By Beth Buehler
From humble mining beginnings to a cultural renaissance and the emergence of skiing, Aspen, Colorado provides a wealth of amenities for groups. Long a destination of choice for the rich and famous, Aspen has retained a small town feeling that any meeting attendee visiting can plug into and has cultivated a wide range of activities, venues and lodging properties that provide meeting and event planners with an impressive range of choices.
There is no shortage of one-of-a-kind meeting and event venues in Aspen. It’s hard to not to be impressed with two very different ends of the spectrum: the historic Wheeler Opera House and the modern Aspen Art Museum. Wheeler Opera House has been Aspen’s community performance and event venue since 1889. The museum’s contemporary building was completed in 2014 and has a rooftop café and patio that offers groups an indoor/outdoor combination with big views.
For something completely different, consider Aspen Ice Garden, an ice rink during much of the year and a blank canvas/dry floor space at other times; Aspen Shakti, a yoga school and studio; Pine Creek Cookhouse, a charming log restaurant that is reached by horse-drawn sleigh or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in winter; and Chaparral Ranch, a state-of-the-art horseback riding facility with 48 rentable acres, indoor and outdoor riding arenas and backcountry trails.
Other great venues for enjoying the outdoors are the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ (ACES) 25-acre nature preserve at Hallam Lake; John Denver Sanctuary; and Sundeck located atop Aspen Mountain. The Sundeck has a large deck with views of the Continental Divide and surrounding Rocky Mountains and 30-foot ceilings and a cozy fireplace inside.
OPTIONS WITH LODGING AND MORE
In addition to these venues that defy ordinary, there is a wide range of terrific hotels and resorts with staffs that are experienced working with groups, such as these Destination Colorado partners that provide a nice overview of the options.
Aspen Skiing Company not only owns the area’s four ski resorts (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass), it also owns Limelight Hotel Aspen and The Little Nell, both in downtown Aspen, as well as the brand new Limelight Hotel Snowmass in nearby Snowmass. Since the focus is on Aspen, we’ll look at the first two, which have completely different profiles.
The Limelight brand is laid back and modern. In Aspen, there is 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, 120 guest rooms and six guest suites that can work for small functions. The pool is an upbeat space for casual receptions.
The Little Nell is Aspen’s Five-Star, Five-Diamond, ski in/ski out property with 92 guest rooms, including 14 suites. The Little Nell specializes in creating experiences that are sure to be remembered and has a variety of on-site indoor and outdoor options for groups of 20 to 500 and facilitates events at the Sundeck and Aspen Mountain Club.
Nearby, The St. Regis Aspen Resort has the most function space downtown with 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor options, including a large courtyard with a pool above. With a stylish interior and impressive brick exterior, this is a property you notice! Network under the stars by one of the courtyard fire pits, dine at one of two restaurants or focus on the business at hand by booking one of the hotel’s 14 meeting spaces that can accommodate up to 1,200.
With a bit more privacy and a lovely landscaped five-acre location on the edge of downtown, The Gant Aspen is a condominium resort with one- to four-bedroom units, a full-service conference facility and a variety of outdoor spaces. The 5,500-square-foot Molly Campbell Conference Center can host groups of up to 200, overlooks one of two heated pools, and features a panoramic rooftop terrace, specialty cafe and a variety of meeting and event spaces.
Nestled in Aspen’s classy west side on 40 acres, Aspen Meadows Resort is home to The Aspen Institute and has a campus-like feel. Walkways and green spaces provide plenty of time for groups of 20 to 300 to wander and interact while going to and from the 98 guest suites and 22,000 square feet of IACC-certified meeting space. Doerr-Hosier Center is the Roaring Fork Valley’s only Gold LEED-certified conference facility, and the Walter Isaacson Center was unveiled in June 2018 after a $13 million renovation. The interior was completely updated and expanded to include the Madeleine K. Albright Pavilion that opens on three sides to the natural surroundings and the elevated Bren and Mel Simon Terrace above. The building also is home to the hotel’s front desk, three dining outlets and additional patios.
On the edge of town and located at the base of Buttermilk, The Inn at Aspen – A Wyndham Hotel is a ski-in/ski-out property with 122 suites and guest rooms. With stone fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and mountain views, The Inn at Aspen’s indoor meeting facilities provide options year-round, and the outdoor lawn, patio and pool expand opportunities for summer and fall gatherings. The Inn can accommodate up to 200 guests for banquets and 250 for receptions.
There are meeting options in Aspen for many budget sizes, especially if groups are willing to meet during less busy times. The key, like in any destination, is finding the venues that best fit your gathering’s size, purpose and personality.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.