The 2008 Democratic National Convention kicking off in August reprises the same event in 1908 when the smoke rose from Denver to announce William Jennings Bryan as the party's candidate for president. From July 7 to 10, 1908, the Democratic National Convention took place at the Denver Municipal Auditorium, which at the time was the nation's largest auditorium outside of Madison Square Garden. From August 24 to 27, 2008, the DNC will be held in the Pepsi Center Arena and the expanded Colorado Convention Center. It's likely the one-time event will attract 35,000 people.

Conventions in the city have been booming since the Colorado Convention Center expansion opened in 2006. And in January 2010, the largest convention booking in Denver's history is slated to begin. After 35 years in Las Vegas, the SnowSports Industries America Trade Show has signed an agreement to hold the event in Denver for 10 years.

Although Denver is the biggest, it is not the only city enthusiastic about snow and conventions in Colorado. In Snowmass Village, near Aspen, local lodging properties and the town government have reinvested more than $100 million in town and lodging upgrades.

Vail and Beaver Creek began as strictly high-end leisure resorts, but have been adding year-round conference opportunities, both on and off the mountains. The venerable Vail Cascade is adding both new meeting space and a dedicated executive conference center, and new facilities generally seen as convention-quality hotels are coming to the mountain. The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa will open this fall at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain with significant meeting space, and the Fairmont Vail should show up with more in 2011. The Donovan Pavilion is a relatively new venue able to accommodate groups of 150 to 200 inside. It also includes a heated terrace and 3,040 square feet of outdoor space. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is a popular outdoor option that has recently had a $9 million renovation. The pavilion seats 2,500 people under a backdrop of the Gore Range Mountains and surrounded by wildflowers and the Betty Ford Gardens.

Facilities Update

Colorado

  • Viceroy Snowmass, a 236-room hotel set within the new $1 billion Snowmass Base Village development, will include a 7,000-square-foot spa and conference space. Opening is set for December 2009.

  • The 41-room Inn at Beaver Creek is undergoing a $7 million renovation and will be relaunched as RockResorts' newest addition in time for the 2008-2009 ski season.

  • The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa will open this fall at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain with 247 guest rooms and suites and five meeting spaces.

  • The 128-room Fairmont Vail is slated to open in 2011 with 73 Fairmont Residences. It includes dining outlets, a Willow Stream spa, and 9,500 square feet of function space.

  • Vail Cascade Resort & Spa's $30 million renovation has provided new meeting space and a new 4,000-square-foot executive conference area will be added. The resort will offer nearly 40,000 square feet of meeting options.

  • The Curtis opened in April in Denver's Theatre District — on Bart Simpson's birthday! The 336-room property is tilted toward fun, from in-room board game menus to 22,000 square feet of meeting space known as The Playground.

  • Red Lion Hotels has acquired the 478-room Radisson Hotel Denver Southeast, with 25,000 square feet of meeting space. Red Lion will spend $8 million on renovations.

  • IHG opened the Holiday Inn as Denver's new 255-room Crowne Plaza hotel after a $10 million renovation this past spring. It has more than 80,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The first phase of the Adam's Mark rebranding as the Sheraton Denver took place in April on the 16th Street Mall. The hotel is the largest in Colorado with 1,225 rooms and 133,000 square feet of meeting space. Completion is set for 2009.

  • A $350 million Four Seasons project is being developed in Denver. It will include 230 hotel rooms and 102 condos when completed in 2009.

  • The new Ritz-Carlton hotel opened in Denver in January with 202 rooms and meeting space.

  • A $200 million, 500-room Westin luxury hotel will rise next to Denver International Airport's main terminal building. Included will be nearly 26,000 square feet of meeting and conference space. Construction is to begin this year.

New Mexico

  • Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino has partnered with Vision Airlines to provide charter air service from Bush Airport in Houston to the Inn four days a week. The Inn, located in Mescalero, N.M., has 273 rooms and suites, a 38,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole golf course designed by Ted Robinson, more than 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Southern-most ski area in the country, Ski Apache, which has 55 trails and New Mexico's only gondola.

Trip Tips

  • Don't bother with buses and vans to see Denver's downtown. The buses on the mile-long 16th Street Mall are free public transportation and run every few minutes.

  • Frontier Airlines, a staple of DIA Colorado, launched service to and from its hub to Jackson Hole, Wyo., in May. Frontier's new Jackson Hole service will include three daily nonstop flights to and from the Denver hub.

  • As the sun goes down, give your group an awesome view of the Rocky Mountains and Denver by taking them to the Hyatt's 27th-floor Peaks Lounge, where floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass look out over the Rockies and the city. To take along a guide, call the CVB at (303) 892-1112.

Ask the CVB

Aspen Chamber Resort Association
(970) 925-1940
www.aspen-groups.com

Experience Colorado Springs
(719) 635-7506(800) 888-4748 (ext. 132 for groups)
www.experiencecoloradosprings.com

Denver Metro CVB
(303) 892-1112
www.denver.org

Telluride and Mountain Village CVB
(888) 605.2578(970) 728-3041
www.tellurideconference.com

Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau
(800) 525-3875
www.meetingsinvail.com

Special Venues

  • The Arabelle at Vail Square opened in January with 36 luxury hotel rooms and 66 residences. It offers a conference and banquet facility with a ballroom that can be split evenly into two rooms, four additional meeting rooms that range up to 1,200 square feet, and prefunction space. (970) 754-3600; http://arrabelle.rockresorts.com/info/grp.asp

  • The Denver Athletic Club in downtown, in addition to a bevy of sports facilities, hosts 150,000 square feet of elegant (and rentable) social amenities including a grand ballroom, meeting and conference rooms, sundeck, tavern and dining room, snack bar, reading room, billiards room, and business center. (303) 534-1211

  • There's no sign outside the D19, an Italian spot in Aspen, a white-tablecloth restaurant around the corner from the Mediterranean Wild Fig. Try Aspen's quintessential minestra soup with tiny meatballs and all requisite vegetables — and some entrées, like Tuscan grilled skirt steak. D19's dining room and lounge are open for lunch and dinner year-round. An outdoor patio provides the best people watching in town or group meals can be catered in your favorite spot. (970) 925-6019; www.d19aspen.com