This is where it's all happening. Despite the meetings and the other activities, all theis going on right here," said Al Bolea, asset manager at BP Exploration in Anchorage, AK, to Dore Liston, the administrative assistant who planned the meeting, as they watched 20 staff members bond with colleagues over a fast game of broomball on a snowy February night.
The group met in February 1996 at the Westin Alyeska Prince Resort, near Anchorage. They had a five-course dinner followed by coffee and liqueurs outside by the pond where the soccer ball was skidding back and forth, propelled by straw brooms. Getting the ball to the goal was not as important as building the camaraderie, an easy task in an incredible setting where the Northern Lights show off their colors and flying down snowy hills brings a healthy glow to attendees' faces.
Indeed, one of several very good reasons for a ski incentive is that the setting will be a bit more exciting than most warm weather scenes. Every qualifier has been to a golf resort, but not as many have enjoyed the exuberance of a top-notch ski destination.
Don't worry about what non-skiers will do. Unlike golf or tennis, skiing offers fun and triumphs for the beginner as well as the expert. For attendees who don't want to try the slopes, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing take little more skill than an outdoor walk-and the setting is lovely. Skating, snowmobiling, or a sleigh ride are also options in a mountain setting.
The West also offers plenty of first-class ski destinations that range from rugged to chic to genuine Olympic material. For example:
On the California-Nevada border, surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe's 72-mile shoreline is home to a number of resorts, including the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley, and the Granlibakken Conference Center. The resorts provide championship skiing as well as the option to plan a trip to the betting tables just over the Nevada line.
In Utah, the International Olympic Committee has put its seal of approval on Salt Lake City and its surrounding mountains as the site of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Nine resorts along the Wasatch Mountain Range are within an hour's drive of downtown Salt Lake, including the Park City, Deer Valley, and Snowbird ski areas.
In Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, the terrain as well as the towns show meeting attendees what they mean by the Wild West. For back-country skiing, there is probably no finer destination than the Whitefish and Big Mountain area in Montana. Less rugged and better known are Sun Valley and Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, Big Sky in Montana, and Jackson Hole, WY.
Not to be outdone, Colorado's Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Breckenridge along the Front Range and Aspen, Vail, and Telluride farther west offer unparalleled Rocky Mountain skiing in luxurious surroundings.
Hotel News Alaska The Westin Alyeska Prince Resort in Girdwood has opened two new double black diamond trails on Mt. Alyeska. The resort also invested $1 million in expanding its snowmaking capabilities.
California/Nevada The Hyatt Regency at Lake Tahoe had gone into partnership with the two nearest ski areas, developing meeting packages and functions for corporate groups. The hotel recently has added two boardrooms.
Colorado The plush Lodge at Cordillera in Vail Valley has introduced butler service to its four-, five-, and six-bedroom condominiums and the 28-room Lodge and Spa. Butlers prepare rooms for arrival, escort guests to check-in, shop, launder, run errands, and handle other guest requests.
The Vail Cascade Hotel and Club completed a $2 million renovation of its front lobby, Centennial Ballroom, and meeting rooms in time for the 1996 ski season.
The area around the new Denver International Airport is home to ten economy lodging facilities and new luxury and meeting hotels that plan to open in the next two years. The first to open will be a 400-room Scanticon property, with an 18-hole public golf course, expected to come on-line in December 1998.
Downtown Denver will see an expansion of the Adam's Mark hotel from 744 to 1,230 rooms by December. Included in the project are three new restaurants and 140,000 square feet of meeting space.
Idaho In Coeur d'Alene, the former Holiday Inn opened in May 1996 as the 100-room Coeur d'Alene Inn following a $4.5 million renovation.
Sun Valley Resort, with 546 lodge and condominium units, is opening a new ski services center at River Run Plaza. The resort's indoor ice rink has had a facelift and modifications to enable it to be more easily converted to 17,000 square feet of convention seating or exhibit space.
Montana Big Sky Ski and Summer Resort, which has 400 hotel rooms plus condominium space, added a tram to the summit of Lone Mountain in 1995, opening up 1,200 acres of intermediate and advanced skiing terrain. The resort's Big Horn condominiums, 70 three-bedroom units, were also completed.
Utah Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City plans to expand its 850-room complex with an adjacent 905-room luxury hotel. The two towers will have three ballrooms, 26 meeting rooms, and 20,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Host Marriott Corporation announced in November 1996 that it has acquired 100 percent of general partner interest in the 515-room Salt Lake City Marriott Hotel for $41 million. This acquisition is seen as preparation for expanding the hotel by as many as 700 new rooms, a project which has yet to be announced but has been under consideration for some time.
Wyoming In Jackson Hole, the 117-unit Spring Creek Ranch added 1,500 square feet of conference space in July 1996 for a total of 3,100 square feet.
The 49'er Inn and Suites in downtown Jackson has added 31 suites. The self-contained unit, which was completed in June 1996, also has a meeting room that will seat 50 persons theater-style.
The 385-room Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park has completely renovated its Explorers Room, which seats 600 persons theater-style.
Getting There Alaska The closest Alaskan slopes are a one-hour transfer from Anchorage International Airport. Direct flights are available from Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco , and Salt Lake City. In Anchorage, Grey Line offers several transportation options, from a minivan to a luxurious coach with aisle tables that can be set up for refreshments.
Colorado Front Range resorts such as Keystone and Breckenridge are served directly by shuttle from Denver International Airport.
Direct air service-in addition to airport shuttles-make the trek to Vail and the Aspen-Snowmass areas a bit simpler.
Idaho Horizon Air and Skywest offer connecting service from Boise and Salt Lake City to Hailey, 12 miles south of Sun Valley in central Idaho. Sun Valley Bell Service provides complimentary transportation to the resort. KART, a free shuttle system in Ketchum and the Sun Valley area, makes a car unnecessary.
Coeur d'Alene is 35 minutes from Spo-kane, WA. Coeur d'Alene Resort offers limousine service to and from the airport.
Montana Delta, Horizon Air, and United Express serve Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, eight miles from Whitefish and 20 miles from Big Mountain.
Delta, Frontier, Horizon Air, and Northwest airlines serve Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman. City Taxi provides van transportation for the 45-mile trip south to the Big Sky resort area. Cost is about $60 for one person, but only $3 for each additional passenger in a van that can seat 14 people.
Nevada Tahoe North is a 45-minute drive from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Shuttles are available from Aero Trans.
Utah The Salt Lake City International Airport lands jets from every major carrier. Such well-known ski resorts as Park City and Deer Valley are less than an hour from the city. Most hotels run complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, and the Utah Transit Authority runs public buses throughout the area.
Wyoming Jackson Hole Airport, north of Jackson in Grand Teton National Park, is served by American, Continental, and Delta. Alltrans shuttles service is eight dollars one-way or $12 roundtrip.
Russell Schnepf, manager of corporate travel services for AG Edwards in St. Louis, has found a third or more of his incentive qualifiers, many of whom are repeaters, are eager for a ski destination. Schnepf always took his winter incentive groups to warm weather locations until an attendee who lived on Florida's West Coast remarked that a warm weather incentive trip isn't much of an incentive when you live in a southern state. "Why not go to another kind of destination?" he asked. "How about a ski lodge?"
In 1993, Schnepf took his group to the Ritz-Carlton, Aspen. "The first year, about ten percent of our group of 800 signed up for Aspen and enjoyed it so much I knew we'd want to repeat it. The second year we filled that trip, which we limited to 300 people, and we're booked through 1999." About 50 percent of Schnepf's group who elect to go to Aspen are skiers, and the rest just enjoy the other activities of a ski destination.
Melanie Keil, project manager for business meetings on the Saturn Motors account at CarlsonGroup near Detroit, plans for groups that are 90 percent men. "It just isn't appropriate to invite spouses; we're there to work and to create camaraderie among our group of retailers." A ski resort is ideal, she says, because her retailers love the outdoor activities. The only problem: "My time and budget don't always allow high-season rates," she says.
In October 1996 at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, Keil got lucky. She paid shoulder season prices and got eight inches of snow. Still, she had made other plans for the 350 attendees.
"We led off with a session on teamwork and leadership given by the Center for Creative Leadership based in Greensboro, NC. Then the U.S. Forestry Service took over and organized the participants into busloads for work parties on a woods restoration project. Some of us cleared slash, others planted trees, built bird refuges, and generally spent an afternoon doing something for the environment, which these executives don't often get a chance to do. Sometimes clearing the brush and cutting dead limbs turned into snowball battles, and a fort or two got built, but it was all in good fun, and they really got to know one another."
For a complete guide to convention bureaus, centers, and hotels, visit http://www.meetingsnet.com& Incentives' World Wide Web site at
Anchorage CVB (907) 276-4118; Fax (907) 278-5559 http://www.ci.anchorage.ak.us
Aspen Chamber Resort Association Trisha Mayo (800) 262-7736; Fax (970) 925-9008 http://www.aspen.com/aspenonline/index.html
Denver Metro CVB Sandra Hausman, convention sales mgr. (303) 892-1112; Fax (303) 892-1636
Flathead/Whitefish CVA Cassandra Doss, sales manager (406) 756-9091; Fax (406) 257-2500 http://www.trailofthegreatbear.com/wsm/map.html
Jackson Hole Visitors Council Karen Connelly, director of marketing (307) 543-3005; Fax (307) 733-5585 http://www.jackson-hole.com/index2. htm
Kootenai County CVB (Coeur d'Alene) Kelli Hawkins, communication director (208) 773-9797; Fax (208) 773-0249
N. Lake Tahoe Resort Assoc./VCB Paige Nebeker, director of sales (800) 824-6348, (916) 583-3494 Fax (916) 581-4081 http://www.go-tahoe.com
Salt Lake CVB Beth Belt, convention sales manager (801) 521-2822; Fax (801) 355-9323 http://www.saltlake.org
Snowmass Resort Association Michael Somma, director of sales (970) 923-2000; Fax (970) 923-0896
Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce (800) 634-3347, (208) 726-3423 Fax (208) 726-4533 http://www.destinationnw.com/idaho/ketchum.htm
Vail Valley Tourism and Conv. Bureau Jim Feldhaus, VP, sales and marketing (970) 879-3858; Fax (970) 879-1413 http://www.vail.net