Category Archives: Meetings & Conventions

GUEST POST: TOP 3 REASONS BEAR CREEK LODGE SHOULD BE YOUR NEXT RETREAT DESTINATION

INSPIRATION, INTEGRATION, INNOVATION

1) Distinctive Mountain Venue

Bear Creek Lodge is situated on 155 acres of pristine nature in Victor, Montana, just an hour’s drive from Missoula at the edge of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. A mountain hideaway nestled in a blanket of pine trees, Bear Creek Lodge provides a civilized approach to a wilderness experience. This exquisite lodge was constructed in 1991 with massive logs harvested near Yellowstone National Park after the forest fires of 1988. Each of its eight guest rooms is appointed with a comfortable bed, antique furnishings, a private bathroom and a door that opens onto the forest. The dining room brings corporate groups together for a delicious culinary experience incorporating local ingredients, prepared fresh and served family style.

Enjoy a mile of private access on Bear Creek.

Bear Creek Lodge enhancement activities serve as a catalyst for nature and include sunrise meditation, hikes through the forest and up to an overlook with lunch on the viewpoint or down at the creek, cooking classes, yoga, massage therapy, fly-fishing, horseback riding on six private trails and acoustic music under the stars.

2) Nature-Inspired Creativity

With today’s dynamic and fast-paced environment, it can be challenging to nurture our creative energy. Without balance, creativity suffers and productivity stagnates. At Bear Creek Lodge, groups reconnect with nature. Working in harmony without the usual distractions from life, the “noise” quiets. With greater clarity, challenges become opportunities and solutions take form.

Relaxing lounge area on the deck for after the work is done.

3) Talent Development and Collaboration

Today’s talent development often takes place within four walls. This alone can prevent work groups from thinking outside the box. At Bear Creek Lodge, we use the power of nature to break down walls for your team. Awaken creativity and allow our intimate setting and tailored agenda to renew and build camaraderie while aligning with your business goals. Our team combines hospitality experience with talent development experience to ensure your needs are met.

Fantastic outdoor work space.

Bear Creek Lodge’s philosophy is to be a steward of the land. Focused efforts on conservation and sustainability, together with the support of local suppliers for the ingredients in our farm-to-table meals, ensures nature’s nourishment continues for years to come. Share in this special connection by allowing Bear Creek Lodge to work with you to create a lasting “inner” footprint, inspired by nature. We look forward to welcoming you and your team!

We hope to see you in nature.

JT and TC

The authors.

Janet Turney, the owner of Bear Creek Lodge.

Tonya Chandler, Business Manager and Bear Creek Lodge Coordinator.

GUEST POST: TOP 6 REASONS MEETING PLANNERS LOVE WHITEFISH MONTANA

Venue choice is one of the most important factors for the success of a meeting. Having hosted hundreds of meetings at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Western Montana’s Glacier Country over the past 10 years has shown us that while each event has its unique needs, certain aspects of Whitefish are universally gratifying for the planners with whom we’ve had the pleasure of working. Feedback from meetings professionals has taught us what they like most about our area.

Aerial view of The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Location, location, location is not a new idea, and this phrase applies to meeting venues as much as anything. With that in mind, three of the top reasons meeting planners love Whitefish pertain directly to location!

  • Accessibility: While it’s true that Whitefish is off the beaten path, it’s quite accessible for attendees from around North America. Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is located just 11 miles from Whitefish and offers daily commercial service from Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis, and twice-weekly service from Las Vegas. Seasonal flight service is added from Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and Oakland. Many hotels in Whitefish, including The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and The Firebrand Hotel, offer courtesy airport transportation for guests. This complimentary, personal service and quick transfer time provides a seamless and welcoming first impression for meeting attendees and sets the tone for a great experience.

    It’s easy to get to Glacier Park International Airport (FCA).

  • Geographic and recreational benefits: Whitefish is nestled in the west slope of the Northern Rocky Mountains and just outside Glacier National Park. The region offers a temperate climate (for a mountain destination) and abundant natural beauty. Temperatures average highs of 28 F in December and January and 80 F in July and August. Year-round recreational and sightseeing opportunities abound. Most meeting attendees have diverse interests, and Whitefish offers many different seasonal recreation opportunities to satisfy most participants. Here’s a taste of what’s available:
    Whitefish Mountain Resort offers winter and summer recreation from alpine skiing and snowboarding to zip lines, aerial adventures, lift-access mountain biking, an alpine slide, hiking and scenic chair and gondola rides.
    Whitefish Lake Golf Course offers two 18-hole championship courses, open from mid-April through October.
    Stumptown Art Studio offers year-round art classes and drop-in studio spaces for pottery painting, mosaics and glass fusing.
    Whitefish Trail provides easy access to experience nature with a hike, trail run, mountain bike, snowshoe or fat-bike ride. Guided and educational experiences are available.
    Glacier National Park is located just 30 minutes from Whitefish and offers incredible beauty and recreation opportunities ranging from scenic tours by boat or historic red buses to incredible day hikes.

    Glacier National Park is only 30 minutes from Whitefish.

    The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, situated on the outskirts of downtown and between Whitefish Lake and the Viking Creek Wetland Preserve, provides a premier setting to enjoy all that Whitefish has to offer. A seasonal marina with motorized and non-motorized watercraft and custom cruises on the Lady of the Lake 31’ Windsor Craft, indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, a full-service day spa, Viking Creek Wetland Preserve with interpretive nature trail, and a full-service concierge make planning free time simple for groups and individuals!
    Additional opportunities exist like fishing (ice, lake and fly), horseback and wagon rides, whitewater and scenic rafting, garden and museum tours and more!

    The Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers luxury accommodations & service year-round.

  • Cultural opportunities: Whitefish offers a condensed, pedestrian-friendly downtown area, retaining qualities of its western heritage with a metropolitan flair. You’ll discover businesses from The Firebrand, a newly opened boutique hotel, to Nelson’s Ace Hardware, with 60 years of history servicing the Whitefish community. A diverse selection of dining options from Cuban to Italian, New American to French Creole, eclectic and traditional delis, pizza parlors and coffee shops provide seemingly endless choices to satisfy the most discerning foodie and hungry adventure-seeker. You’ll also discover a variety of art galleries, custom jewelers, boutique shops, ski, bike and outdoor outfitters, bars, music venues, and several active theater companies including the professional Alpine Theatre Project featuring Broadway talent.

Explore downtown Whitefish.

Although location is important, it turns out it’s not everything.

  • Friendly community: We repeatedly hear stories of how “everyone was so friendly” and accommodating, from the valet to the front desk, restaurant and banquet servers, housekeepers and maintenance crew, “literally everyone we came across at the resort.” But that’s not all, around town, people say “hi” when they pass you on the street, and shop keepers thank you for visiting their stores, even when you don’t buy anything. Montana hospitality is alive and well in Whitefish, and this friendliness enhances our clients’ overall experiences in a meaningful way that makes them want to come back.
  • Pricing flexibility: While offering year-round benefits, Whitefish is a seasonal destination, and the proximity to Glacier National Park heavily impacts demand during the summer season. Clients who have flexibility to plan their meetings outside of the peak months of July and August enjoy the benefits of greater availability and value. At The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and The Firebrand Hotel, we seasonally accommodate meetings ranging for budget-conscious government groups to luxury incentive trips. This flexibility has surprised and delighted many of our clients over the years!
  • Professional service in a luxurious, comfortable setting: While you won’t find many suits and ties in Whitefish, rest assured you can still find professional service. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, Montana’s only AAA Four Diamond rated property, is a great example of finding this balance. We invite you to experience our version of Montana hospitality firsthand!

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our corner of Montana.

See you in Whitefish!
Edna White

The author, Edna White

About the author: Edna White, Sales & Marketing Director for Averill Hospitality, has worked in hospitality in Whitefish for the past 20 years. She has a passion for Western Montana’s outdoor recreation and providing exceptional guest experiences. In her free time, you’re likely to find Edna riding a bicycle around town or on one of the many singletrack trails in the area. 

THE FREE PERKS OF MEETING IN MONTANA

Everyone loves the word FREE, but we’ve all been conditioned to assume it’s “too good to be true.” If you’re choosing to hold your meeting or convention in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, let me show you how we do FREE and how it can help the bottom line for both meeting planners and attendees.

Let’s begin with hotel shuttles from either of our Western Montana airports. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is a short 7-minute drive to downtown Missoula. Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, is a 15-minute drive to both Whitefish and downtown Kalispell. All of our larger branded conference hotels in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish offer free shuttles to and from the airport. If you’re traveling into our region on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, shuttles from Whitefish properties are available to pick up and drop off at the depot in Whitefish as well.

Missoula International Airport. Photo: Missoula Airport.

Whether you’re driving in for a regional meeting or renting a car from the airport for a pre or post-conference sightseeing adventure in Western Montana, parking is always free at our lodging properties. While most of our hotels do not offer valet parking due to the easy parking-lot-to-lobby access, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake—the only 4 diamond hotel property in Western Montana—does offer free valet service.

Wi-Fi is a necessity for conference attendees, and charging for it does not fit into our western hospitality philosophy here in Montana’s Glacier Country. All of our conference hotels offer free Wi-Fi in guest rooms and conference spaces. When utilizing AV services, meeting planners will find that conference hotels in Western Montana offer very affordable rates on everything from projector packages to Polycom needs.

State-of-the-art AV services. Photo: SpringHill Suites Kalispell.

Staying healthy, focused and connected is critical while attending any meeting. Access to business centers, fitness centers, pools and hot tubs is never an additional charge in Western Montana conference hotels. So pack those running shoes and that swimsuit without fear of having to pay extra.

Bring those workout clothes.

Bring those swimsuits.

There’s no sales tax in the state of Montana, so we encourage attendees to leave a little space in their suitcases for lots of made-in-Montana items. Meeting clients will only see a service charge on a final BEO, not on guest rooms or other meeting services.

Utilize the great outdoor space found in Montana. Photo: Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula.

Bonus: At just 7%, Montana’s lodging tax is half of some neighboring states (10% in Whitefish, which includes their 3% resort tax). Look to Western Montana’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall)—specifically the months of March, April, May, October, and November—for the best availability and rates on guest rooms and conference space.

Spring in Montana is a great time to meet.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect venue for your meeting in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,
DP

GUEST POST: 5 REASONS GUEST RANCHES ARE PERFECT FOR CORPORATE TRAVEL

One of the most common responses I get when talking to meeting planners and companies about hosting their meetings, retreats or incentive trips at Flathead Lake Lodge is ‘Huh…never thought about a guest ranch’. In an industry where success is based on the perception of the experience by leadership and the company, new can seem risky. So, head West with me and let’s walk through this risk and see how a place like Flathead Lake Lodge is suited to far exceed your meeting expectations.

1: Service. It all starts with service. No planner wants to put together a package that doesn’t provide their company or client great service. Often times this is measured in stars and plaques. Where Flathead Lake Lodge (a recipient of many stars and plaques) and other great guest ranches go even farther is the intangibles of western hospitality and the personal connection. Flathead Lake Lodge (FLL) and other family-owned ranches are hosting your company at their ranch, which is their home. This level of personal service, commitment and care cannot be matched by hotels and resorts relying on training models and hired staff.

Farm to table food served at every meal.

A great example I like to share is about a corporate group we hosted at FLL last fall. My father and I are at the fireplace in the Main Lodge every morning where we share a cup of coffee with our guests. We were talking about how the elk in the ranch’s preserve were starting to bugle and become more active, awesome to see! Before long we had talked enough people into jumping into our vintage military vehicle to take an off-road tour through the preserve to see the elk. This isn’t an extra charge—it’s simply natural, personal service. We want you to enjoy our ranch, and our staff embodies that ownership. We work with our guests and our planners every hour of the day to make their experience personally awesome. It’s why companies like Ford, General Mills, Red Bull, Caterpillar, Pepsi, Coke, YPO and more all have discovered Flathead Lake Lodge and keep coming back.

The grand fireplace in the lodge.

2: Location. Montana, to some, can seem about as far out there as Alaska! The good news is it is just as beautiful and a heck of a lot easier to get to. There are direct flights from nine major cities (Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Denver), not to mention great charter service.

We’re located in the northwest part of the state on the shores of Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. And in case you’re wondering, yes, Flathead Lake is BIGGER that Tahoe (and cleaner too!). Glacier National Park is just 35 minutes up the road, the Bob Marshall Wilderness is out the back door and there are five major rivers nearby, so there is no shortage of outdoor recreation. In addition, the award-winning artisan village of Bigfork is 1 mile away. A 2,000-acre ranch, on a huge pristine lake, surrounded by mountains, a mile from a great town…trust me when I say we can find something for everyone to enjoy. Which reminds me…

Boating on Flathead Lake.

3: Recreation. One of a meeting planner’s hardest challenges is creating an itinerary for a group of people that has something for everyone to enjoy. This is where Flathead Lake Lodge is unparalleled. Being a ranch on a lake, we have the largest on-site recreation programming of any ranch or resort in the country. From horseback riding to sailing historic 51’ sailing sloops and mountain biking to massages—and everything in between—we work to create custom-tailored packages for your company and clients. Then, at the end of the day, we all share our day’s stories in the Saddlesore Saloon.

Belly up to the bar at the Saddlesore Saloon.

4: Exclusivity & 5: Intimacy. If you were to ask for a Flathead Lake Lodge referral, the top talking points that continually come up are service and the intangibles of exclusivity and intimacy. The funny thing is the later two are often overlooked and my honest opinion is they’re the most important yet. The ability to have your company and clients ‘take over’ the ranch creates an atmosphere and camaraderie very rarely experienced in corporate travel. The cabins are historic, cozy and comfortable with no TVs, which keeps people outside. Dining is done family style. Many of the intangible operations of Flathead Lake Lodge are designed to engage people, force interactions and encourage relationship building, which all contribute to our ranch having a 70 percent return rate. It is an environment that brings your company together, creates engagement, conversations and relationships. Simply put, it is like the whole company going to summer camp (a really nice summer camp), and for those of us who took summer adventures ask kids, we have lots of great memories to look back on.

Cozy comfort in our guest cabins.

Are you willing to take the risk yet? I’ll be honest, points 1 – 4 can be replicated. Service can be taught and recreation programmed. However, I’m confident our 73-year history and caliber of returning guests exemplify how Flathead Lake Lodge is able to combine these 5 trip factors unlike anywhere you’ve been. And we’re not alone. Many ranches, because of how personal their connection to the operation is are able to combine these 5 factors in a unique way that allows companies to come together through new adventures and grow. It may sound risky to trade in hotel rooms for open spaces, but sometimes all we need is a new perspective.

Thanks for reading! We hope to see you in Montana soon. For more information on Flathead Lake Lodge visit: www.flatheadlakelodge.com. For RFP’s and meeting planning questions please don’t hesitate to give me a shout at chase@flatheadlakelodge.com or 406.837.4391.

Cheers!
Chase Averill

3rd  Generation Owner | Flathead Lake Lodge

 

TRANSPORTATION: GETTING TO MONTANA IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Montana: when you think of this beautiful place, chances are majestic mountains, big blue skies, wildflower-filled meadows, miles of hiking trails and crystal clear rivers and streams come to mind. But you’re also probably wondering, “Is it easy to travel to Montana?” The answer: yes this heavenly place is closer than you think.

transpo-blog

A couple enjoys fishing in Western Montana.

Located in Western Montana, Glacier Country is a vast place and is an ideal option for a scenic meeting or convention and group tours. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is also home to two major international airports, a well-maintained highway system and a passenger train to get you and your clients here with ease.

A 7-minute drive from downtown Missoula, Missoula International Airport (MSO) offers easy access to the southern tier of Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Direct flights arrive daily from Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix/Mesa, Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle, with seasonal flights arriving from Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. This airport services Delta/SkyWest, United, Alaska/Horizon Air and Allegiant Air.

Situated in the northern tier of the region is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Located 15 minutes from Whitefish and Kalispell, this beautiful airport is the gateway to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies and  has daily flights from Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, with seasonal flights from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland and Oakland. Airlines flying into this airport are Delta/SkyWest, Alaska/Horizon Air, United and Allegiant Air.

b2b-map

Map outlining all the flight options for both international airports.

If your group is interested in traveling to Western Montana by train, then Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the answer. Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the Hi-Line of Montana and the northern tier of Glacier Country, where it makes stops in several communities, including Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier Park, Essex, West Glacier, Whitefish and Libby. This train is an amazing way to travel past Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains and all the stunning terrain in between. Amtrak operates daily from Seattle and Portland, as well as Minneapolis and Chicago. This is a great option for large groups wanting to see the beauty of Western Montana’s Glacier Country in a relaxing and comfortable setting.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

If traveling by air or rail isn’t what you are looking for, and you prefer driving to Western Montana, then you’re in luck. Driving in Montana is easy with a well-maintained highway system that’s anchored by Interstate Highway 90 running east and west and U.S. Highway 93 running north and south. The beauty of driving on our highways and roads are that you will always have breathtaking scenery and heart-stopping views, with charming small towns sprinkled along your route.

See you soon,

NG

MONTANA TALKS MEETINGS AT IMEX AMERICA

In October, Western Montana’s Glacier Country along with our partners from Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish had the privilege to exhibit at IMEX America—the largest trade show in the U.S. for meetings, corporate incentive travel, conventions and events—in Las Vegas, Nevada. We spent three days talking with meeting planners from around the world about opportunities to meet in Montana. Conversations spanned topics from airlift into Montana to types of meeting venues and activity offerings. For those meeting planners that did not attend IMEX or for those that didn’t make it by the Montana booth, here is a brief overview of what you will find if you host a meeting in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Western Montana ladies at IMEX America.

Western Montana ladies at IMEX America.

Corporate Incentive
At the top of many meeting planners lists were corporate incentive destination for their clients that offer sales incentive programs. Several had corporate clients that wanted experiential and activity-driven destinations as an alternative to the white sandy beaches that they had been going to for years. Montana guest ranches seemed to be a great fit for those planners, especially since Western Montana has properties that range from all-inclusive luxury ranches to rustic and authentic dude ranches to name a few, Flathead Lake Lodge, The Ranch at Rock Creek, The Resort at Paws Up and Triple Creek Ranch. Learn more about some of our guest ranch offerings here.

Howdy from Triple Creek Ranch.

Howdy from Triple Creek Ranch.

Association Meetings and Conventions
Planners at IMEX were pleasantly surprised to find that Western Montana has significant ballroom space at convention hotels located in our larger cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish. Missoula boasts the largest meeting space with 33,400 square feet at the University of Montana and 22,000 square feet at the largest convention hotel. Kalispell’s largest convention hotel offers 14,000 square feet of function space, while Whitefish has two convention hotels with roughly 11,000 square feet of space at both properties.

Beautiful ballroom space in Kalispell.

Beautiful ballroom space in Kalispell.

Board Retreats
When it comes to retreats, the lodging options in Montana are as unique and vast as the big blue sky. Choose from lakeside cabins, mountainside lodges, riverside hot springs resorts or quaint historic inns where you can hold your meeting in the morning and enjoy the great outdoors in the afternoon.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park.

Team-building and Outdoor Adventure Opportunities
Montana offers unimaginable variety all four seasons of the year for team-building and outdoor adventures. One example is Whitefish Mountain Resort, where in the summer months Big Mountain provides opportunities for teamwork, team building and team bonding at the Aerial Adventure Park, an obstacle course that sits among the trees. Other options include group rafting trips that have meeting attendees paddling as a team as they maneuver the raft through the rapids on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park or the Alberton Gorge near Missoula. At Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, team competitions take place with dummy steer roping, team roping, canoe racing and cocktail making.

Team-building fun at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

Team-building fun at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

Getting to Montana
With two airports serving both the northern tier—Glacier Park International (FCA)—and southern tier—Missoula International (MSO)—of Western Montana’s Glacier Country, getting here is easier than you think. Both airports have direct flights on major carriers including United, Delta, Alaska and Allegiant that arrive regularly from hub cities. Plus, it’s only 7 minutes from Missoula International Airport to downtown Missoula, while Whitefish and Kalispell are both located an easy 15 minutes from Glacier Park International Airport. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes twice daily stops in Whitefish and other small communities in the northern tier of Glacier Country (read more about that here). And our well-maintained highway system, anchored by Interstate 90 and Highway 93, makes driving in Glacier Country easy.

Now that you’re pondering which clients would love Montana or which meeting would work best in Montana, remember that we are here to help make your next meeting a success under Montana’s big blue sky. And if you want more information about how to meet in Montana, sign up for our meeting planner newsletter here.

We look forward to having you meet in Montana,

DP

Guest Post: Winter in Montana – Board Room to Bucket List

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of producing hundreds of meetings and events in some of the world’s greatest destinations. While the purpose, scope and locations of these gatherings have varied, all of them were designed to inspire excellence, trust and community while nurturing new thinking about business relationships and value creation. More often than not, I aspired to showcase the event destination in a creative way, as we provided a unique and enriching experience for the attendees. As planners, we didn’t want to duplicate our company’s conference room in a different locale; we wanted to draw from the culture of the destination and inspire them through novel experiences, like skiing after a morning meeting or receiving a handmade box filled with local treats at turn down.

Taking in the view of Montana from the "top of the world" at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Taking in the view of Montana from the “top of the world” at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Throughout the last decade, my passion for event planning and marketing has continued to blossom because of that essential, powerful ingredient—experiential travel. After living and working in many US cities, I am grateful to call Montana my home, especially since Montana is a place where travelers are instantly captured by a sense of wonder. Montana, through my lens, is an extraordinary, transformative destination for everyone from homebodies to globetrotters; a place where bucket-list experiences are checked off left and right.

In my role as marketing director at a luxury guest ranch in Western Montana, I see the transformations happen on a daily basis. It’s magical when a guest fulfills a dream to learn how to fly-fish or discovers that unplugging in the wide-open spaces brings their family closer. There are many quiet and exhilarating moments to be relished when guests and staff find themselves bursting with appreciation of the beauty and peace of our American West at The Ranch at Rock Creek. 

Inside the main lodge at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Inside the ranch’s main lodge.

The profound number of experiences to be discovered throughout every season is very meaningful for planners and hosts who aim to inspire their attendees with exceptional—even magical— company events. As the Montana winter approaches, here are some thoughts on why groups should consider the natural riches of the Treasure State for business retreats and meetings.

Winter at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Winter at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Limitless Outdoor Adventure
Not only is Montana stunningly beautiful when the snow falls, but it also offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities. Among Montana’s diverse terrain are canopied forests and glistening meadows to explore by boot, snowshoe, ski, sleigh and snowmobile. I encourage planners to think about how wintertime outdoor recreation can bring attendees together to challenge themselves and each other. Our state boasts miles and miles of accessible cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails. Some travelers are surprised to learn that Montana offers epic downhill skiing at world-class resorts and family-owned hidden gems—both with virtually no lift lines. We are partial to Discovery Ski Area just outside of Philipsburg, one of Montana’s most historic towns.

Skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

Skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

Near Discovery is The Ranch at Rock Creek, where I hang my professional hat. Sitting on 6,600 awe-inspiring acres that become a group’s playground during the length of their stay, The Ranch at Rock Creek is an all-inclusive luxury guest ranch located halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in the heart of Western Montana. Our guests enjoy twice-daily guided seasonal adventures, while groups from around the world travel to our remote ranching valley to reconnect, team build and conduct business. Their professional pursuits are infused with experiences like horseback riding through a meadow and casting a fishing line for the big one on the banks of our pristine trout stream, Rock Creek (home to 2,000 fish per river mile).

Our robust outdoor activity program includes over 20 year-round activities, while in the winter guests venture out to snowshoe, cross-country ski, ice skate, horseback ride, target shoot, sled, play hockey or bundle up on a sleigh ride or snowcat trek.

Guests enjoy a snoscat tour.

Guests enjoy a snowcat tour.

When working with groups to plan their on-ranch activities, our on-site coordinators customize experiences to suit the needs of your attendees, which means a group could snowshoe to a remote creek-side location for a gourmet picnic lunch, brainstorm around the campfire after dinner or team up in a survivor-skills competition in the forest.

The perfect gathering place after dinner.

The perfect outdoor gathering place after dinner.

Enrichment Through the Land and Lifestyle
For those who enjoy the stories of the legendary West, Montana is the perfect stop. Big Sky Country honors its history through the celebration and preservation of our pioneer spirit and American Indian heritage, while ranches and farms remain strong cornerstones of the Montana landscape and lifestyle.

The chef prepares an outdoor lunch.

The chef prepares an outdoor lunch.

Throughout the state, travelers discover thriving farm-to-table culinary experiences, due to the many hard-working ranchers, farmers and purveyors that make their home here. Visitors to Montana often have the opportunity to embark on a new epicurean journey—tasting foods for the first time such as elk, venison, morel mushrooms and huckleberries. At The Ranch at Rock Creek, our Executive Chef Josh Drage and his team thoughtfully select meats, produce, dairy and delicacies from over 50 Montana purveyors as he serves the best of Montana ranch cuisine paired with regional wines and award-winning local brews, including Philipsburg Brewing Company.

On-site bartenders create Montana-inspired cocktails.

Cocktails feature handcrafted Montana spirits and local ingredients. 

Besides reaping the bounty of the land, Montana guests can immerse themselves in the richness of the region when they explore the national parks, dip into thermal hot springs and trek around ghost towns throughout the year.

Reconnect in Nature
During most winter days, the Montana sky is filled with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds, allowing you to see for miles and miles across the Northern Rocky Mountains. Across the ranges and lower hills and rivers, you may spot elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and bald eagles, while in our rivers and lakes you’ll find a diverse selection of fish. Like many corners of Western Montana, The Ranch at Rock Creek is nestled among several mountain ranges and wilderness areas, which means our ranch is free of light pollution and offers incredible opportunities to see Montana’s star-filled and immense sky.
Sidenote: Read more about ways to reconnect in nature in “Cross It Off Your Bucket List,” a blog we published earlier this year.

A serene setting at the ranch.

A serene setting at the ranch.

As many business executives are attached to devices, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers meeting attendees the chance to unplug and immerse themselves in natural surroundings and to become rejuvenated as they watch the moonlight bathing the glistening snow or a never-ending sea of stars after the fire goes out.

The Milky Way in Glacier National Park. Photo: GNP Flickr

The Milky Way in Glacier National Park. Photo: GNP Flickr

Montana Hospitality on a Cold Winter Night
When I moved to Montana, I had no idea how helpful and welcoming my neighbors would be. It’s true that the warmth of Montana hospitality shines as a standout feature of the travel experience. Around here, our team believes that our guests should feel as if they are being invited into the family home as they experience authentic Montana.

The inside of the Buckle Barn, a great meeting space at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

The inside of the Buckle Barn, a beautiful and comfortable meeting space at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Executive meeting hosts can absolutely feel confident that their attendees will be made to feel welcome and comfortable in Big Sky Country. It may sound simple with no glitz or glitter, but after a day of team building in the outdoors, guests find great enjoyment gathering around a grand stone fireplace sharing stories and toasting with a Moscow mule. Plus, during winter months, many resorts—including ours— invite event planners to consider special offers to encourage corporate groups and help them experience the best winter has to offer in Western Montana.

If you are in search of new exhilarating adventures, warm hospitality and spectacular settings in the American West to complement your business meeting objectives, we hope to welcome you to the Treasure State very soon.

Happy trails and meet me in Montana,
Heather Rue

The author, Heather Rue

The author, Heather Rue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Heather is the director of marketing at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana where she leads the cross-channel marketing efforts to build awareness of and tell stories about The Ranch’s exceptional Montana travel experiences. She has produced hundreds of corporate, nonprofit and cause-marketing events and programs. Heather is active in her local community and is raising country kids, chickens and labs while soaking up all life in Montana has to offer. 

 

A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP THROUGH WESTERN MONTANA

We all know that the best—and quite frankly the only way—to really know if a destination is right for your next meeting, conference or corporate retreat is to experience it firsthand. With that in mind, last month Western Montana’s Glacier Country invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Montana for a familiarization (FAM) tour to visit our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, where we showcased meeting facilities, off-site venues, farm-to-fork offerings and authentic Montana experiences that seemed custom-made for meetings.

After flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) the group took a scenic 30-minute drive to The Resort at Paws Up an authentic working cattle ranch and one of Western Montana’s luxury guest ranches. The ranch has varying accommodations from lavish guest homes to riverside glamping tents that include a camp butler who’s dedicated to your group’s needs. The glamping tents were a hit with the planners and we took a few minutes to relax around the fire along the Blackfoot River—one of Montana’s premiere blue-ribbon fly-fishing trout streams.

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

After the site tour we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and cultural hub. We had a restful night’s sleep at the DoubleTree by Hilton (featuring 171 guest rooms and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space). The next day we met up with representatives from Destination Missoula—the official convention and visitors bureau—before visiting some of Missoula’s meeting and event spaces including Big Sky Brewery, The Wilma Theater, the Missoula Art Museum and one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. The Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown (featuring 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. feet of meeting space) is one of Missoula’s leading convention hotels and hosted us for the night before we departed for Bigfork the following morning.

Big Sky Brewery is the largest producer of craft beer in Montana.

Big Sky Brewery is the largest producer of craft beer in Montana.

The drive from Missoula to Bigfork north on Highway 93 happens to yield some of the most scenic vistas in Montana, including the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountain Range. With Montana’s fall colors on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. Family owned and operated for over 65 years, the 2,000-acre resort sits on the east shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—where it offers both horse and water recreation, as well as accommodations that vary from small cabins to rustic lodges and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. While the resort hosts families for week-long vacations from mid-June through Labor Day, it can be reserved for groups the months of May, early June, September and October making it the ultimate spring or fall retreat destination.

Lunch at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Lunch at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. Upon entering the park, we stopped for a photo at the Glacier Park sign, then continued on to Lake McDonald Lodge were we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald. It was a perfect afternoon in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Discover Kalispell—the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau—welcomed the planners with an insightful historical tour on the Montana Trolley, a service that’s used to transport groups on specialty tours and to events throughout the Flathead Valley. The trolley dropped us at the Conrad Mansion—once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad—for a tour and delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions.

Montana Trolley ride to dinner.

Montana Trolley ride to dinner.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the conveniently located Red Lion Kalispell in the heart of downtown Kalispell (featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space). After spending the morning on site tours of additional meeting options in Kalispell, we headed to the north end of Flathead Lake and climbed aboard the Far West for an excursion on Flathead Lake. The Far West is available for leisure tours daily throughout the summer and can be chartered for special events for up to 150 passengers.

Cruising with Far West on Flathead Lake.

Cruising with Far West on Flathead Lake.

Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish where we were greeted by Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our first night in Whitefish we had dinner in the elegant wine room at Grouse Mountain Lodge. The next morning we visited the newest boutique property in downtown Whitefish—The Firebrand Hotel (featuring 86 guest rooms, a small meeting room and board room). The rest of the day was spent shopping on Central Avenue, looking at the team-building activity options at Whitefish Mountain Resort and lodging options on Big Mountain—including the option to buy out the mountainside Kandahar Lodge for groups of 10 to 50 in the spring and fall months.

The cozy mountainside Kandahar Lodge.

The cozy mountainside Kandahar Lodge.

Our final evening was spent sipping spirits at Whitefish’s newest distillery, Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits—perfect for receptions or cocktail hour—and dining at one of the local favorites, Ciao Mambo before heading to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space) on the shore of Whitefish Lake for a restful night’s sleep.

Good morning from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

After a delightful breakfast, the planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA) (a 15-minute drive from downtown Whitefish) for home.

It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana’s meeting options.

If you would like more information about Western Montana’s Glacier Country as a meetings destination (feel free to check out our week at #MeetInMontana on instagram and twitter) or are interested in participating in the next meeting planner FAM highlighting our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, drop me an email here.

Meet me in Montana,

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA

For the third year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 18 – 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in booth 812 and learn more about Montana as a meeting destination. Whether you are looking for the perfect luxury guest ranch for a corporate incentive group, a large branded hotel with a ballroom and breakouts for the association conference or the mountainside hot springs resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Bozeman, Great Falls and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America.

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Joining the Montana booth this year is Daryl Schliem, the President and CEO of the Bozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau. The hospitality options and outdoor activities that attract meeting planners to the Bozeman area include an abundance of recreation, resorts, shopping, museums, breweries and its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In town, you’ll find plenty of local flavor in Bozeman’s historic downtown shops, restaurants and galleries. From a casual boardroom meeting to the formal ballroom soirée, Bozeman has plenty of meeting and function space as well as over 2,500 guest rooms. Boasting the largest airport in Montana, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many direct flights to major cities in the U.S., making Bozeman the perfect mountain meeting setting, providing everything a group needs to get business done by day along with an exhilarating Montana experience waiting just outside the conference room door.

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum is the Executive Director at the Great Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau and will be joining the Montana booth to discuss the alluring landscapes, rugged independence and genuine experiences that create authentic Montana meeting memories in Great Falls. Offering top-notch meeting space along whttp://rebecca@visitgreatfalls.orgith quality accommodations, Great Falls—the third largest city in Montana—has additional highlights that include the C.M. Russell Museum, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. With nearly 2,200 guest rooms available and more than 120,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, Great Falls can accommodate groups of more than 2,000 attendees and citywide events of up to 5,000 attendees.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With the addition of a new hotel in 2016, Kalispell offers 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mary Holmes, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Mary Holmes, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Director of Sales and Services for Destination Missoula, Mary Holmes will be back to talk about meetings in Missoula again this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Missoula International Airport from 12 major U.S. markets.

Jessica Downing, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

Jessica Downing, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Jessica Downing focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With the addition of two new hotels in 2016 and more than 700 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 1,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three hub cities. Within the western region of Montana is an array of properties that are well-equipped to host meetings and conventions of various sizes, including small events, incentive travel, corporate retreats and large conferences. These properties include luxury guest ranches, hot springs resorts and mountainside lodges. And when you combine these meetings offerings with two international airports, shoulder season prices and team-building activities, it’s easy to see why meeting planners are taking a look at Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2016, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:

*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, and the CVB’s in Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minute appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman and Great Falls are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by booth 812 anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

And if you’re a meeting planner not attending IMEX America, we’d still love to help you plan your Montana meeting. All of the contacts listed above are happy to help you find the perfect fit for your meeting needs.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect destination for your meeting in Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

THE TOP 5 REASONS TO CHOOSE WESTERN MONTANA FOR YOUR MOUNTAIN MEETING

Meeting planners know that inspiring destinations generate inspired ideas. Whether it’s the fresh mountain air, the outdoor activities or the soaring altitude, planners often say meetings held in the mountains are the most productive meetings. With that in mind, I would like to introduce our venues here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country that offer spectacular settings for your next meeting or event, whether it’s a larger conference in Missoula with mountain views in every directions or a board retreat at a mountainside lodge atop Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Sunrise at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Sunrise at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Here are the top 5 reasons to hold your next meeting in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana.

1. Stunning Scenery. If you’re looking for snow-covered peaks, look no further than Glacier Country and our bevy of  mountain ranges including the Mission, Swan, Cabinet, Whitefish, Flathead, Purcell, Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains, as well as the stunning peaks in Glacier National Park. In the spring, feast your eyes on blankets of mountainside wildflowers and the breathtaking bear grass that flowers every five to seven years. The fall offers an array of red, orange and yellow hues and Montana’s tamarack trees—also known as the western larch—are stunning in autumn. The majestic views of Big Sky Country in the summer are something to behold and we’re certain that stargazing at Montana’s star-filled night skies (with little to no light pollution) are something attendees will talk about long after the meeting is over.

Tamarack trees in autumn.

Tamarack trees in autumn.

Snow-capped peaks of the Mission Mountains.

Snow-capped peaks of the Mission Mountains.

2. Unique Lodging and Conference Options. The lodging and conference venues in Western Montana range from charming hot spring resorts to mountainside lodges and larger branded hotels and conference centers to rustic lakeside guest ranches. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is also home to three of Montana’s luxury guest ranches and a prime destination for corporate incentive meetings and retreats (read more about those here.

Rejuvenating pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

Rejuvenating pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

Mountainside lodging at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Mountainside lodging at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

3. Networking Opportunities. Because of the relaxed environment—the nature and scenery that surrounds them—attendees are able to relax and be more productive in thoughts and ideas. Without the big-city sights and sounds to draw their attention and time, people usually stay and network at the self-contained mountain destination. This allows for an increase in networking, bonding and a better exchange of idea that leaves your meeting attendees very satisfied with the mountain meeting experience. Volunteering has become a big part of meetings and is another way to bond and network, all while giving back to the community where the meeting is held.

Networking lakeside, Montana style.

Networking lakeside, Montana style.

Volunteering at a Montana state park while at a conference.

Volunteering at a Montana state park while at a conference.

4. Team-Building Opportunities. Few settings can match the mountains: the terrain found in Montana offers unimaginable variety all four seasons of the year. At Whitefish Mountain Resort, the summer months offer opportunities for teamwork and team bonding while having fun at the Aerial Adventure Park, an obstacle course that sits among the trees and off the ground at the resort.  Or paddle as a team as you maneuver your raft through the rapids on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park or the Alberton Gorge near Missoula. At Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, team competitions take place with dummy steer roping, canoe racing and cocktail making.

Canoe racing competition on Flathead Lake.

Canoe racing competition on Flathead Lake.

Hiking to the M above Missoula for a team selfie.

Hiking to the M above Missoula for a team selfie.

5. Accessibility and Affordability. With two international airports in Western Montana—Missoula International Airport located in Missoula and Glacier Park International Airport located in Kalispell and only 20 minutes from both Whitefish and Glacier National Park—along with increased air service and decreasing ticket prices, getting here for that spectacular mountain meeting is easy. Historically, spring and fall have been the prime meeting and conference seasons which fits perfectly with Western Montana’s shoulder seasons, offering great rates and plenty of availability. Choose to stay in the charming mountain town of Whitefish (more on meeting in Whitefish here) or the regional shopping hub of Kalispell (more on meeting in Kalispell here) or the 2nd largest city and cultural hub of Montana, Missoula (more on meeting in Missoula here).

The charming mountain town of Whitefish, with world-class skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo Explore Whitefish

The charming mountain town of Whitefish, with world-class skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo Explore Whitefish

The bustling town of Kalispell, and the shopping hub of the Flathead Valley. Photo Donnie Sexton

The bustling town of Kalispell, and the shopping hub of the Flathead Valley. Photo Donnie Sexton

The cultural hub of Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana.

The cultural hub of Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect mountain destination for your meeting in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP