We’re skimming across the snow, powered by eight enthusiastic huskies running at full speed. Gliding through the forest and meadows of the Colorado Rockies, we admire the natural beauty of the pine trees tipped with snow.
At the same time, we’re concentrating on shifting our weight into the turns and crouching low on the straightaways. This is because we are not sitting on the sled with the dog mushers behind us—we are the dog mushers. With this perspective, it’s easy to imagine what it must be like to compete in the Iditarod. This do-it-yourself dog mushing from Good Times Adventures allows attendees to mush a team of huskies. It’s one of the many unique activities that make Vail Resorts’ Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort ideal for groups.
Mountain majesty is the wow factor upon arriving at either resort; the two are an hour’s drive apart and both are a scenic two hours from Denver International Airport. The convenience of not having to orchestrate transportation is another plus for groups. “There is no need to rent vehicles. Groups can take the Colorado Mountain Express from the airport to their hotel. The hotels all have shuttle service around town, and many hotels are within walking distance of the ski lifts and attractions,” says Kristen Petitt Stewart, senior communications manager with Breckenridge.
Historic & Hip
After checking into the 208-room DoubleTree by Hilton Breckenridge, our group walked two blocks to Main Street. Founded in the 19th century as a gold mining center, today Breckenridge is a hip and authentic mountain town. Stylish restaurants and boutiques are tucked into historic buildings, providing a treasure trove for exploration. Our guide, decked out in 19th century attire, made the Historic District come alive with long ago gunfights and a genuine haunted house during a Breckenridge Heritage Alliance Historic Walking Tour.
Back at the hotel, locally sourced “pasture-to-plate” fare and simple, authentic flavors like bacon-wrapped Medjool dates from Morocco, made a memorable dinner at 9600 Kitchen. The contemporary-style restaurant connects to one of the hotel’s meeting spaces, allowing groups to enhance their meetings with floor-to-ceiling mountain views, a fireplace and Executive Chef Aaron Boyd’s popular salsa-making team building competitions. The hotel’s new Oxygen Bar—the only of its kind in Breckenridge—is also popular for group events. Along Main Street, the Blue River Bistro’s industrial chic, delicious food and killer martini menu will give groups the feeling they’re in Manhattan. The cozy elegance of Relish, upstairs in a historic building, is a perfect match for its Colorado-take on classics from escargot to baked Alaska. Groups can also take a tasting tour through the Breckenridge Distillery, producing bourbons, rums and vodkas, or arrange a bottling event with custom-labeled keepsake spirits.
Skiing and snowboarding at nearly 13,000 feet, from the highest chairlift in North America, is a must for groups that ski. In 2013, Breckenridge opened Peak 6, which expanded its skiable terrain to 2,908 acres. Stewart recommends booking a ski pro as your group guide. “This is a huge advantage. Because if the slopes get crowded, then you can cut the line.”
My group of non-skiers took the DoubleTree shuttle to the two-year-old Breckenridge Nordic Center for a guided snowshoe adventure through the White River National Forest. More than a trek, we were on the lookout for wildlife—moose, beaver and foxes are frequently spotted. The center has snack and beverage service, ample tables and chairs and mountain views for groups to relax after their activities.
Anchored by the 60,000-sqt Keystone Conference Center—the largest convention center in the Colorado Rockies—the city of Keystone is a hub for meetings and conventions. Some 1,100 hotel rooms and suites are within a short walk or shuttle ride of the convention center. Natural light and blonde wood permeate the penthouse boardroom on the center’s third level.
“The value in hosting your conference at Keystone is our unique ability to provide a traditional, large format meeting in an intimate and customizable setting,” says the center’s director of sales, Thomas Kelsey. “These can include team building activities like an early morning discovery hike through a spruce forest, a lakeside yoga session or breakout sessions in a gondola cabin as you ride up the mountaintop to dinner.”
A minute’s walk from the center, is the 152-room Keystone Lodge & Spa on Keystone Lake. Nearby, the Lakeside Adventure Center is where groups can take Keystone’s signature horse-drawn sleigh ride or dinner ride into the backcountry. After exploring the cafes and shops in River Run Village, we rode the gondola to the summit of Dercum Mountain. From here, groups can ski and snowboard on 3,148 acres, go tubing at Adventure Point, take the Mountain-Top Snowcat Tour or ride a second gondola to North America’s highest AAA 4-diamond restaurant, Alpenglow Stube, as we did. Its elegance, fine cuisine and mountaintop views make it a highpoint of gathering in the Colorado Rockies.