In recent years, Denver seems to have gone from sleepy western town to boomtown, and as the millennium approaches, it continues in its boomtown mode. In November it broke ground on the $160 million Pepsi Center, a basketball and hockey arena that will seat 19,300, and--along with Denver's baseball stadium, Coors Field, which spurred the revitalization of the LoDo (Lower Downtown) area--will undoubtedly draw even more sports fans into the city. The Pepsi Center is on course for opening for the 1999 to 2000 sports season, and is an easy walk to LoDo.

Meanwhile, a $100 million project, the Denver Pavilions, is under construction on the 16th Street Mall. Set to open in November, the two-block-long dining, shopping, and entertainment project will include three nightclubs, a Virgin Records Mega Store, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, a Hard Rock Cafe, and a Nike Town among its crowd-pleasers. All stores will stay open until midnight.

In May 1999, Colorado's Ocean Journey, a $93 million aquarium, will open on the north side of the Platte River across from Elitch Gardens, the downtown Denver amusement park that last year added $25 million in new rides. And after a 24-year development project, the South Platte itself has gone from eyesore to major recreational magnet, providing kayaking and rafting opportunities on its waters, biking on its shores, and a series of 11 new riverside parks. Commons Park, the newest, is a 30-acre green space now under construction, with first phase scheduled for completion in mid-1999.

For an uncrowded alternative to meeting in Denver, Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region offer ease of access and loads to do. The area annually draws more than four million visitors, and it has plenty of attractions, both indoors and out, to keep meeting attendees busy. There are 8,500 hotel and motel rooms. Nearby Garden of the Gods park and the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak (the view from the summit inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen "America the Beautiful" in 1893) offer eye-popping scenery; plus the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and the U.S. Olympic Training Center are popular day trips.

The mountain resorts in Colorado are, of course, renowned for their skiing, but now snowshoeing, snowboarding, dog sledding, ice skating, cross-country skiing, hot-air ballooning, and sleigh rides are becoming popular as winter activities for groups as well. And the secret is out that the Rockies resorts offer even more recreational options in summer than in winter. In Snowmass Village, for example, there's white-water rafting, golf, tennis, fly fishing, jeeping, mountain biking, ballooning, and horseback riding. The Aspen/Snowmass area boasts its famous Aspen Music Festival, JAZZ Aspen at Snowmass, dance events, and its Labor Day Weekend Music Festival, while Vail/Beaver Creek and Telluride hold forth with their share of summer doings, ranging from Telluride's film festival to Vail's music fest.

Convention & Conference Center News Colorado Springs The Colorado Springs World Arena opened in January. The 8,000-seat multipurpose arena can accommodate 142 booths for trade shows.

Denver The Colorado Convention Center has a three-floor layout. At street level, there are 65,000 square feet of meeting space in 45 rooms, and three entrances, each with its own registration area. Below ground level, a 35,0000-square-foot ballroom can be divided in halves or thirds and can accommodate 3,600 theater-style, or 2,400 for banquets. Above the main floor is a 292,000-square-foot exhibit hall. The convention center has an on-site brew pub, a branch of Wynkoop Brewing Company.

Currigan Exhibition Hall, across Stout Street from the Convention Center, has an additional 100,800 square feet of column-free space on one level, accommodating 6,500 for banquets or 10,000 theater-style. The upper level of Currigan is connected to the Auditorium Conference Center, providing another 16,000 square feet of meeting space in 12 rooms, and to the Auditorium Theatre, with 2,000 seats.

Estes Park Estes Park Conference Center has 30,000 square feet of meeting space an hour and a half from Denver International Airport.

Keystone At Keystone Resort and Conference Center, the 32,500-square-foot conference center can accommodate 1,800 persons. Keystone's 75,000 square feet of meeting and function space is anchored by the $10 million conference center, which includes a 16,000-square-foot ballroom, a 4,000-square-foot junior ballroom, smaller breakout rooms, and complete banquet and catering facilities. There is an additional 45,000 square feet of meeting space throughout the resort.

Snowmass The Snowmass Village Conference Center complex, one of the largest in the Rockies at 34,000 square feet, offers flexible meeting space and dining for up to 1,000 people. It is immediately adjacent to the slopes at Snowmass, with their 2,500 acres of skiable terrain. In addition, there are 35 meeting rooms ranging from 400 to 4,500 square feet in lodges and condominium complexes throughout Snowmass Village, totaling an additional 37,000 square feet. The Village can accommodate meetings up to 2,000 people.

Telluride Colorado's newest conference facility will open in July 1999 in Mountain Village, two miles--as the crow flies--from Telluride. The 22,000-square-foot Telluride Conference Center will have 11,000 square feet of public space and seat 520 people banquet-style, 550 theater-style. The infrastructure will support the latest in audiovisual technologies and teleconferencing. Private office spaces with workstations will be available outside of the meeting rooms. Full banquet facilities will operate on site. The conference center staff will coordinate housing with the approximately 850 lodging units in the area. Mountain Village was incorporated just two years ago. It is linked by road to Telluride (a seven-mile drive), and the community has the only gondola public transportation system in the country, operating 16 hours a day.

Hotel News Aspen/Snowmass * The Gant, a 123-condominium unit resort at the base of Aspen Mountain, completed a conference center expansion early this year. The $1 million project included the addition of an 886-square-foot boardroom, 256 square feet of prefunction space, a 500-square-foot exercise facility, and enlargement of the outdoor terrace. The facility now has 5,052 square feet of indoor function space and 3,516 square feet of outdoor function space.

* The former Ritz-Carlton, Aspen has been acquired by ITT Sheraton and is now a member of its Luxury Collection, having been renamed the St. Regis Aspen. The 257-room hotel has 25,000 square feet of meeting facilities, including a 9,274-square-foot ballroom, eight meeting rooms, and two boardrooms.

* The Hotel Jerome has been named a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. The Victorian hotel, built in 1889, is in the heart of downtown Aspen and features 93 rooms and suites.

Breckenridge * The Lodge & Spa at Breckenridge, on a mountaintop at 10,200 feet, will remain open during renovations, scheduled for completion early next year. The $8 million project will add 35 new guest suites to the existing 45.

Colorado Springs * The Broadmoor Hotel, a 3,000-acre property, has 700 rooms, including 93 suites, and 115,000 square feet of meeting space. This year-round resort and conference center features a full range of recreational activities. In May, it finished installation of a new irrigation system for its East and West Courses, a two-year project, and completed a new driving range behind the 18th hole on the East Course with five target greens, 10,000 square feet of putting greens, 35,000 square feet of tee space, and a pitching green with two bunkers. Two new croquet courts have also been added.

* An $8 million expansion and renovation program was completed this June at Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort. The Quail Creek Lodge was built, adding 40 guest rooms and three meeting rooms, each offering from 400 to 800 square feet of space. Cheyenne Mountain has more than 40,000 square feet of meeting space.

Denver * The Adam's Mark Denver, three blocks from the convention center, opened a major expansion last August, increasing its guest-room count from 744 to 1,225. Convention facilities include 125,000 square feet of meeting, exhibit, and banquet space, with 65,000 square feet on a single level. The hotel now has three ballrooms, including one measuring 30,000 square feet, the largest in the state.

* The 450-room Hyatt Regency Tech Center has completed a renovation, giving all guest rooms an L-shaped workstation with built-in modem ports, ergonomic chairs, and enhanced lighting. The ballroom was also included in the renovation.

* The Hyatt Regency Denver has 41,000 square feet of meeting space and 511 newly renovated guest rooms.

* The Inverness Hotel & Golf Club last year completed a $3.5 million refurbishing, which included the hotel's 60,000-square-foot conference center.

* Hotel Monaco will open downtown in October with 189 luxury guest rooms, including 32 suites. Built inside the 1918 Railway Exchange Building and the 1934 art moderne Title Building, the hotel will have 3,800 square feet of conference/banquet space and two boardrooms, each accommodating 15 people.

* In the northern Denver metro area, the 365-room Westin Westminster will open in February 2000 with a 50,000-square-foot conference center.

* A full-service, 200-room Marriott is under construction at Denver International Airport.

Estes Park * The Stanley Hotel & Conference Center, a recently restored building that was built in 1909, offers 138 rooms and can accommodate groups of up to 300 people in its 18,000 square feet of meeting space. The resort completed a full renovation of all guest and meeting rooms last fall. It is located in the mountains near the town of Estes Park, 78 miles northwest of Denver.

Telluride * The Peaks Resort & Spa offers 8,000 square feet of flexible meeting and banquet space, including four meeting rooms and a large ballroom. There are 174 guest rooms and 28 suites. The 42,000-square-foot Spa at The Peaks has 44 treatment rooms and an indoor climbing wall.

Vail/Beaver Creek * The 71-suite Embassy Suites Beaver Creek was voted one of the top 50 ski resorts by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. It's located across the street from the local medical center.

* The Vail Cascade Hotel & Club now offers on-site destination management services, Cascade Coordinators, with one contact person and one master bill. A list of 60 services is available. The resort recently added outside tents that can be heated in fall and air-conditioned in summer, accommodating 450 people for receptions. The hotel has 26,000 square feet of meeting space in 23 meeting rooms, 289 guest rooms, and 28 suites.

* The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, centerpiece of a 6,500-acre community above Vail Valley, is expanding. The Lodge has added 28 rooms, bringing the total number to 56. Last year, the Valley Course, designed by Tom Fazio, joined the Hale Irwin-designed Mountain Course. A Dave Pelz Short Course opened in late 1997.

* The 57-room, three-suite Sonnenalp Resort features two spas and its own 18-hole golf course. Its Bavaria Haus banquet and conference facility has seven new meeting rooms, patios and pool areas for receptions, and 88 suites, and can accommodate up to 300 people in its grand ballroom.

Getting There Aspen/Sardy Field is three miles from Aspen and eight miles from Snowmass, providing up to 280 flights per week.

The $84 million Colorado Springs Airport opened in 1994, 10 miles and 20 minutes from downtown. It offers more than 100 flights daily, with nonstop flights from 30 cities.

The $4.2 billion Denver International Airport, 23 miles northeast of Denver, serves 110 U.S. cities with nonstop service. The airport is served by 24 carriers, including low-cost Frontier and Western Pacific, which use Denver as a hub. According to a recent FAA study of the nation's 20 busiest airports, DIA is the nation's most efficient cold-weather airport, with an average of only one delay per 323 operations. The trip between DIA and downtown Denver takes 35 minutes.

Telluride Airport is served by America-West and United/United Express. Montrose Airport, 65 miles from Telluride, accommodates Boeing 737s and is served by AmericaWest and Continental.

Tax and Money Matters Colorado levies a 7.3 percent state sales tax. In addition, guests pay an 11.8 percent room tax in Denver, two percent room tax in Colorado Springs, 8.2 percent in Aspen, and 8.5 percent in Vail.

For 20 consecutive years now, J.Thomas Stocker, MD, current president of the Society for Pediatric Pathology, based in MacLean, Va., has planned a CME meeting at The Gant in Aspen. During the last week of July and the first week of August, anywhere from 50 to 90 physicians convene for two back-to-back meetings, each lasting a week. This year the first week's session will be on "Pediatric Hepatology and Liver Transplantation" and the second week will cover "The Pathology of Tumors in Children." The courses are co-sponsored by the nonprofit Institute for Pediatric Medical Education, based in Aspen. Each day opens with a 7:15 breakfast session, and classes continue until 1 p.m. Almost every participant comes with a spouse, and some with as many as three or four children, so activities are a big part of the event. Stocker says he used to plan formal activities for the group, but--with the exception of a raft trip down the Roaring Fork or Colorado River, run by operators Colorado Riff Raft--he no longer does. "There's so much to do," he says. So on the first morning of each week-long session, he holds a breakfast for participants and their families at which he gives a half-hour talk--and a long list of things to do in Aspen. One year, for example, a naturalist took a group of children up into the mountains for a day hike. Families can go mountain biking, and take in events at the Aspen Music Festival, to cite just a couple of possibilities.

Devon Binder, meeting coordinator for the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, based in Englewood, Colo., brought 1,800 to 1,900 people (physicians and their families) to Denver last September for the society's annual meeting. Using the Marriott City Center as its headquarters hotel (and taking room blocks at the Adam's Mark, the Brown Palace, the Holiday Inn, the Hyatt, and the Executive Tower Inn as well), the group met at the Colorado Convention Center. Binder says the facilities were excellent, and the group was "very pleased with the food." Binder used the housing bureau at the CVB, and says "they were extremely helpful." She was new at her job at the time, and says the bureau accommodated her with constant reports. The attendees got great weather, and many were pleasantly surprised by Denver. "I think some thought it was still cows and horses," says Binder, but they found fine restaurants, fun microbrewery tours, and a very welcoming business community. The CVB had provided restaurants and other local businesses with little welcome signs custom-made for the ASSH, which were a hit with attendees.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Aspen Chamber Resort Association/Aspen Central Reservations (970) 925-1940, (800) 26-ASPEN Fax: (970) 920-1173 www.aspen.com

Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau Pam Sherfesee, director of convention sales (719) 635-7506, ext. 134, (800) 888-4748, ext. 134 Fax: (719) 635-4968 www.coloradosprings-travel.com

Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau Richard Scharf, senior vp convention sales (800) 888-1990, (303) 892-1112 Fax: (303) 892-1636 www.denver.org

Summit County Chamber of Commerce (Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper Mountain) (800) 530-3099, (970) 668-2051 Fax: (970) 668-1515 www.summitchamber.org

Snowmass Resort Association (800) 598-2006 Fax: (970) 923-5466 www.snowmassvillage.com

Telluride Visitors Service Marilyn Branch, director of guest services and group sales (970) 728-3041 (800) 525-3455, ext. 305 Fax: (970) 728-6475 www.tvs.org

Vail Valley Tourism and Convention Bureau Renae Funke, associate director of sales, vp of marketing and group sales (800) 775-8245, (970) 479-2360 Fax: (970) 479-2364 www.vail.net