As summer quickly heads into fall, I’m thinking back to mountain and meeting moments that have caught my attention so far in 2018. Plus, I’ll toss some things in that crossed my desk recently as the editor of Mountain Meetings.
Small Boat Cruising is Divine – Until this past May, the only cruising I had ever done was on a larger ship that traversed along the Mediterranean and was a family celebration for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was an amazing trip, perfect for the occasion, but it’s not my typical mode of travel. Then came along a chance to sail along the Inside Passage of Alaska and Canada on the maiden voyage of Windstar Cruises’ return to Alaska after an absence of 25 years. Being on the power yacht Star Legend with around 200 passengers was truly and adventure for the memory books with stopping at all sorts of neat ports along the way (e.g., Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Metlakatla and Prince Rupert); savoring time on the deck surrounded by incredible scenery and wildlife; and enjoying food that was focused on quality not quantity.
It’s a great option for incentive trip or perhaps a team retreat, as everything is already planned, meeting and event space and A/V is available, and attendees will feel pampered (there is even a spa and salon on board). Groups can charter the ship or incorporate a small group into a regularly scheduled voyage. My favorite outings were Windstar Signature Expeditions on kayaks and Zodiacs that launched directly from the boat and into the protected areas Kenai Fjords National Park, Tracy Arm and Misty Fjords, where larger cruise ships can’t go. Catching glimpses of bears, humpback whales, seals and otters just yards away and paddling through chunks of ice calved by nearby glaciers was phenomenal. I also enjoyed going on shore to take in local distilleries, microbreweries, wildlife refuges, downtowns and trails.
Mountain & City Combos Rock – I’ve written about how I love city/mountain combinations and how they can provide a memorable mix of places for groups. Since we sailed from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia, my friend Carrie and I took the opportunity to enjoy two days and nights in Vancouver. We stayed at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver that opened in October 2017 and features the city’s largest ballroom and is connected to the DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection.
It’s no surprise that Vancouver is hosting a record number of citywide conferences in 2018 after experiencing just a slice of all that’s happening and available in the city, including mountain outings to attractions like Grouse Mountain Resort. I enjoyed being only a block away from the Seawall Promenade and small ferries that deliver visitors and locals to all sorts of neat attractions along the waterfront like Granville Island. We had limited time to check out the dining scene but Honey Salt at the JW Marriott, Ancora along the waterfront, and Stanley’s Bar & Grill in Stanley Park all delivered, and one night after dinner we headed out on a fun walking tour with Forbidden Vancouver. I look forward to flying into Salt Lake City and heading to Park City, Utah this September for another city/mountain combo.
Book Unique Mountain Experiences – It’s important to know the demographics, interests and the adventure appetite of your group before booking mountain activities or provide a selection of options so no one feels left out. Recently, when on a hiking trail that connects Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado, two friends and I and were surprised to see llamas carrying backpackers’ gear at the top of West Maroon Pass (elevation of around 12,500 feet). It reminded me of lunch with llama options in Vail, Colorado with Paragon Guides and Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico with Wild Earth Llama Adventures. Grand American Adventures also offers neat options like sea kayaking with dolphins in Alaska, canyoneering in Utah, and snowshoeing and wolf tracking in Yellowstone National Park.
Or take it down a notch with a new way to explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Buck Wild Hummer Tours has repurposed and customized a fleet of former military Humvees to offer pre-set tour itineraries and private adventures. Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa has several neat options for groups like appreciation circles, scrub-making classes, and guided walking meditation through the property’s cottonwood forest that is nestled along the banks of the Rio Grande. Or check out unique on-site spa treatments like facials that include mud from the nearby Jemez Mountains infused with New Mexico red chilies or honey sourced directly from the property’s on-site beehives.