When was the last time you held a meeting in a room with a gigantic stuffed bear standing guard in the foyer? Or paddled down white-water rapids with names like Bone Crusher and Jaws? Or spent hours mountain biking on pristine trails without seeing another soul? Groups can do all of these and more in Northwestern Montana's spectacular Flathead Valley. Tucked in the valley is the Grouse Mountain Lodge, whose antler chandeliers and stuffed animals (yes, there's a bear in one of the three meeting rooms) would impress even a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt. The lodge's upscale amenities and meeting facilities are ideal for small groups wanting to mix business with a bit of adventure.
With Montana's big blue skies looming overhead, rafting down the Flathead River (where the movie The River Wild was filmed) is one adventure your group will never forget. The Glacier Raft Company's professional guides lead groups (eight to a raft) through the rapids on half- and full-day trips. The company provides wet suits, fleece jackets, and slickers to keep you warm and dry.
Eight championship courses make the Flathead Valley a mecca for golfers. Experienced players will love the Eagle Bend Golf Club course, which was rated the top course in Montana for six consecutive years. Northern Pines, the Valley's newest course, combines traditional Scottish links with towering pines winding along the Stillwater River.
Be sure the golfers and nongolfers in your group take time to tour Glacier National Park. A fun way to do so is in 15-passenger vintage motorcoaches with rollback canvas tops. Mountain bikers won't want to miss the Big Sky Ski & Summer Resort. In summer, bikers can take a gondola to the summit and ride down a network of challenging trails. In winter, the downhill ski trails are rarely crowded.
If your group is interested in fly fishing, Wild Trout Adventures in nearby Bigfork arranges floater trips for up to 25 people on the Swan River, where the water is fast and the trout are wild and wary, offering anglers a challenge that is well worth the effort --Patricia Wargocki
Although many insurance conference planners have yet to discover Seattle, Mark Kustwan, assistant vice president of conference planning for Mass Mutual of Springfield, Mass., says, "Seattle is one of the premier destinations in the U.S. right now. There's a tremendous amount to see and do, and it's a location many people have not experienced."
About 100 people attended Mass Mutual's annual pension management conference last year in Seattle, and 2,500 qualifiers and guests attended the annual leaders' conference in 1994.
The pension management conference was held in September, when sunny weather prevails in the Northwest. The leaders' conference was held in early spring, but Seattle's seasonally inclement weather failed to materialize. Both conferences lasted three days.
For off-site events, the pension management conferees boarded floatplanes for a salmon bake at Kiana Lodge, a popular off-site venue. The group also took a cruise on Lake Washington aboard a chartered boat. The larger group held the first-night reception and last-night gala at the convention center, and agencies booked venues around town, such as at the Space Needle, for various functions the second night.
Kustwan found no drawbacks to Seattle. "We're looking to go back to Seattle in 2001 for the large group," he said.
Washington Seattle-King County CVB Ralph Goodman, VP, convention sales (206)-461-5850 Fax: (206) 461-5855 www.seeseattle.org
East King County CVB Jim Cacabelos, assoc. dir. conv. sales (425)-450-5637, (800) 252-1926 Fax: (425-) 50-5642 www.eastkingcounty.org (under construction)
Montana Billings Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (800) 735-2635, (406) 252-4016 http://travel.state.mt.us/billingscvb
Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB Racene Friede, CVB director (800) 228-4224, (406) 586-5421 Fax: (406) 586-8286 www.bozemanchamber.com/
Flathead Valley CVB Carol Edgar, communications director (800) 543-3105, (406) 756-9091 Fax: (406) 257-2500 www.fcvb.org
Missoula CVB Patti Benner, director (406) 543-6623, ext. 24 (800) 526-3465 Fax: (406) 543-6625 www.missoulachamber.com