A wise ski instructor once said his favorite resort was the one with the most snow and the least people. When it comes to bringing a group up for the day from a nearby city or going all-in and planning an event in a ski resort’s base village, there are several mountains that fit that description across the West.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, Idaho
“It’s a big hill with a small vibe,” says Molly Myers, group sales and event coordinator for this nonprofit, 2,600-acre ski area 16 miles northeast of Boise. This acreage of skiable terrain is second only to Schweitzer Mountain Resort in the Gem State. “We work with the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring groups up here.”
Groups of 15 or more can get a possible discount depending on the season. The lodge’s third-floor bar, The Drift, offers a semiprivate space for meetings of up to 75 attendees.
In summer, it’s notably cooler than many places and offers a day pass for a wide range of activities, including chairlift rides, a climbing wall, and the Pacific Northwest’s only mountain coaster that also operates in winter, unless the snow shuts it down. Without the ski crowds, spaces in the Main Simplot lodge can accommodate groups of up to 200.
After Boise Cascade did an after-hours event in summer 2018, CEO Tom Corrick provided a testimonial noting, “Based on what I heard the next day at the office, our evening at Bogus Basin was the best company event ever.”
Castle Mountain Resort, Alberta
About 90 minutes north of the Montana-Alberta line and three hours from Calgary, Castle Mountain is known as a skier’s mountain with challenging runs.
“Seventy percent of our terrain is advanced or expert,” says Cole Fawcett, sales and marketing manager. “By a country mile, we have the highest average snowfall in the province of Alberta.”
Fawcett says the resort’s sweet spot is small groups of 20-40. A two-day corporate cat-skiing retreat package is available for up to 24 participants and involves a day of resort skiing and a day of snowcat skiing starting at $479 per person and includes lodging, breakfast and lunch. “It’s not focused on meetings, it’s focused on getting away from meetings,” says Fawcett.
“The cat-skiing operation is pretty unique in that it’s resort-based,” he says, noting that participants ride a lift to the cat for every run on an in-bounds parcel of about 900 acres. “You don’t have to hop on a bus.”
The day lodge has a meeting room that can accommodate about 40 people classroom-style, and there are hotels and meeting venues in the town of Pincher Creek, about 30 miles northeast of Castle Mountain.
SECURE Energy Services out of Calgary has done a day trip to Castle Mountain for about five years running. “It’s grown through the years,” says Katie Duke, marketing specialist, noting that the group has grown from about five employees on the first trip and customers to about 60 in 2019. “We get a couple buses and drive out there.”
A self-described “avid skier,” Duke says most people see the trip as something special. “It’s kind of nice to switch it up, because most of us don’t have a chance to get to Castle that often,” she explains. “It’s not really a ski town, it’s so secluded. I just love how empty it is.”
Eagle Point Resort, Utah
Located in the Tushar Mountains, roughly midway between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas off Interstate 15, Eagle Point’s 600 acres span 1,500 feet of vertical and the snowfall average is 350 inches.
“We’re a great venue year-round for people to get together,” says Shane Gadbaw, owner of the resort. “With us, it’s truly an experience. It’s not a VFW hall you can rent, and you don’t have to pay much more than that.”
The base area’s overnight lodging can accommodate groups of up to 250 if attendees don’t mind sharing their rooms, and catering is available. It’s not uncommon for a corporate group to take over the entire resort on winter weekdays, as the lifts typically run Fridays to Mondays. Groups that arrive on Wednesday could have a Thursday meeting, says Gadbaw, “then people could leave Thursday or stay over and make a ski weekend of it.”
Summer is also attractive. As the surrounding desert swelters from Las Vegas to Salt Lake, the weather is “75 degrees and pleasant” at Eagle Point, says Gadbaw.
Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Nevada
In March 2019, Alchemy, an education technology company based in Reno, hosted a company-wide meeting in Reno, bringing 60 employees together who work in offices in Reno as well as San Ramon, California, New York and remotely from all over the country.
“We’re big into the outdoors, doing fun stuff and getting everybody together while we still can, before we’re too big,” says Bill Broomfield, operations specialist
The three-night event kicked off with an awards dinner on Monday followed by meetings on Tuesday, and an outing on Wednesday. Reno provided a wide range of dining and entertainment options for the evenings.
“For one of our daily excursions, we took a group up to Mt. Rose for a day of skiing,” says Broomfield. “Not everyone skis. We gave them a choice.” Broomfield says the Wednesday excursion was a big hit. “We kind of had the mountain to ourselves—no lift lines to speak of,” he says. “We had people take advantage of their learn-to-ski program.”
In the summer, groups of up to 130 often take over Winters Creek Lodge on the back side of the mountain, and the boardroom at the main base lodge is an option for groups of 20 or less. “Especially if it’s midweek, there are usually options we can give them,” says Marketing Director Mike Pierce.
A common scenario is a breakfast with lift tickets that can be discounted by 30 percent for groups of 25 or more. “We do that all the time,” says Pierce.
The resort also can help coordinate bus transportation from Reno, 22 miles from Mt. Rose. Groups also come from Incline Village near Lake Tahoe, 11 miles away.
Silver Mountain Resort, Idaho
Just off Interstate 90 in Kellogg, ski resorts don’t get much more accessible than Silver Mountain.
But easy doesn’t equate to tame. Silver Mountain’s 1,600 acres of skiable terrain has seven lifts, including North America’s longest gondola at 3.1 miles. “The skiing is amazing,” says Cathi Jerome, sales manager at the resort. “We get about 300 inches of snow a year.”
Noah’s Loft Conference Center can accommodate banquets of 400 people, and there are a number of smaller venues both on the mountain and in the base village. Then there’s an unexpected facility: a year-round, indoor water park with room for 800. “It’s fun because we can rent it out to corporate groups,” says Jerome. “After hours, they can have their own private luau-themed event and buffet.”
Spokane-based Washington Trust Bank did just that at a recent manager retreat. “We’ve done three corporate retreats there the last three years in September,” says Kate Harmon, the bank’s retail learning and development manager. The annual weeklong events bring in about 150 managers from branches in Washington and Idaho.
She describes the gathering as “80 percent learning and development and 20 percent fun,” and Silver Mountain offers an apt setting for that mix.
Proximity to Spokane (about 75 miles west of the resort) and more than 40 branch locations in eastern Washington and Idaho is another key. “If you fly in, in an hour you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” says Harmon.
A water park event with team-building activities has been a common ingredient. Harmon says the luau “was amazing. You would think people wouldn’t want to get in swimsuits in front of their co-workers, but they did.”
For meetings and events, the group has utilized outdoor spaces as well as Noah’s Loft. “Every year, we have a party on top of the mountain,” says Harmon. “It’s like no other destination: mountains for days, skies for days. They’re a hidden little gem, and their service level is off the charts.”
Harmon also has brought smaller groups of 20 or less employees on other occasions in both winter and summer. She usually leaves a half day open for skiing, hiking or a “more relaxed event” of the participant’s choice.
Sunlight Mountain Resort, Colorado
Just 12 miles south of Glenwood Springs, Sunlight is a local’s hill with some nice steep terrain.
Troy Hawks, Sunlight’s marketing director, says a morning session followed by an afternoon of skiing is typical. Maximum capacity for a meeting at the base area is about 100 people, and spaces can be reserved in season with advance notice on a case-by-case basis. “We’re pretty uncomplicated,” says Hawks. “Weekdays are a great time to make that happen.”
After the snow melts, summer and fall are good seasons for meetings and events at Sunlight. Camping is an option, and the resort has other base lodging in the form of individually owned condominiums and a 19-room B&B.
Steve Shute, a member of the Glenwood Springs Rotary Club, has organized several outings for the group at Sunlight in recent years. Shute, an entrepreneur who owns several small gas utilities, says it’s a 35-year tradition to do a winter meeting at Sunlight. “About 20 or 30 of us go to Sunlight for the day. We have a lunch meeting up there and Sunlight gives us a pretty sweet deal. The Rotarians do a few runs,” he says.
“If you live in Glenwood, and you’re 45 miles from Aspen and 55 miles from Vail, why would you ever ski Sunlight? If it’s a powder day or if you have a growing family, you’re nuts to do anything else. … You could pay $100 more, but why would you?”
Shute fondly remembers a 16-inch snow day during the 2018-19 season. “It was just the best day ever,” he says. “We’re getting first tracks because there’s no one there, and there’s 28,000 people at Vail.”
For event planners, it’s worth taking a look at the slopes less taken. At many lesser-visited ski areas, it’s just your group, deep snow and little in the way of distraction.
Bogus Basin Mountain
bogusbasin.org | 208.332.5100
Castle Mountain Resort
skicastle.ca | 403.627.5101
Eagle Point Resort
eaglepointresort.com | 435.438.3700
Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe
skirose.com | 800.754.7673
Silver Mountain Resort
silvermt.com | 208.783.1111
Sunlight Mountain Resort
sunlightmtn.com | 970.945.7491