Whether a group is looking for an active winter sports incentive, a luxury spa and wellness experience, or even a guided hike accompanied by friendly llamas, these mountain destinations and resorts can surprise and inspire.
“For a luxury experience in Western Montana look no further than our guest ranches,” says Debbie Picard, director of sales with Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism. “Each of our guest ranches goes beyond great customer service with intangibles including warm welcoming Western hospitality and personal connection. Ranch buyouts are a great way to enhance exclusivity and intimacy for any group at The Resort at Paws Up, Flathead Lake Lodge or our two Relais & Chateaux properties, The Ranch at Rock Creek and Triple Creek Ranch.”
New in Missoula County for 2023 is the 100-room Homewood Suites by Hilton, set to open this summer on the Reserve Street corridor. In Downtown Missoula, meanwhile, The Wren is a new retro-themed hotel offering 73 guest rooms. The Resort at Paws Up has added a resort-within-a-resort called Green O, which offers 12 newly constructed 1-bedroom homes perfect for a corporate incentive.
“Each guest ranch has its own wow factor,” says Picard. As well as the range of outdoor mountain activities such as horseback riding, archery, mountain biking and nature hikes, groups can experience ATV tours, fly-fishing excursions, or hot air ballooning topped off by an evening gourmet chuck wagon dinner with live music.
“We know that Montana is often on someone’s bucket list to experience,” says Picard. “If we can get them here as part of a meeting or conference, the percentage that come early, stay on after the event or bring their family back at a later date to see and experience more is very high.”
“Located a scenic 35 minutes from Salt Lake International Airport, Park City is referred to as the most accessible mountain destination in North America,” says Carolyn Creek-McCallister, senior national sales manager, Park City Chamber of Commerce/CVB. “Once the MICE attendee arrives, they are welcomed by vast open spaces, one-of-a-kind offsite venues, a luxury portfolio that can fit the size and needs of most groups, abundant recreational offerings, and a unique in-town vibe that pays homage to our silver mining heritage.”
MICE groups can schedule an experience at Utah Olympic Park (UOP), which was the site of multiple sledding sports during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Activities can include riding the bobsled on the Olympic track in all seasons, hosting private events complete with athlete meet and greets, autograph signings and orchestrated shows with the Flying Ace All-Stars. Groups can also enjoy a tour of High West Distillery and Tasting Room where they will be guided through the distillation process and get to see blending, aging and bottling operations first-hand while finding out about the story of High West and the unique history of whiskey in Utah.
“Park City has embarked on being net-zero carbon by 2030 community wide and being a premier sustainable destination,” says Creek-McCallister. “Our meetings partners are embracing our sustainability initiatives by offering accessible and inclusive settings, a safe and secure atmosphere, minimal negative impacts on the environment and the community, and a multitude of outdoor recreation options. We have noticed our MICE groups have become mindful of these goals for their organizations as well when they select to meet in our mountain destination.”
Pendry Park City opened in 2022 but this year will be the property’s first full winter season. The 153-room ski-in/ski-out resort offers more than 7,000 sf of meeting space. Creek-McCallister says its opening has made the Canyons Village neighborhood of Park City more attractive as a location for citywide events, as the room block and meeting space has now been expanded to include accommodations such as Hyatt Centric, Waldorf Astoria, YotelPAD and now Pendry.
“Imagine awakening to the sun rising over Pusch Ridge beckoning a day of serenity and reflection,” says Terisa Felix, director of sales & marketing, El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort. “Follow that with a locally inspired breakfast of Chipotle Chorizo Eggs Benedict enjoyed alfresco with a stunning view of our indigenous grounds. Next, stroll over to SpaWell for an Eternal Youth Facial followed by Vibration Singing Bowl Therapy. Close the day with the sumptuous notes of indigenous flute playing just before dusk and just before a superb culinary experience—alfresco again—at Epazote Kitchen & Cocktails.”
El Conquistador Tucson has recently added its new spa offering SpaWell and is now planning an upcoming renovation to guest rooms and public space, set for completion in 2024/2025. The resort is also nearing the final stages of launching a series of group wellness programs, in conjunction with SpaWell, that will include local influence where possible and can be personalized to a group’s goals.
“We have become and continue to develop as a society that relies heavily on influencers. The MICE industry—in many ways—is an extension of this phenomenon,” says Felix. “These top professionals experience the very best of our resort, and it is our responsibility to provide an experience they will carry back with them—and hopefully share—with their respective businesses and communities.”
“Being one of the country’s more luxurious mountain destinations, hosting a group meeting or event in the Vail Valley brings new meaning to ‘the best view in the office,’” says Kim Brussow, director of sales, Visit Vail Valley. “We have many unique offsite venues to choose from, including on-mountain restaurants and countless activities. There is something very special about hosting meetings & events in the mountains. In the spirit of building solidarity and collaboration, the invigorating mountain air will energize and inspire group attendees, while also allowing them to slow down and self-reflect in a calm serene environment.”
The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch recently renovated all guest rooms, added new outdoor bar facilities, created a new private dining room, and added a new lobby as well as sushi restaurant Sakaba. Four Seasons Vail added the Speyside Cafe in March 2023, conceived in partnership with The Macallan, and serving elevated coffee drinks in the morning and whiskey cocktails at night. Sebastian Vail is scheduled to renovate its guest rooms, Leonora Restaurant and Frost Bar in spring of 2024. Meanwhile, renovations to Charter at Beaver Creek began in April 2023 and are set to be completed by November. The refresh will include lobby, lighting, common areas, fiber optic WiFi system and the pool area. Also new in Vail is Chasing Rabbits, a multi-use entertainment venue that opened in December 2022 and describes itself as part-restaurant, part-theater, part-library, part-arcade and part-speakeasy.
“The MICE industry is so crucial to the success of our destination,” says Brussow. “This industry provides a space where attendees feel heard, while sharing ideas and ensuring that businesses meet their goals. Additionally, incentive travel has made a tremendous comeback in the past year, which is refreshing.”
Unique group experiences include Take a Llama to Lunch guided hikes through Vail’s backcountry trails in the company of the friendly pack animals. The exclusive excursions are offered by Four Seasons Vail in partnership with Paragon, and include a private chef to provide lunch and snacks along the way. Stoke & Rye at The Westin Riverfront has partnered with Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey to offer the new Stranahan’s Apres Ski Lounge, an immersive dining and drinking experience for small groups inside a private life-sized whiskey barrel. Groups visiting Vail can also enjoy evening horseback rides with Beaver Creek Stables, followed by a gourmet dinner at Beano’s Cabin. The venue’s open kitchen allows guests to watch the chefs in action as they prepare 5-course meals comprised of traditional Colorado fare, in an on-mountain upscale cabin.
“The resort offers many options to create exclusivity for MICE travelers including 88 different suites with a variety of sizes to meet guests needs,” says John Hess, director of sales & marketing at The Omni Homestead Resort. “With 76,000 sf of distinct meeting space on property, small groups can feel exclusive as they stay separate from any large conventions, while several small meeting rooms are convenient to on-property restaurants and outlets. Multiple offsite locations within the resort grounds create a distinctly destination feel to each location. MICE travelers are rewarded through a select planner rewards program and the property will tailor the guest experience regardless of the size of the group.”
Virginia’s The Omni Homestead Resort is currently undergoing a $140+ million property-wide renovation with an anticipated completion date of fall 2023. The renovation will include updates to all 483 guest rooms, refreshed public spaces, a new event facility, a new event pavilion by the 17th hole of the Old Course, rehabilitation of the Warm Springs Pools and more. The iconic Warm Springs Pools, an integral part of Bath County and Virginia history, reopened in December 2022 following a 14-month, $4 million investment. Taking the waters is a centuries-old tradition which drew travelers seeking geothermal mineral springs to this area.
“At the Omni Homestead Resort, we’ve created a Virginia Wine Experience, which is a unique wine tasting experience for groups with our in-house sommelier that can be customized for group’s needs,” says Hess. “Additionally, we offer bourbon tasting with our executive chef, Todd Owen, who has an extensive collection of fine bourbons and educates the group on tastings and crafting unique cocktails. For those looking to get outdoors, The Shooting Club hosts a sporting clays tournament geared to the skill level of your group. Lastly, The Governor’s Suite sits high above the valley on the roof of the east wing and creates a very special experience for attendees with some of the most amazing views.”
The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville established a relationship with state-of-the-art audio-visual company Pinnacle Live in March this year to provide a single-source creative, technical and logistics solution for high-profile, complex live events at the property. Renovations are planned for the Golf Pro Shop at its Donald Ross-designed golf course in 2024.
“At The Omni Grove Park Inn, we have talented catering, planning and floral teams that are ready to create delectable menus, dramatic décor and luxury experiences for any size group,” says Craig Cupit, director of sales and marketing at The Omni Grove Park Inn. “Host an outdoor reception dinner on our Seely Pavilion lawn which offers panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and our lush Donald Ross-designed golf course. Wow attendees with hot air balloons soaring above, an exclusive steak fry demo from our culinary experts and music provided by local artists to tie it all together.”
visitparkcity.com/meetings; meetings.glaciermt.com; hiltonelconquistador.com; visitvailvalley.com/groups-meetings; omnihotels.com