There has been plenty of growth in western ski country during the past year and more projects are on the drawing board. Salt Lake City and its nearby mountain resorts are in the midst of a massive construction boom to prepare for the 2002 Winter Olympics. About 1,500 hotel rooms, a 121,000-square-foot addition to the convention center (bringing the total to 377,000 square feet), a $312 million light-rail system, and a new base-area village and conference center at The Canyons (formerly Wolf Mountain) are all coming on line in the area in 2000.
Throughout the West, ski areas have been improved and more are opening: Blacktail, the first new ski area to open on national forest land in Montana in more than 20 years, is up and running less than one hour south of the town of Kalispell and Big Mountain ski area.
Elsewhere, the construction boom focuses on meeting space. In Colorado, the Telluride Conference Center is due to open in June with 15,000 square feet of meeting space. All meeting rooms will be fitted with dedicated high-speed communication access lines. The Keystone Conference Center is now undergoing a 20,000-square-foot expansion that will bring it to 100,000 square feet. In Kalispell, Mont., the Valley Dome conference center is scheduled to break ground this spring for completion in 2000. And Lake Tahoe is breaking ground on a $600 million redevelopment of the South Shore area that will include several new hotels and a convention center.
CALIFORNIA & NEVADA Reno/Lake Tahoe Hotel News * In Nevada, Heavenly is due to break ground this summer for a gondola linking the casinos and hotels downtown to the mountain. It's part of a $200 million South Shore redevelopment program that will also include a convention center, hotels, and retail shopping.
* Heavenly's new owner, American Ski Co., will begin construction this summer on a slope-side 273-room Grand Summit Resort Hotel.
* In California, on the North Shore, 160-room Granlibakken Resort and Conference Center has added a spa.
Important Info Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority (800) AT-TAHOE, (530) 544-4040 Fax: (530) 544-2386
North Lake Tahoe Resort Assoc. (916) 583-3494, (800) 462-5196 Fax: (800) 815-8185 www.tahoefun.org
Reno-Sparks CVA (800) 443-1482 Fax: (775) 827-7666 www.playreno.com
COLORADO Mountain Resorts Hotel News * The Hilton in Breckenridge is now the Great Divide Lodge. A $4 million renovation of the 208 guest rooms, public areas, and 12,000 square feet of meeting space was completed in 1998.
* Sheraton Crested Butte Resort is fresh from a $10 million expansion that added 109 suites, 5,000 square feet of meeting space, and a pool.
* In Keystone,The River Run Village by the Gondola is nearing completion, with 620 lodging units and 180,000 square feet of retail space. It is connected to the conference center by a free shuttle bus.
* A $5 million renovation of Keystone Lodge included adding data-ports in each of the 152 rooms, a new fitness center, and a heated swimming pool.
* In December, the Grand Summit Hotel in Steamboat will open with roughly half the planned 412 rooms and 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
* The Vail Marriott Mountain Resort has completed a $14 million renovation, which included guest rooms and meeting space, and added a spa.
* The Vail Cascade completed a $3 million renovation of its 149 rooms in 1998 and will begin an $11 million upgrade of meeting and public spaces this year.
* The Sonnenalp Resort in Vail Village has completed a $15 million renovation of Austria Haus into 25 oversize guest rooms and 18 luxury suites.
* In Winter Park, construction has begun on a pedestrian village and lodge complex due to open in January 2000.
* The Raintree Hotel, at the base area in Winter Park, has just completed a renovation of its 56 rooms and suites. Meeting space overlooking the slopes can accommodate up to 200.
Important Info Aspen Chamber Resort Assoc. (800) 262-7736 Fax: (970) 925-9008 www.aspen.com
Crested Butte Cham. of Commerce (970) 349-6438, (800)545-4505 Fax: (970) 349-1023 www.crestedbuttechamber.com
Steamboat Resort Assoc. (970) 879-0882 Fax: (970) 879-2543 www.steamboat-chamber.com
Vail Valley Tourism & Convention Bureau (303) 534-3487 Fax: (303) 892-5628
Telluride Conference Services (970) 728-6900 Fax: (970) 728-6364 www.telski.com
IDAHO Sun Valley Hotel News * The Elkhorn Resort, Sun Valley's largest hotel, has just finished a $5 million upgrade of its 132 hotel rooms and conference facilities and will open a new golf clubhouse this spring. The hotel has 7,500 square feet of meeting space.
Important Info Sun Valley Ketchum Chamber of Commerce (208) 726-3423, (800) 634-3347 Fax: (208) 726-4533 www.visitsunvalley.com
MONTANA Kalispell Hotel News * Cavanaugh's Hospitality of Spokane purchased the Best Western Outlaw Inn in Kalispell last year. A multimillion-dollar renovation of the 220 guest rooms is under way. There is 12,000 square feet of meeting space.
Important Info Travel Montana (406) 444-2654, (800) VISIT-MT Fax: (406) 444-1800 www.travel.mt.gov
Flathead Valley CVB (800) 543-3105, Fax: (406) 257-2500 www.fcvb.org
UTAH Mountain Resorts Hotel News * Lodges at Deer Valley opened in 1998 with 7,000 square feet of meeting space, 40 hotel rooms, and 47 suites.
* Trail's End Lodge in Deer Valley is a new ski in/ski out corporate retreat with 27 suites, one meeting room, and one boardroom.
* The Chateau at Silver Lake in Deer Valley will open in December, with 83 rooms and suites and 9,500 square feet of meeting space.
* The Wolf Mountain ski resort in Park City was bought last year by Maine-based American Ski Co. and renamed Canyons. Already up and running are new ski lifts and the midmountain Sun Lodge. In addition, the slope-side Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center is scheduled to open in December with 360 rooms and 10,000 feet of meeting space.
* The 200-room Olympia Park hotel in Park City is undergoing a $10 million renovation set to be completed in June, after which it will get a new name. The hotel has 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Important Info Park City CVB (435) 649-6100, (800) 453-1360 Fax: (435) 649-4132 www.parkcityinfo.com
Salt Lake City Hotel News * The Kimpton Group has purchased the 12-story Continental Bank building downtown and is renovating the Art Deco structure into an upscale boutique hotel. The project is due for completion late this year.
* La Quinta Inns & Suites broke ground in December for a 212-room hotel across the street from the convention center that will open in December.
* Little America Grand is a 777 room deluxe property four blocks from the convention center, due to open in 2000. It will have eight executive suites on each of its 23 floors, and 80,000 square feet of meeting space.
One of the lures of ski area meetings is the variety of activities they offer, even for nonskiers. Among the most popular:
* Dogsledding --Riders are bundled under warm fur throws and teams of trained huskies mush along snow-packed trails. Kraboolnik Kennels in Snowmass Village, Colo., tours the wilderness adjacent to the ski area.
* Snowmobiling --One of the most awesome places to snowmobile is Yellowstone National Park, where attendees can see buffalo wandering alongside the trails and the billowing clouds made by Old Faithful. Or, chug along trails that showcase the Spanish Peaks and the rugged Sphinx Mountain a few miles from the ski resort in Big Sky, Mont.
* Artistic programs--Sundance, Utah, on 6,000 pristine acres at the base of Mount Timpanogos, was founded by Robert Redford in 1969 as a community for art and nature. Today, Sundance offers artistic programs, movie screenings in a state-of-the-art facility, and other activities such as dining in award-winning restaurants, great shopping, and all kinds of mountain recreation.
* Train rides --The Ski Train between Denver and Winter Park winds through the Front Range of the Rockies. The entire train can be chartered for up to 750 passengers.
Atlanta-based Executrain Corp., which holds computer information technology seminars for senior management of various companies, chose Park City, Utah, for an April 1998 meeting. "We knew that if a location is good enough for world-class athletes, it would be stimulating for our VIP executives," says Kerry Stanfield, the firm's communications manager. "We chose Park City because of its reputation for snow," she says. "Several of our top trainers are also top skiers, so it gave us the opportunity to partner our clients with our own advanced skiers." Popular activities included a sleigh ride visit to a log cabin for dinner.
Lake Tahoe was "a nice change from the seaside environment we usually meet in," comments Katie Dailey, a meeting planner with Elektra Inc., a medical equipment manufacturer based in Atlanta. Dailey says that the reasonable cost and availability of flights to Reno "was a pleasant surprise." Another surprise was the cost benefit of meeting at the end of ski season, when resorts drop lodging prices substantially, the weather is warm and sunny enough to be comfortable for nonskiers, and there still is ample snow for those who want to enjoy spring skiing conditions.