Mountain MagicMay 6, 2024

Harnessing Nature’s Power & Beauty to Inspire Attendees By
May 6, 2024

Mountain Magic

Harnessing Nature’s Power & Beauty to Inspire Attendees
Ascend Performance Materials holds its APEX Annual Offsite event each year at Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia. Courtesy of Linda Bennett

Ascend Performance Materials holds its APEX Annual Offsite event each year at Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia. Courtesy of Linda Bennett

Grand landscapes inspire a love of nature, but they can also do much more. A meeting in a place that inspires and stirs the soul sets the stage for attendees and organizers alike to achieve even the most ambitious goals, build strong relationships and get the return on investment everyone wants. America’s soaring mountain ranges are exactly the setting to foster that kind of success.

Few resorts can match the grandeur of Colorado’s Cloud Camp, one of Broadmoor resort’s wilderness outposts. Set high above the main resort on a peak where clouds are often below instead of above, Cloud Camp definitely falls into that inspirational bucket. That’s where Innovative Business Solutions, a technology services distributor, set its executive planning summit last October.

“Our Brands were founded in and are based in Castle Rock, Colorado, so hosting team events in Colorado makes sense from a location and budgetary perspective,” says Heidi Bartsch, marketing and events manager for Bombtrack. “The scenery from Cloud Camp is breathtaking and inspiring. It’s an intimate setting in which to bring our executive team together, getting away from all distractions to focus on goalsetting to further our business and build a stronger team.”

Cloud Camp is easily reachable from Denver and Colorado Springs. Bartsch says good air transport made the meeting easily accessible even for those who had to fly in from out of state. The group chose the resort in part because a member of the team had previously been there. “Our managing partner had visited Cloud Camp and had such a great experience; it continued to stand out as a destination he wanted to share with the executive team. The full experience, from the gourmet food to the program of available activities, is topnotch.”

Although it has the word “camp” in its name and it is somewhat remote and rustic, Bartsch says Cloud Camp surpassed expectations. “The lodging felt luxurious — the beds were comfortable and the bathrooms nice — and it didn’t feel as ‘cabin-y’ as I expected.”

Bartsch says the location absolutely played a factor in the decision of where to meet. They wanted the mountain but didn’t want to have to travel to Colorado’s more distant mountain towns. Cloud Camp provided a best-of-both-worlds scenario. “The serenity of the mountains has proven to be a good atmosphere for the goal of this specific meeting,” she says, “but we wanted to be close to the city as well.”

A variety of activities are offered at Cloud Camp. While her team had different tastes in events, the most sought-after activities were yoga, hiking, the cocktails and cooking club, the bonfire, hot tub and enjoying a cocktail by the fire before dinner.

The group used the Overlook conference room. “The room was comfortable and had all the necessary amenities for our meetings; however, what stood out the most were the views. While the content of the meetings could at times lead to some stress, there was a serenity that took precedence and allowed the team to tackle the curriculum with greater ease than would be the case in a stuffy boardroom.”

As for staff, Bartsch says, “Ashleigh O’Grady was, and continues to be, an absolute asset. She’s professional and informative and worked to build a program to fit our needs and goals. Also, the manager of Cloud Camp helped the team get acclimated upon arrival.”

The one piece of advice Bartsch has for planners considering Cloud Camp is to remember that it’s a high-altitude setting. The altitude was challenging for the out-of-town attendees who were not used to it, she says.

With over a century of award-winning hospitality, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is incomparable in every way. Nestled on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains, with 5,000 lush acres to explore and over 315,000 sf of meeting spaces of all sizes, The Broadmoor is the world’s longest-running conservative Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond resort. Here, attendees can meet their spirit of adventure and experience the unique beauty of the American West.

Omni Interlocken in Broomfield, Colorado, is another relaxing retreat with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains as your backdrop. Near Denver and Boulder, with proximity to Denver International Airport, the hotel offers access to a plethora of adventure — from skiing to golf to complete relaxation. Omni Interlocken Hotel also provides 15 reimagined meeting rooms, which include three ballrooms for larger or multi-day events. The outside pool decks, terraces and pavilions are designed to enhance productivity and idea sharing with stunning views. Each space is configured for a group’s requirements and equipped with state-of-the-art AV equipment.

Stowe, Vermont, lies between Mount Mansfield and other peaks of the Green Mountains to the west, and the Worcester Range to the east. That’s where Vermont-based Turtle Fur, maker of cozy hats and other outdoor accessories, set its all-staff and sales meetings with 40 to 50 in attendance. “The feel of the resort is very much the feel of our brand,” says Dan Miller, VP of sales. “We were at home.”

Miller calls Topnotch a “unique” fit for this group for several reasons, including proximity to the company’s headquarters, the amazing destination that Vermont in autumn is, and the fact that it’s a mile from Turtle Fur’s founding location. And although lack of proximity to a close airport is a factor, he says everything else supersedes the transportation challenges. “We are a brand born and thriving in the mountains. The fact that we could view Mt. Stanfield from our meeting places was incredible and inspiring.”

Miller says Topnotch delivered above and beyond in multiple ways. “Access was great for loading in business collateral. Meals were excellent as well as scenic and memorable. I would also say the staff was very generous and helpful — allowing access a full day prior was incredibly helpful.”

The group didn’t include many of the resort’s activities but did utilize the yoga studio one morning for a workout session. Miller says they hope to include some activities next year, “specifically a service project to the community.” The resort’s meeting space worked well. “It’s great space,” Miller says, “and ideal for hosting two meetings as we had our all-staff meeting first, then the sales meeting over the following two days. It was very seamless from our side and all tech worked well for our purpose.”

The food and ambience were definitely a positive. Miller says they hosted one meal and a tour of the company’s main office in Morrisville but had the remaining meals at Topnotch. “From my experience, the meals have a huge impact on the feel of the meeting. The menu satisfied several dietary needs, but the Vermont feel, and the quality were among the best I’ve experienced in a sales-meeting environment. It was memorable.”

Travel logistics proved to be the biggest challenge. “Minimal flight options made moving our team difficult.” However, Miller notes, that’s entirely separate from the resort.

Down in West Virginia, meeting-goers find two distinctly different, but equally inspiring, settings for corporate gatherings. One of the nation’s grand dames of resorts, The Greenbrier, set in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, has been inspiring visitors for more than two centuries. In November, it was the setting for Roanoke-based Grand Home Furnishings’ sales awards and celebration with 37 attending. GiGi Hall, senior vice president and HRO, says The Greenbrier provides the perfect reward for the company’s top performers by combining relaxation, recreation and recognition all in one location. “We love to take them to America’s Resort in the mountains of West Virginia for a luxurious retreat.”

The retreat includes two nights at The Greenbrier for the company’s top sales associates and one guest of their choice. They can also participate in one activity of their choice.

“The Greenbrier has adventurous mountain activities such as off-road driving, horseback riding, fly-fishing, falconry demonstrations and shooting at the Gun Club. There’s also a legendary mineral spa, world-class golf and a Cold War-era fallout shelter hidden in the mountains, created to house Congress in the event of an enemy attack.”

Evening events are built around dinner. “On the first night, attendees get to enjoy a dinner experience of their choosing at one of the resort’s six restaurants. The second night is our proprietors’ dinner, a wonderful celebration event in the private dining room of Prime 44 West, the resort’s upscale steakhouse.”

Hall says The Greenbrier events team sets up all of the activities for participants. They also provide them with a personalized welcome letter upon arrival. “Since all of the activities and amenities are located on the resort’s 11,000 acres, the Greenbrier team makes it easy for us to plan the entire event with one person without the hassle or expense of coordinating with an offsite DMC.”

To groups thinking of meeting at The Greenbrier, Hall suggests leaving time in the schedule to experience the resort. “There are so many activities and places to eat, and so much history to explore. Make time to experience as much of it as possible.”

It’s not necessary to set your meeting at an upscale resort to benefit from the awe-inspiring beauty of America’s mountain landscapes. New River Gorge in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains is all about nature. Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG), a cabin and camping resort perched at the edge of the gorge and just outside New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, is just the place to let nature do its inspiring thing. That’s where Ascend Performance Materials has based its APEX Annual Offsite for 35 to 40 attendees each September since 2011.

Linda Bennett, events coordinator and senior executive assistant to the president and CEO, says that while the resort is a little over an hour from West Virginia Yeager International Airport in Charleston, the distance is not a problem. “With our groups coming in from Texas, Florida and Alabama, a manageable distance and drive from Charleston’s Yeager airport is critical. We coordinate flight arrivals and departures and charter a large 55-passenger coach from Bluegrass Tours. They’re amazing.”

About AOTG, Bennet says, “Even though it’s easy to get there from the airport, the resort feels away from it all. The fresh mountain air and scenery is welcoming and simply breathtaking. It helps to refresh the mind and relax the soul. Our attendees are empowered and energized from the moment they arrive. Additionally, the lodging is perfect for our group of 40. Attendees are housed in well-appointed and beautiful cabins that allow them to have time with others within the company to network, share ideas and build camaraderie.”

The cabins are tucked into the forest around the resort yet close to everything. Giri Lakshmi, operations excellence leader with the company, says the resort fills multiple needs. “With its natural backdrop, it’s an excellent location for combining formal learning and meetings with informal get-togethers. The lodging and rustic environment facilitate cohesiveness, effective connectivity and foster relationships. The setting,” Lakshmi adds, “brings a breath of fresh air not only to the body but also to the brain.”

With teambuilding integral to the meeting, Bennett says AOTG’s activities are front and center. “Being in the mountains of West Virginia and having access to exciting white-water rafting was key for our choice since teambuilding is a big part of our program. Our group participates in white-water rafting, TreeTops Ziplining and the New River Gorge Bridge Walk, as well as newly added shooting clays arranged for an offsite.”

The group takes full advantage of the resort’s spaces and amenities. “We utilize the Lookout Post for our team meetings, which has a nice breakout space as well. We always have a seamless connection with our use of AV and WiFi, and our meeting snacks, beverages and catering are always fresh, on time and plentiful.”

The group meets at Smokey’s, the resort’s restaurant, for breakfast each morning. “That helps get everyone fueled for the day, especially with a belly full of Smokey’s bacon!” Bennett says. Smokey’s also prepares box lunches for attendees to grab-and-go prior to afternoon teambuilding activities, whether that’s ziplining, river rafting or walking over the spectacular New River Gorge Bridge nearly 900 feet above the river.

“We also utilize Smokey’s event deck with its amazing sunset views for our welcome reception and delegates’ winning project presentations. The staff provides cocktails and passed appetizers along with an incredible charcuterie board. For our team stretching and clear-the-mind group exercises, which are planned and lead by AOTG staff, we head to the poolside deck with its perfect view of the New River Gorge Bridge.”

Like at any great resort, staff makes all the difference. “From the very beginning, Jessica Campbell clearly understood the needs for our meeting and partnered with us to create the perfect agenda for the three-and-a-half-day-day program. She managed her team from start to finish to execute a truly memorable event. The chef created amazing menus, which were carefully and uniquely prepared, and the food and beverage team ensured that every meal was provided with outstanding service. All activity guides, from the ziplining team to the rafting guides, were attentive, careful and responsible, and hugely entertaining, providing experiences for our attendees that exceeded all expectations. As an added special touch to our event, Jessica introduced us to the Long Point String Band, who we now hire each year as entertainment. They bring a unique blend of authenticity of mountain old-time music with a flair of bluegrass and are always a huge hit. We consider the staff at AOTG to be family. Many have been at the property for years and they always welcome us with smiles and excitement.”

If there’s one caveat in terms of planning, Lakshmi advises starting well in advance. “There are some limitations to the number of attendees with respect to conference space and seating.”

Renewal of body and mind can help facilitate attendee connections, cohesion and productivity, and there’s no better setting for that than America’s inspiring mountains. North to south, east to west, there’s a mountain that will inspire your group, too. C&IT



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