It seems everyone these days takes time to text, chat and tweet. But how many devote the same time to communing with nature?
The answer, sadly, is very few. This is a shame, because it is in the great outdoors—away from the social media universe, cubicles and news cycles—that revelation most commonly occurs.
Heading outdoors means trading the sound of a cell phone ring for the rustle of wildlife, and the circulated air of an office for a fresh mountain breeze. It means forsaking the confining and limited in favor of the freeing and abundant. And it means allowing yourself, and your group, to breathe and reboot.
In mountain resorts across the U.S., this experience awaits, particularly in summer when climes are temperate, wildlife appears, vegetation flourishes and countless activities beckon. Curtis Bova, vice president of national sales for Destination Hotels & Resorts, which operates Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont and Vail Cascade Resort & Spa and The Gant in Colorado, notes the particular appeal of summer mountain retreats. “Oftentimes, we hear from planners that group attendance for events held at our mountain properties in the summer is higher due to the broad appeal for all that the destinations have to offer. Additionally, meetings in these awe-inspiring settings help agendas take on an inspiring tone and encourage creative thinking.”
Here are some alpine settings that can get your group inspired.
The Appalachian Mountain range stretches along North America's east coast. Geologically striking, it is blanketed with evergreen trees, rife with colorful fauna and intersected by the rushing New River. In its southern and central portions in particular, the range is notable for Appalachian culture, celebrated for its lively bluegrass music and folksy crafts scene. Appalachian mountains in Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Tennessee all promise an enticing combination of physical beauty and cultural soul.
The terrain of the Green Mountains, here mostly distinguished by dense boreal forest, makes Vermont an oasis for natural respite and outdoor activity. The peaks are so indelible to Vermont's identity that it's nicknamed the Green Mountain State.
Graced by Vermont's highest peak, 4,395-foot Mount Mansfield, Stowe offers a throwback experience in the mountains, with a 200-year-old village—complete with a white-steeple church, craft stores and an old-fashioned ice cream shop—at its core. Evocative of a historic Austrian enclave, the town is where theVon Trapp family, whose lives were celebrated in The Sound of Music, chose to move after fleeing Europe's Nazi regime. This historic connection endures at Trapp Family Lodge. Located on the site of the famous family's former home, it offers 96 lodge rooms, 100 chalets and a collection of three-bedroom villas. It can accommodate up to 150 attendees.
At the base of Mount Mansfield, Stowe Mountain Lodge is a Four-Diamond, four-season resort with cozy fireplaces, natural stone elements and expansive windows framing the mountains outside. The property offers 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor space, 4,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space and an additional 40,000 sq. ft. in the adjacent Spruce Peak Alpine Village. Groups can also enjoy farm-to-table receptions, during which local farmers discuss their growing and harvesting process.
About eight miles north of Stowe, Smuggler's Notch Resort is named after a narrow mountain pass, or notch, that runs adjacent to Sterling Mountain, which years ago was used by thieves to smuggle stolen goods. It features a collection of condos, multiple restaurants and lounges, and meeting space for up to 400.
Along the western edge of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Berkshires are interposed with rolling hills and peaks and abundant in wetland terrain. Just 2.5 hours from New York City and Boston, the mountains lure those looking to leave their urban setting behind, and appealingly offer cultural flair alongside their rural setting. In Lenox, edifying experiences can be had at The Mount, a museum inside Edith Wharton's former residence (celebrating its 110th anniversary this year), and the 30-acre home of Shakespeare & Company, an acclaimed theater troupe that performs Bard classics and original plays on outdoor stages.
Also in Lenox is the Berkshires' crown-jewel property, Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club. The century-old resort is bounded by Berkshire hills and hundreds of acres of wilderness. Standout features include an 18-hole golf course that sits atop 380 hilltop acres and one of the Northeast's largest spas. In July, the resort will complete renovations to its carriage house, upping its accommodations count from 96 to 114. Groups can meet in 16,000 sq. ft. of space.
Much of what you need to know about the geology of the Poconos can be gleaned from its name's Native American translation: “stream between two mountains.” While there are far more than two peaks in the range, it is indeed intersected by a waterway, the scenic Delaware River. This geological makeup ensures a roster of summertime alpine- and water-based activity, less than two hours from New York and Philadelphia.
Situated among 5,500 acres of Poconos terrain, Skytop Lodge features a striking fieldstone exterior that makes it appear as if it's from another era—which, having been built in 1928, it is. While the resort offers plenty of high-tech amenities, its emphasis is squarely on the natural. Miles of hiking trails, navigable via provided maps, are punctuated with rare birds and wildlife including bobcats, minks and black bears, while Skytop Lake provides options for kayaking and other water activities. Meeting space encompasses 17 meeting rooms and a 10,000-square-foot executive conference center.
The Great Smoky Mountain range, straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border, is one of the most iconic ranges in the nation, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. The range draws the masses not only for its ecological diversity, but also for its cultural elements. In Tennessee, the spirit of Appalachia is highlighted at venues including the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton and East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville.
One of the most distinct showcases for the range is Pigeon Forge, which complements its alpine surroundings with human-made fun in the form of quirky family attractions. Most known for being the home of Dollywood, the town also offers an assortment of meeting-friendly hotels, including the Music Road Inn, Hotel and Convention Center, with 303 rooms and 20,000 sq. ft. of space, and RiverStone Resort and Spa, set along the Little Pigeon River, an all-condo property with 3,600 sq. ft. Next year, the town will unveil the Le Conte Center at Pigeon Forge with 112,500 sq. ft. of exhibit-hall space and a 12,000-square-foot multipurpose hall. Joy McNealy, senior sales manager for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, says the destination is particularly popular in summer, when “attendees can bring their children and enjoy their free time as a family.” Nearby, the town of Gatlinburg offers options including the Gatlinburg Convention Center with 188,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space, as well as such off-sites as a distillery that produces (legal) moonshine.
The Rocky Mountain range, which extends 3,000 miles from western Canada down to New Mexico, is known for its particularly towering peaks—including 14,440-foot Mount Elbert in Colorado—and is often thought of in its wintertime snowcapped state. Yet many of its mountains are equally as striking in summer, when brilliant wildflowers spring to life. The range particularly dominates in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana.
Of all the Rocky Mountain locales, neighboring Aspen and Snowmass are probably the most indelibly linked to winter. Myriad guests and groups visit these scenic towns in the chilly months, but when the snow melts and flowers bloom, they take on a new kind of splendor while catering to summertime visitors. In Snowmass, attendees can enjoy free summer concerts on Snowmass Mountain or the robust summer workshop series at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, where sculpting, painting, drawing and more are on the docket. Aspen offers a popular summertime farmers market and the renowned Aspen Music Festival, which features eight weeks of classical music performances every July and August.
For lodging, Destination Resorts Snowmass offers 95 lodge rooms, 47 studios, 28 townhomes, 82 condos and more than 10,000 sq. ft. of space near the slopes and bustling Snowmass Village. In Aspen, 93-room Hotel Jerome has 7,500 sq. ft. of space, including a garden terrace for up to 350 that fronts the mountains and is particularly verdant in the summer months. Also on hand is a 77,000-square-foot private sports club, fitness center and spa. The St. Regis Aspen is another upscale choice, featuring 179 rooms, 20,000 sq. ft. of space, a world-class spa and fine dining at The Restaurant. The hotel just wrapped up a $40 million renovation and redesign that, among other things, added enhanced ballroom and meeting space inspired by the Gilded Age and debuted a library with a fireplace, bookshelves and game tables.
Another activity-rich destination is Steamboat Springs. Host of several major skiing competitions, it is also a popular locale for summertime fun. At Sheraton Steamboat Resort, for instance, groups can take a gondola ride up 10,568-foot Mount Werner or tee up at an 18-hole golf course. The property offers an elegant 6,000-square-foot ballroom and seven meeting rooms.
The St. Regis, Aspen, Colo.
The Utah Rockies are dominated by the Wasatch Range, which stretches about 160 miles and reaches heights of more than 11,000 feet. The range is so stunning, 85% of the state's populace has chosen to live within 15 miles of it.
A top spot to experience this range is Park City. In the decade since it hosted the Winter Olympics, the mountain town has quickly gained traction as a premier destination, with summer activities playing a key role in the renaissance. Attendees can enjoy everything from ziplining to a hayride through the countryside. Warm summer months are also an ideal time to drink ice-cold beer at one of the town's breweries, including Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery, or a nip of fine bourbon at the Western-themed High West Distillery and Saloon.
Home to three world-class resorts—Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort—Park City is additionally filled with upscale event space. In Deer Valley, top choices include the Five-Star, Five-Diamond Stein Eriksen Lodge with 184 rooms, a 20,000-square-foot spa and space for up to 440, and new Montage Deer Valley with 154 rooms and 50,000 sq. ft. Just one mile from Park City Mountain Resort, Marriott Park City offers 191 rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of space, and serves as headquarters for the annual Sundance Film Festival.
Montana is home to a staggering 50 Rocky Mountain peaks, and features some of the nation's most remote mountain towns, many situated near national parks. Big Sky Resort, for instance, is a short drive away from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, where in the summertime groups can go on wildlife expeditions, raft down a whitewater river or explore the wilderness by taking a mule ride. At the base camp of the resort, more activities beckon, including a popular zipline and high-ropes course. With more than 750 hotel and condo rooms and 55,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 46,000 sq. ft. in the Yellowstone Conference Center, the resort is well-suited to groups.
Whitefish Mountain Resort is located in the Flathead Valley near Glacier National Park, home to more than 700 miles of hiking trails and 763 lakes, making the summer pastimes of hiking, biking, fly-fishing and boating popular. For groups, the resort offers a meeting room for up to 80 in the Base Lodge and dining in the Summit House.
In Greenough, The Resort At Paws Up offers a unique lodging experience: luxury camping inside tents with beds, electricity and butler service. Spacious homes are also available to stay in, and team-building activities include cattle herding and rolling through the wilderness in a Zorb Ball. The property offers 95,000 sq. ft. of space.
As in Utah, the Wasatch Range is prominent in Idaho, its towering crests framing remote resort towns. One of the range's dominant summits in the state is 9,150-foot Bald Mountain, beloved by outdoor aficionados the world over. The peak is the primary draw at Sun Valley Resort, which features a lift to the top of “Baldy,” as it's affectionately known, for biking, hiking and general exploring. The resort features a variety of accommodations and about 28,500 sq. ft. of meeting space in the Sun Valley Inn, Sun Valley Village and Sun Valley Lodge.
Idaho is also home to the Selkirk Mountains, which date back more than 200 million years. Schweitzer Mountain Resort is set against the backdrop of this range. Lodging options include two lodges and condos, and there's enough meeting space for up to 250 in various spaces, including a lawn ideal for summer receptions.
Wyoming's dominant Rocky range, the Tetons, is especially imposing. It's believed the Shoshone people once called the range Teewinot, or “many pinnacles,” due to the sheer number of mountains it encompasses, including the aptly named 13,775-foot Grand Teton peak.
Much of the range resides in Grand Teton National Park, whose south entrance is near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the nation's most luxurious alpine enclaves. Located slopeside in the resort, and just minutes from the national park, Snake River Lodge & Spa, A RockResort includes 93 guest rooms, luxury condos, a 17,000-square-foot spa, Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course and 5,500 sq. ft. of space, and carries the distinction of Four Diamonds. Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole is another standout, offering 106 guest rooms, 18 suites, 32 private residences and 8,000 sq. ft. Many of the accommodations open onto a private balcony or terrace.
The Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California
Split between California and Nevada, two states with particularly pleasant weather in the summer months, the Sierra Nevada range is renowned for its diverse elevations and climates, the result of a glacial uplift 4 million years ago. It is rich with geological features, encompassing 20 wilderness areas and three national parks.
The best-known of these parks is Yosemite in California, which spreads across more than 760,000 acres, with activities and lodging primarily concentrated in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley. Brimming with pine trees and wildlife (bear sightings are common), the valley is well-known for its hikable Half Dome and El Capitan granite peaks and myriad waterfalls.
An acclaimed option in the area is The Ahwahnee, a circa-1927, Four-Diamond lodge with an eclectic design that integrates everything from Native American to Middle Eastern influences. The property offers 123 guest rooms and can accommodate groups of up to 150. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, located at the park's south gate, is another Four-Diamond option. It features 15,000 sq. ft. of indoor space and additional outdoor venues.
One top locale to take in the Sierras is Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, which is surrounded to stunning effect by the range's snowcapped peaks. The Tahoe area features several towns, divided between California and Nevada. In the North Shore, Squaw Mountain Resort offers some of the area's most striking, traversable peaks alongside upscale properties such as the Four-Diamond Resort at Squaw Creek, with 405 rooms and 47,750 sq. ft. of space; and Village at Squaw, home to 15,000 sq. ft. of space at the base of the Sierras. In Incline Village, Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino directly fronts the lake and offers 422 guest rooms and 80,000 sq. ft. of space. In terms of getting outdoors, Jason Neary, sales director of the North Lake Tahoe Visitors & Convention Bureau, notes, “Many choose to take to the lake and steady themselves on stand-up paddleboards as they tour some of the country's purest waters.”
That kind of nature-based activity is what makes summer mountain meetings so popular. Bring your group to one of these alpine locales, and inspiration will follow. Attendees can text, chat and tweet when they get back home.
Colorado Tourism Office: colorado.com
Idaho Department of Commerce:visitidaho.org
Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism:massvacation.com
Meet in Utah:meetinutah.com
Montana Office of Tourism:visitmt.com
Nevada Commission on Tourism:travelnevada.com
Pennsylvania Tourism Office:visitpa.com
Tennessee Department of Tourism Development:tnvacation.com
Vermont Convention Bureau: vermontmeetings.org
Wyoming Travel & Tourism:wyomingtourism.org