It’s hard enough to schedule busy executives or boards of directors for travel together. Give them an extra reason to set aside time for strategy sessions by selecting a dynamic meeting place in the U.S. Mountain West that delivers atmosphere, outstanding service and a touch of adventure and relaxation.
Set against the Santa Catalina Mountains in the High Sonoran Desert, Miraval Resort & Spa in northern Tucson is an all-inclusive destination resort and spa situated on 400 acres. Miraval launched in 1995 with the philosophy that life is more meaningful and enjoyable when physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual components are in balance. There are no strict regimens, but a choice of a wide range of health and wellness programs and experiences and more than eight traditional and nontraditional meeting spaces form the basis of successful retreats.
An executive retreat at the 20-room Santa Ynez Inn in Santa Ynez artfully combines getting serious about meetings and free time with popular options such as spa treatments, wine tastings and golf matches. Located in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country, the inn has conference space and can host a plated dinner for up to 50 and buffets for a maximum of 100. A full gourmet breakfast is offered daily, along with complimentary hors d’oeuvres around the fire each evening with samplings of local wines followed by desserts later in the evening.
Tempter House, owned by Telluride Ski Resort, is located at a lofty 12,200 feet beside Gold Hill. Built from local stone, Tempter House is one of the highest elevation homes in North America and can be rented overnight or for small day meetings with catering. David Eckley, an internationally recognized marathon runner, built the five-level, ski-in/ski-out house that is named for its location above Tempter chute. Log fireplaces, feather beds, a steam shower, a Jacuzzi tub and a pool table are among the many amenities at the home, which can host small groups of up to 10 for meetings or up to 20 for lunch. For dinner, guests can take a quick walk or be snowmobiled to Alpino Vino or be snowmobiled to Allred’s Restaurant at the top of the free gondola for world-class cuisine and stunning views. After dinner, ski patrol whisks guests back to Tempter House via snowmobiles.
While the focus of this article is mainly on smaller properties, the 98-room Aspen Meadows Resort, part of Dolce Hotels & Resorts, is worthy of mention for executive retreats, due to its connection to the world-renowned Aspen Institute located on the same 40-acre campus in Aspen. The property, designed by Herbert Bayer in the historic Bauhaus style, offers team-building and leadership development experiences that are modeled after the ideals of the Aspen Institute and utilize some of the 22,000 square feet of meeting and event spaces spread across 14 rooms.The resort’s Leadership Philosophies Program is designed for executives and small groups to explore classical literature and exchange ideas. The program can be added as a two-, four- or six-hour workshop to any meeting held at the resort. Plus, there are two restaurants and a lounge, a tennis center, a health club with spa services, and trails for hiking, biking and snowshoeing.
Smith Fork Ranch, a luxury guest ranch in Crawford on the Western Slope, is ideal for an intimate, executive retreat in the West Elks range of the Rocky Mountains. In addition to the guest cabins and houses, the property boasts common areas that are inviting for meetings, socializing, relaxing by the fire and enjoying cocktails. Guides and wranglers on staff are available to lead horseback riding, fly fishing, skeet shooting and archery excursions, plus there are miles of hiking trails on and off the ranch and mountain bikes available to rent. Gourmet dining is part of the experience, with most of the produce coming from the ranch’s organic garden.
Bentwood Inn in Jackson Hole is a classic log lodge built from huge, 200-year-old logs brought in from Yellowstone National Park after the fire of 1988. Situated on 3 acres in a private setting and with five cozy guest rooms, the inn is close to the numerous activities available year-round in this Wyoming mountain town. The great room provides a relaxed space for meetings or breakout sessions, large decks make it possible to gather outside, and the dining area with three large tables and seating for up to 24 can be set up as a more formal gathering area. Rates include a full, hot gourmet breakfast and afternoon wine and cheese hour, and groups have access to a private chef offering customized dinners and lunches.
Cameo Heights Mansion in Touchet offers seclusion in a beautiful orchard setting. There are seven suites for sleeping and decompressing, a dedicated theater room with 100-inch projection screen for presentations and entertainment such as a swimming pool, ping-pong, horseshoes, baby grand piano and hikes on orchard and vineyard trails. Spa services and a cooking class with Nathan Carlson, chef of The Vine restaurant on-site, are other relaxing and delicious options.
In McMinnville, the inn and vineyard at Youngberg Hill feature indoor and outdoor locations for meetings and breakout groups, with the property able to accommodate groups of up to 150. Located in the heart of Willamette Valley Wine Country, the property has nine guest rooms (three rooms and six suites), offers tours and tastings of its estate wines, and can help arrange dinners and musical entertainment. Youngberg Hill and the previously mentioned properties in California, Washington and Wyoming are part of Select Registry, a portfolio of more than 300 independently owned bed-and-breakfasts, inns and small boutique hotels throughout North America.
A Works Progress Administration project dedicated in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Timberline Lodge is a beautifully handcrafted architectural wonder and part of Historic Hotels of America. Management teams are sure to be impressed by the 70-room property that has four meeting and event spaces and two Saint Bernards, Heidi and Bruno, as mascots.
Oregon-based FLIR Systems, Inc. held a small team strategy meeting with around 10 attendees at Timberline Lodge in September.The group met in the Mt. Jefferson Room and got out for hikes led by a team member who frequently hikes and skis the area, shares Senior Executive Assistant Beth Quinn, CMP, CTE, GTP. “The area is beautiful, especially for those who do not live in Oregon. The size of the hotel makes it a great venue for small meetings; it is not a large facility, so other guests usually do not become disruptive.It is also very convenient from Portland and PDX; you leave the hustle of the city without hours of driving,” says Quinn.
For a truly private overnight getaway, the property’s Silcox Hut above the main lodge at 7,000 feet may be the ticket for up to 22 overnight guests. SUVs, snow cats or the Magic Mile Chair Lift are the transportation options to Silcox Hut. The central gathering point is a large living area with fireplace, hand-carved wooden tables and chairs and a kitchen/bar area, and there are six guest rooms with bunk beds. A host who oversees the stay prepares dinner the night of arrival and breakfast the next morning.
In Ketchum, the 29 newly renovated guest rooms and suites at Knob Hill Inn offer a variety of lodging options for small groups, all with a wet bar, marbletiled bathrooms with oversized tubs, and balconies featuring amazing Sun Valley-area views. The Sawtooth Room is perfect for small groups of up to 14, while the Fireplace Room can accommodate 25 to 60 guests. An indoor heated pool, hot tub and sauna and iPads available for use on property are sure to be big hits for visiting execs.
At the more secluded River Dance Lodge, along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River in Kooskia, CEOs and leadership teams can relax in a tranquil and beautiful wilderness setting. Highlights of this unique property include eight handcrafted log cabins that can hold up to 56 guests, three glamping tents, and Syringa Café with its West Dining Room that is usable as meeting space. Situated in the Wild & Scenic River Corridor, River Dance Lodge is the perfect launching point for hiking, biking and whitewater rafting, and trails nearby lead to hot springs, horseback riding in the Bitterroot Mountains and fly fishing.
Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation hosted a board retreat at River Dance Lodge in early June, renting two large cabins to lodge the 14 people in attendance.“The cabins are cozy, comfortable and clean, and the lodge is located in a beautiful setting with easy access,” says Communication & Membership Coordinator Sue Webster.
The group found the hospitality “personable and welcoming,” she says, noting they didn’t have much time to take advantage of outdoor activities. “I wished we’d had time to take advantage of a river trip. We saw several groups come in froma day of rafting,and they had a fantastic time.Our two days were 100 percent work.”
Completely renovated only two years ago, the 77-room Shore Lodge in McCall is a lakeside sanctuary that also has easy access to Brundage Ski Mountain. Since 1948, the resort has been a favorite of groups and guests visiting the area and sits on 5,330 acres at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Shore Lodge has a fine-dining restaurant, two casual culinary options, a variety of window-laden meeting and private dining rooms, and The Core spa for free time.