By Beth Buehler
Colorado is home to 25 ski areas and resorts that offer some of the most epic trails and thrilling rides available, resulting in approximately 20 percent of US skier visits annually. However, these epic trails and rides, along with stellar hotels and venues, aren’t just for winter. In fact, summer visitor numbers are now eclipsing winter in several Colorado ski towns as leisure travelers and corporate groups are discovering the magic of this season.
Here’s five reasons why a summer meeting at a Colorado ski resort might be just what the planning doctor ordered.
Rates – Groups will need to work around busy festival and event weekends in destinations like Telluride, Aspen and Crested Butte, but lodging surrounding the ski areas versus right downtown tends to be more available and better priced in the summer, especially on weekdays because ski areas tend to have the largest full-service hotels and condominium complexes. Snowmass hums with events and activities during summer months but is wallet-friendly due to quantity of rooms available.
Beauty – Think amazing shades of green, colorful wildflowers, crystal-clear streams and lakes, and majestic mountain peaks. If these sound like amazing backdrops for outdoor activities and events, you are right! Places that people ski across near ski area bases during the winter become outdoor stages and amphitheatres in the summer and in some cases, like Copper Mountain Resort, a golf course.
Activities – Just like there is a wealth of outdoor things to do in the winter, Colorado ski towns have an abundance of options for groups to have experiences they will talk about for years to come. Snow in the winter means flowing rivers and full lakes in the summer. Try sailing on Lake Dillon, less than 10 miles from Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain or fly fishing and rafting on the rivers near most ski towns. Ski resorts have ramped up their offerings in summer so there are now miles of hiking and biking trails, free outdoor concert series and festivals for groups to tap into. Plus there is golf, tennis, hot air ballooning and more.
Families – One might think scheduling a summer meeting could hurt attendance since it is a popular vacation time. A solution? Book a conference or retreat at a popular Colorado mountain destination and encourage instead of discourage families to make the trip. While mom or dad is in meetings, spouses, significant others and kids can try out zip lining, alpine coasters, bungee trampolines and Vail’s new Epic Discovery set to debut this summer. Breckenridge Summer Fun Park offers fun for all ages, and teens will especially enjoy off road Segway tours. Many ski resorts and some larger hotel properties offer fun day camp programs for kids, like Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and child care for little ones. While meetings are underway at conference hotels in Steamboat Springs, families can easily go explore historic downtown. When in Mountain Village, it’s as simple as taking the free gondola into Telluride, a convenient source of transportation for 20 years.
Pre- and Post-Trips – It’s often simple to explore other ski towns and Colorado destinations before or after a conference. In Summit County alone, there are four ski areas: Arapahoe Basin and the three mentioned in conjunction with Lake Dillon. From Winter Park, head north to Grand Lake and enter into one of the country’s most famous national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park. From Beaver Creek, it’s a breeze to visit Vail and vice versa. Attendees will thank you for the option to explore the area.
Erase any notion of Colorado ski resorts being winter-only venues. The last decade especially has made them year-round playgrounds and prime locations for meetings, incentive trips and corporate events.
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. Her favorite season in the mountains is summer!