It's summer 1998, but I feel like I've gone back in time 150 years to join the Southern Arapaho Indians on their vision quest. I'm at Gold Lake Mountain Resort & Spa in Ward, Colo., sitting on top of a rock outcropping that was sacred to the Arapahos, watching the sun rise over a deep blue jewel of a lake. In front of me are gently rolling hills and a few teepees. Behind me are the snowcapped peaks of the Continental Divide. It doesn't get much better than this.
Located about 30 minutes north of Boulder, Gold Lake is a place for small groups to get revitalized in a remote setting while being pampered with great food and spa treatments. The teepees I'm gazing at are changing rooms for lakeside hot pools crafted from stone and cement that look like natural extensions of the hillside. There are 18 one-of-a-kind guest rooms, most in wooden cabins furnished with antiques, puffy down comforters, and hand-crafted copper accents in the bathrooms. Meeting space for up to 90 people is available in the main lodge, and there's space for about 40 in the living room of a private home on the property or in a lakeside yurt.
If your group needs to check their e-mail every day, don't take them here. There are no phones, TVs, or even radios in the guest rooms. "This is a place that helps people think out-of-the-box, " say owners Alice and Karel Starek, adding that they welcome groups as small as 14 people to take over the entire resort. Such companies as Sterling Rice, Kelty Backpack, MCI, and Ernst and Young have used Gold Lake for incentive programs orretreats. Favorite activities include morning canoe rides across the lake for a picnic breakfast at a small peninsula called Inspiration Point, and evening bonfires. There's also hiking, biking, and fly fishing; unusual spa treatments, like a dual massage that turns muscles to jelly; and delicious "mountain spa cuisine" featuring such entrees as grilled salmon nicoise with toasted pistachios, tomatoes, and carmelized onions.
Ann Rout, administrative manager for Kal Kan Foods Inc., based in Los Angeles, just returned from a management teambuilding meeting at Granlibakken Conference Center near Tahoe City, Nev., in September. Twelve presidents and vice presidents spent four days at the resort and Rout says, "Probably the best part of the meeting for us was the ropes course. Their personnel worked with our facilitator well ahead of the meeting to plan so they could meet our goals. As a result, the training was very valuable." Another impressive aspect was the meals. "I didn't have to plan a single menu because the resort serves breakfast and lunch buffet-style for all guests. We had private dinners but guests chose their own entrees when we arrived, so everyone had what they wanted."
Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle often chooses mountain destinations, such as Salish Lodge at Snoquamie Falls, Wash. Chris Gimbl, spokesman for the company, says his office did a one-day meeting there this past summer. "There wasn't much time to do anything but business, but we did take a hike and view the waterfalls during a meeting break. Some of us were so impressed with the scenery that we decided to stay after the sessions ended and hike on our own."
Jeanne Paquette, former vice president, human resources, and Ann Craigs, vice president, marketing, cooperated on the Androscoggin Savings Bank managers retreat at the Sunday River Resort in Maine. The bank, headquartered in Lewiston, Maine, hosted 15 branch managers and senior management for a three-day November 1997 meeting at the Summit Hotel and Conference Center. "From the time we checked in until the time we checked out, our experience was top notch," Paquette says. The group enjoyed "Outward Bound-type" activities that were a natural in the mountain environment, and wonderful meals.