A peek at what’s new in places with peaks in the U.S. Mountain West and western Canada. 

One might expect that little has happened in many destinations during the era of COVID-19. However, mountain towns have served as refuges for individuals and groups seeking the great outdoors for play and gathering. New properties and experiences, big-time renovations, and entertaining food and beverage options have debuted or are in the works. 

The surprising trend is not lost on business owners who serve the meetings and events industry. “As a local and a business owner in Big Sky, Montana, I fully appreciate the rebound we’re seeing. My company is Summit Perspectives, and connecting people with unique and authentic experiences in the mountains is a big part of what we do,” says Founder/CEO Josie Caton, who launched the company shortly before COVID hit. “Big Sky is booming, and I’m proud to be part of a community that is responding to a growing desire to integrate meaning in our lives. As a business owner, the proliferation of new, amazing opportunities couldn’t be more important.” 

Montana

In Big Sky, the big news is all about the hotel sector with the transformation of two of Big Sky Resort’s four Mountain Village hotels, Summit Hotel and Huntley Lodge, and the debut of Montage Big Sky in December 2021. 

Opened in December 2021 and centrally located within Big Sky’s 3,530-acre Spanish Peaks enclave, Montage Big Sky features 139 guest room suites and 39 two- to six-bedroom residences and six dining venues. The new property offers groups 12,870 square feet of meeting and event space, including a large boardroom, multiple executive rooms, and a 5,080-square-foot ballroom. Outside, Gallery Terrace and Grand Terrace are ideal for alfresco cocktail parties and receptions and complement two large event lawns, expansive promenades and smaller, more intimate terraces.

All ages will enjoy the recreation room with a bowling alley, arcade games, darts and more along with an indoor lap pool, family swimming pool and fitness center. Added bonuses are Spa Montage, ski lockers and skier services, and Powder Park, an outdoor recreation space. 

“Combined with the personalized and gracious service that has become a hallmark of Montage Hotels & Resorts, we look forward to welcoming guests and the local community to enjoy the magic of the American West and relax in one of the most inspiring destinations in the world,” says Alan J. Fuerstman, founder, chairman and CEO of Montage International. 

Fresh off a renovation, Summit Hotel has a new look that is a nod to the area’s ski culture and natural beauty and is infused across 213 updated rooms and common spaces, including the Carabiner Lounge, the on-site restaurant offering a gastropub-inspired menu. The guest experience also has been elevated with amenities such as a ski concierge, oxygen enrichment in select rooms, indoor-outdoor pool, and a signature complimentary cocktail. 

Summit Hotel Owners Association and Big Sky Resort donated furniture from the project to Montana Rescue Mission in Billings for furnishing a new apartment complex and to Habitat Restore in Belgrade.

Huntley Lodge, a traditional slopeside ski lodge that is connected to Yellowstone Conference Center with 55,000 square feet of meeting space, has renovated 130 of its 200 guest rooms. The remaining 70 rooms are being preserved in their current state and debuting as “Legacy Hall,” an ode to the original ski lodge aesthetic. The next phase of renovations includes many of the Huntley’s public spaces such as the main lobby, sunken lobby and coffee shop. 

Located in northwest Montana, Kalispell also has welcomed new developments of interest to meeting and event planners over the past two years. 

Snowline Acres began hosting events at its Ashley Creek Historic Venue with beautiful views of the Swan Mountain Range in 2020. The original 22,000-square-foot Kalispell Lumber Co. building, erected in 1939, was carefully reassembled on the 30-acre property to provide indoor and outdoor options for events. 

Opened in June 2020 and located downtown, Sherman Lodge has five luxury guest rooms and a rooftop deck that is perfect for after-hours gatherings and intimate events. 

The culinary scene has expanded with the addition of KM Bar and Mercantile Steak in the historic 1892 Kalispell Mercantile Building, Waters Edge Winery & Bistro that can be booked for up to 80 guests, and Big Mountain Ciderworkswith on-site apple and pear orchards. 

New Mexico

There are several new developments at Taos Ski Valley that groups are sure to embrace this winter and are part of a $300 million renaissance at the longtime resort. A new plaza and mountain entry area features fire pits that are ideal for meeting up and relaxing, a new skier services building that has a variety of independently owned retailers, and a ticket kiosk for expedited self-service. 

There are plenty of new experiences as well, including the Eis Haus ice-skating rink that is central to the renovated plaza and features built-in fireplaces and seating; dinner sleigh rides to The Bavarian Restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights; and pro-guided mountain experiences for intermediate to expert skiers and snowboarders looking for an adventure on the resort’s double-black diamond runs.    

Utah

Groups and leisure travelers can now book stays and gatherings at the recently unveiled Pendry Park City, located in the heart of Canyons Village at Park City Mountain. The ski-in/ski-out resort and residences is the first mountain resort for Pendry Hotels & Resorts and provides easy access to the largest ski area in the nation with more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. Details include 152 guestrooms, suites and residences; 7,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, four lounge, restaurant and bar concepts; a recreation room offering arcade games and casual American cuisine; the only rooftop pool and bar in the area and Spa Pendry. 

Under Canvas, an outdoor destination hospitality experience with upscale, safari-style accommodations, is adding Under Canvas Bryce Canyon in southwest Utah to its collection of eight other locations in June. Situated on 750 acres of secluded, high-mountain plains and located 15 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park, the solar-powered Under Canvas Bryce Canyon will feature 50 canvas tents on elevated decks, each with a private en suite bathroom with hot shower, sink and flushing toilet. Far from rustic, tents are furnished with plush king-size beds, luxury linens, USB charging packs, bedside lanterns and a wood-burning stove. 

The new camp is designed around a lobby lounge tent and large outdoor patio and will feature local food and beverage concepts along with fire pits and all the fixings for nightly s’mores. Complimentary camp and adventure programming is included. The inaugural season is June through September.

Arizona

The Wilde Resort & Spa, situated at the base of Thunder Mountain in Sedona, made its debut in October 2021. Formerly The Sedona Rouge, the property was fully transformed and features 105 guest rooms and suites and 2,500square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space, including the Dorsey Ballroom, Basecamp Boardroom, The Grove, and Rangeview Rooftop. The Grove, the property’s largest outdoor gathering space, is an ideal place to savor mountain views and a beverage, and don’t miss a stroll through the healing garden and labyrinth.

The Wilde Haven Spa, a full-service spa and fitness center, specializes in treatments that promote healing and spiritual growth, and chef Mercer Mohr pays homage to the classic all-day American diner with market-inspired cuisine and a vibrant cocktail program at Rascal. Groups and guests can take part in on-property activities such as stargazing, cocktail classes and storytelling around the fire.

Located at the base of Arizona’s highest mountain, the 12,633-foot Humphrey’s Peak, Basecamp at Snowbowl has 26 newly renovated cabins and rooms that are the closest lodging to Snowbowl’s ski lifts. Everything is new from the plank flooring and southwestern throw rugs to furniture, bedding, big-screen TVs and accent art, including photography of the slopes at Snowbowl. Guests are sure to enjoy the cabins’ front porches that feature colorful Adirondack chairs and are perfect for stargazing just outside Flagstaff, which in 2001 became the world’s first International Dark Sky City. After meetings and outdoor adventures, groups can gather at Basecamp Restaurant and enjoy a full bar and menu featuring house-smoked barbecue, burgers, salads and more. 

Colorado

Aspen has abundant hotel and restaurant news to share. 

Aspen Street Lodge, also located in the heart of downtown Aspen, is a new luxury retreat available for buyouts. Nine lodge rooms and a two-bedroom penthouse suite have terraces with views of Aspen Mountain ski area and the surrounding townscape. A private rooftop with heated pool and hot tub is a perfect gathering spot along with a media room, game room and bar for après enjoyment.  

The Residences at Aspen Valley Ranch opened in summer 2021 and is available for modern ranch retreats and buyouts. The 813-acre gated ranch community in Woody Creek, 10 minutes away from downtown Aspen, has luxury homes that range from 5,700 to 13,000 square feet and four to five bedrooms. Rental of the homesteads include access to the Ranch House, Gym/Pool House, Horse Barn and Historic Barn/Toy Garage. There are a variety of winter activities on the ranch including electric snowmobiles, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

The Gant, with more than 5,500 square feet of meeting space and 140 condominiums, is offering pop-ups and excursions to celebrate Aspen Snowmass’ 75th anniversary this ski season. 

» Diamond Pop-Up: Guests can expect a plush, cozy interior in the lounge and rotating pop-ups of local entertainment, spirits, boutiques, makers and more. 

» Rooftop Bubble: Perched upon The Gant’s large rooftop terrace, the rooftop bubble experience features chic décor and signature food and drink. The bubble is available for rent in three-hour increments.

» Snowcat Excursion: In partnership with Nomad Inc., groups seeking a more action-packed retreat can explore the backcountry of Colorado by taking a private helicopter flight to Crested Butte for a snowcat tour into the wilderness and après in a luxurious snowcat barn prior to flying back to Aspen.  

New restaurants available for buyouts include Catch Steak (the sister of the famed New York City restaurant), which has 10,000 square feet of indoor space as well as expansive patios, and Casa D’Angelo, an authentic Italian restaurant led by Chef/Owner Angelo Elia and Executive Chef Mark Connell, located in a light-filled, second-floor space in downtown Aspen. CHICA, with locations in Miami and Las Vegas, is opening at Residences at The Little Nell and is a celebration of Latin flavors by Chef Lorena Garcia. 

To see a wide range of other what’s new in Colorado information, check out the Winter 2022 issue of Colorado Meetings + Events.

Idaho

Schweitzer’s new 31-room Humbird hotel is opening for the 2021/2022 ski season and is the area’s first boutique property. The three-story hotel, located in the heart of the resort’s base village, features single, king and double queen rooms and one oversized suite, all with large panoramic windows with views of Lake Pend Oreille, the largest lake in Idaho. The ski-in/ski-out property also has a rooftop deck and hot tub overlooking the mountains and lake, an on-site restaurant and bar, fitness center, co-working space, heated ski lockers/storage and underground parking. 

The hotel’s design is a sleek, contemporary take on the classic ski lodge and honors Sandpoint’s history, natural surroundings and outdoor recreation. Humbird is part of the resort’s multi-year master plan launched in 2017. 

It’s no secret that Boise has been booming over the past year-plus with makers and business owners creating new innovations despite pandemic challenges. 

On the lodging front, two new boutique properties are entering the marketplace. The Avery will occupy a historic building and feature 39 guest rooms, while the eight-story Hotel Renegade is being built from the ground up with 124 rooms, meeting space, a wellness center, a restaurant and two bars, one on the ground floor and another on the rooftop.

Due to demand for outdoor dining and takeout options, Boise has added two food truck locations that allow for the gathering of mobile eateries: Green Acres Food Truck Park and The Switchback. The first is located downtown off the Boise River Greenbelt and the other in east Boise’s Harris Ranch neighborhood. Both have a roster of rotating food trucks, yard games and live music.

Soon there will be another place for groups to find a variety of culinary options all in one place. Hendricks Commercial Properties purchased property in Boise’s BoDo district and plans to create a food hall encompassing 19,000 square feet and featuring 16 vendors. 

The beverage scene is equally as vibrant. The Devil’s Den, a tiki-themed bar in the basement of the historic Adelmann Building downtown, is a new spot to find drinks made with fresh ingredients, artisanal liquors and a dose of theatrics (or fire!). In the same building, Mala Luna is a late-night tequila bar and place to find Latin cuisine. 

Mad Swede Brewing Company, a popular craft brewery in southern Boise, has opened a downtown tasting room serving beer, wine, cider, craft hard seltzer and small plates and is hosting events for ages 21 and older. 

Wyoming

Located in central Wyoming, Casper has its fair share of new offerings. 

Formerly known as Sunburst Lodge and used as a bed-and-breakfast, West Fork Lodge has new owners who have shifted the focus solely to events. The venue has beautiful views from its location on Casper Mountain has seven bedrooms with private bathrooms, sleeping up to 15 guests.

Occasions by Cory not only specializes in culinary and catering offerings, the business’s new two-story restaurant can be closed for private events to accommodate up to 120 on the main floor, while the upstairs has a private bar that is perfect for smaller groups of around 40 guests.  

Headquartered in Sheridan, Wyoming, Black Tooth Brewing Company opened a downtown Casper taproom in late 2021 and is the first business in The Nolan, a historic building that is set to serve as a mixed-use development in the Yellowstone District. 

In Jackson, groups has a new option, one with a prime location on the town’s historic town square. The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection hotel, has 100 guest rooms and suites and 7,500 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space. The hotel’s interior is a modern take on the town’s western roots—full of ranches, cowboys and pioneers—combined with Wyoming’s natural landscape and raw, natural materials. 

The largest gathering space is a 5,000-square-foot rooftop terrace that offers big views of the square and the slopes at Snow King Mountain and is equipped with fire pits, a retractable awning and infrared heaters for year-round event capability. Regular programming on the terrace includes daybreak yoga and meditation, live music and stargazing. Inside, groups can book a meeting room that splits into two parts and features floor-to-ceiling windows, fireplaces, built-in TV screens, and full A/V capabilities. 

Groups with their share of foodies won’t be disappointed as acclaimed restaurateurs Gavin Fine and Roger Freedman of Jackson-based Fine Dining Restaurant Group are at the helm of The Cloudveil’s food and beverage program, from The Bistro signature restaurant to the hotel’s lobby, rooftop terrace and catering services for meetings and events. Additional features include an outdoor heated pool and Jacuzzi and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Itineraries and excursions are offered through EcoTour Adventures and include options like hikes in the Tetons, wildlife safari tours, whitewater rafting and snowshoeing. 

Alaska

Stillpoint Lodge, an all-inclusive luxury lodge in Alaska’s Halibut Cove, is ideal for executive retreats and corporate buyouts for up to 18 guests. The property has opened a new VIP Suite Cabin featuring a private hot tub, two decks, one-of-a-kind art and 360-degree views of the mountains, cove and ocean. Located in south central Alaska in the Kachemak Bay State Park area, the property has a total of 11 cabins ranging from studio to two bedrooms. 

The cuisine is locally sourced and sustainable, and activities include spa treatments and on-site water sports, yoga, meditation, axe throwing and campfires. Outbound excursions like bear viewing, glacier lake kayaking, ocean fishing, whale watching and wildlife tours can be included based on length of stay. Stillpoint Lodge is open seasonally from May to September. 

Nevada

Silver Legacy Resort Casino, part of Caesars Entertainment’s THE ROW Reno, has undergone more than $47 million in upgrades to the hotel’s fifth through 25th floors, featuring 1,199 guest rooms. The upgrade complements a recent $100 million-plus master renovation project at THE ROW, which included the addition of a Topgolf Swing Suite and The Spa at Silver Legacy. 

Western Canada

Kootenay Rockies

Basecamp Revelstoke and Basecamp Golden are the newest addition to the Basecamp Resorts family, which operates four properties in Canmore: Basecamp Canmore, Basecamp Lodge, Lamphouse Hotel and Basecamp Suites. Basecamp Golden launched in November 2021 with cozy rooms in a timber-framed building that is perched along the Kicking Horse River and located a short walking distance from downtown Golden and 15-minute drive to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. 

The 32-unit Basecamp Revelstoke opened in December 2020, overlooks the Columbia River and is a quick walk to downtown and drive to Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Units range in size from micro-studios to six bedrooms. 

Versante Hotel in Richmond, approximately 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver, opened in July 2021 and has 100 guest rooms and suites in five colorful décor themes, each evoking a distinct personality and featuring contactless check-in/out, room entry and lighting controls. The Versante app also provides contactless room service ordering and connection to the hotel’s guest services team. 

Other highlights include 5,500 square feet of meetings and event space; a 24-hour fitness facility with Peloton bikes and Life Fitness cardio equipment; a rooftop terrace with saltwater pool and hot tub; and an array of new dining concepts including Bruno, featuring family-style shared plates and destination-inspired craft cocktails. Don’t miss the 12th-floor lounge Alaïa (an Arabic word meaning joyful or sublime) with a wraparound patio and sweeping views and the street-level Cask Whiskey Vault with a selection of whiskeys from around the world. 

Whistler

Whistler Conference Centre completed a $3.5 million renovation in late 2020, updating the property with a contemporary, sophisticated aesthetic that is infused with West Coast character and inspired by Whistler’s natural environment. Design elements and technical upgrades to the 40,000 square feet of meeting space were the two main focal points and included lighting, acoustical treatments, floor and wall coverings, furnishings and artwork.

In January 2021, Fairmont Chateau Whistler opened Fairmont Gold under a shared roof on floors seven through 12. The $14.2 million project took inspiration from the nature and culture of Whistler to create a luxurious ski chalet experience with 96 upscale guest rooms and a newly expanded, alpine-designed lounge. Expect lush appointments, personalized service from a private concierge, and unique touches such as all-natural essential oil pods by Skinjay that diffuse through guest room showerheads. 

Executive Chef Isabel Chung creates gourmet delights for breakfast, afternoon tea, and après canapes, and the beverage program includes a martini bar, all the mixings for an old fashioned with exclusive barrel-aged liquor, and a cocktail of the day. Gin aficionados can choose from 15 local, craft and international gins, and there are premium wines, champagnes, spirits and liqueurs on the menu. 

Fairmont Chateau Whistler will soon begin a two-phase transformation of 72 percent of the hotel’s guest room inventory, including 366 guest rooms and eight suites that will be re-styled with modern alpine lodge décor. Fairmont Chateau Whistler also has a new executive pastry chef, Dominic Fortin, who is one of 12 Cacao Barry chocolate ambassadors in Canada and one of 100 in the world. The hotel offers Epi-curious Experiential team-building workshops such as Cocoa Couture, Liquid Kitchen and Chef for a Day. 

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler unveiled a full renovation of all 273 rooms and suites last winter and updated culinary outlets. The 10 new signature suites have expansive balconies, fireplaces and a separate living room area. 

Four Seasons also premiered the all-new Braidwood Tavern and re-imagined SIDECUT. Braidwood Tavern is a contemporary take on the classic mountainside tavern brought to life by Chef Richard Sandoval, who created a menu of tavern classics, unique cocktails, and craft beer offerings selected from breweries in the Sea-to-Sky region. SIDECUT is a contemporary take on a traditional steakhouse with fireside dining and an innovative cocktail program by mixologist Lauren Mote and a comprehensive wine program featuring a collection of premier British Columbian vintages and international offerings

When attendees want to explore on their own during free time, they can download the new Go Whistler Tours for free to access self-guided tours such  as Whistler’s Cultural Connector that leads to six cultural institutions; Natural Wonders exploring the biodiversity and geology of Whistler on an 11-kilometer tour that is best enjoyed by bike; Sweet Treats, a tour of some of Whistler’s best places to pick up a tasty treat; and Craft Beer, a tour de beer around Whistler.

Over the past decade, Executive Chef Ben Jones has cooked up creative culinary experiences for remote, high-end mountain properties.

Sage Lodge, located 30 miles north of Yellowstone National Park in Pray, Montana, is the latest resort to tap into chef Ben Jones’ talents, bringing him on board in October 2021 to oversee two restaurants, create memorable culinary experiences, and elevate catering services for meetings and events.

 

Outdoor fun in the mountains unites groups in a spectactular fashion.

More now than ever, planners are seeking ways to get groups outside, and wellness trends in the industry are pushing meetings from being staid to energetic. As coworkers and colleagues come together after months in home offices, gathering in the mountains is both visually appealing and full of adventure. Get your groups to mix, mingle, and try something new together with these outdoor activities.

 

Paddle, Hike, and Soak

 

Go back in time with barbecue dinners out on the range.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West - Cody, Wyoming