development for ACCESS Destination Services, which planned a corporate recognition event and strategic-planning conference that wrapped up at Beano’s Cabin. The evening started with dinner inside the cabin followed by an outdoor concert under the stars. beavercreek.com
Caves, Bikes, and More
Located in the mountain resort of Whistler, British Columbia, Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Experience Guide program takes guests off the beaten tourist track and reveals the area’s hidden gems. The activities range from cultural experiences, museum tours, and regional food and beverage tastings to building your own “TRYathalon” of recreational activities—like hiking, biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, and axe throwing. Many of the activities are complimentary to guests. chateau-whistler.com
In Whistler Village, groups can ski or snowboard with an Olympian, or visit Whistler Sliding Centre to glide solo on a skeleton sled or ride on a bobsled with a team and trained pilot. Also check out Vallea Lumina, an enchanting multimedia nighttime forest experience combining spectacular digital elements within the natural world. » whistlerblackcomb.com; momentfactory.com/lumina
Or board helicopters for exploring ice caves with Headline Mountain Holidays, lifting off from Whistler to fly over Canada’s southernmost ice fields. Explore multiple ice caves by snowmobile, snow bike, or snow buggy. Traverse a labyrinth of chambers and dig into a mountain-style artisan lunch while marveling at the aqua blue magnificence. » headlinemountainholidays.com
In Bend, Oregon, WanderLust Tours has a variety of Lava Cave excursions. One is the Starlight Cave Tour, which includes spelunking and stargazing while enjoying desserts and hot chocolate. Another option, the Prohibition Tour, provides a look at where spirits were secretly made in caves during the early 20th century and includes a visit to Oregon Spirit Distillers for a tasting and a cocktail. WanderLust Tours also offers creative twists to paddling with a Brews & Views Canoe Tour and Starlight & Moonlight Canoe Tour on Cascade Lakes. wanderlusttours.com
A guided electric bike tour is a good way to go when various levels of fitness are involved. MountNBarrel’s Fruit Loop Tours in Hood River, Oregon, takes groups by century-old farms, vineyards, and historic sites and features views of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams along the way. The OG Tour is a wine-tasting excursion on the west side (known as Oak Grove), whereas PG Grand Tour on the more rural east side (Pine Grove) provides multiple seasonal farm stops and a broad range of tasting options—including a farm-to-food-truck lunch, wine, kombucha, cider, and beer. mountnbarrel.com
Back at the Ranch
Two longtime ranches in Tucson, Arizona, pull out all the stops and provide multiple options. Dating back more than 150 years, Tanque Verde Guest Ranch is one of America’s oldest cattle and guest ranches. Located on 60,000 acres, the ranch is nestled among the Rincon Mountains and adjacent to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest, making it the perfect place to explore on foot, or via bike, horse, or Jeep. Sunrise, sunset, and breakfast rides on horseback are especially memorable and can be followed up by a spa treatment, cowboy cookout, or meetings in one of the various available spaces. tanqueverderanch.com
For the last 54 years, the 3,000-acre White Stallion Ranch has been run by the same family and was built around the equestrian lifestyle. The ranch has 43 guest rooms and multiple meeting spaces and offers nonriding activities as well, such as rock climbing, fat biking, hiking, archery, shooting, and tennis. There is also a weekly ranch rodeo and nightly entertainment. whitestallion.com
“Horseback riding can be a great summer or fall activity to enjoy with corporate groups,” says Anthony Martin, founder and CEO of Choice Mutual in Reno, Nevada. “Some employees might not have ever ridden on a horse. Combine that with mountain views, and it can be a wonderful experience to share with colleagues.”