Tag Archives: Corporate retreats

MEET IN MONTANA – A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP

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, the first week of June, 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.

After the site tour we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and cultural hub—and met up with Mimi Hall Gustafson from Destination Missoula—the official convention and visitors bureau—and took a short walk along the Clark Fork River to Caras Park to watch river surfers on Brennan’s Wave. After tasting and touring Montgomery Distillery we ventured to one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. We had a restful night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, (featuring 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. feet of meeting space) considered one of Missoula’s leading convention hotels. The next day started with a site tour and breakfast at DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater (featuring 171 guest rooms and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space) before visiting some of Missoula’s meeting and event spaces including The Wilma Theater, Missoula College and the unique and expansive meeting space at the University of Montana followed by lunch overlooking the U of M Grizzlies stadium.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

The view from the Canyon Club overlooking University of Montana’s stadium.

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 spring wildflowers on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was an overnight at 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.

Tour of Flathead Lake Lodge.

Fun ride home from Steak Fry via an old fire truck.

After a hearty ranch breakfast, we meet up with Dawn Jackson from Discover Kalispell—the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau. After several site tours we ventured out to Purple Mountain Lavender, and owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, drys and manufactures everything lavender from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies. The afternoon took us to downtown Kalispell and a lunch dine-around featuring DeSoto Grille, 406 Grill and Slit Rock Café. After some down time the planners enjoyed an insightful historical tour on the Montana Trolley, a service that’s used to transport groups on specialty tours and 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.

Group or spouse outings to Purple Mountain Lavender.

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).

Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish where we were greeted by Dan Hansen with Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our first stop was to visit the newest boutique property in downtown Whitefish—The Firebrand Hotel (featuring 86 guest rooms, a small meeting room and board room). We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort and lodging options including the option to buy out the mountainside Kandahar Lodge for groups of 10 to 50 in the spring and fall months. We had lunch at Casey’s in downtown and enjoyed the rooftop lounge and the beautiful views of the mountains and valley.

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 and gentlemen.

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

Our final evening was spent touring Grouse Mountain Lodge and dining at one of the local favorites, Abruzzo Italian Kitchen one of Whitefishes newest additions 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 or if you 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

INSPIRATION IS ONLY THREE HOURS AWAY: DALLAS, MEET MONTANA

Planning your next board retreat, association meeting, corporate event or group tour just got easier, Texas. American Airlines now offers nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Missoula International Airport (MSO) located in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Here are five reasons why you and your attendees or clients should leave the humidity behind and head north to Montana’s heavenly mountain air.

The magnificent big sky over Glacier National Park. Photo: Hunter Day

BIG SKY INSPIRATION

We’re just going to come right out and say it: Montana is incredibly amazing, and our big sky never ceases to inspire and energize. We provide authentic Montana experiences in breathtaking landscapes, majestic mountains, wide-open spaces and wild rivers that get the creative juices flowing. Plus, we provide everything you need for an unforgettable adventure, from lodging and accommodations to planning, meeting venues, technology, transportation and, of course, fun.

The Milky Way illuminated in Montana’s big sky.

MOUNTAIN MEETING VENUES

No matter the size of your group, we can accommodate. From hotels and conference centers to resorts, sprawling guest ranches, B&Bs and other uniquely Montana locales, our lodging options combine warm welcomes, comfortable meeting spaces, cozy accommodations, cutting-edge technology and ease of access to adventure.

Chuck wagon dinners, offered Montana style.

WESTERN HOSPITALITY

Your neighbors up north offer the same incredibly warm hospitality you’re used to. You’ll fit right in here, Texas. Whether you’re looking to accommodate 3, 30, 300 or 3,000+, we’ll move mountains for you. We specialize in exceptional hospitality and convention support, plus fine, fun and creative dining options from Montana-raised steak and bison burgers to ethnic cuisine, food trucks, comfort food and vegetarian fare. We offer meeting and trip support any way we can—service referrals, arrivals and departures, visitor information, photographs and marketing materials, welcome letters, itineraries and activity planning. Our goal is to ensure you not only have a positive Montana meeting experience, but one you’ll never forget.

Food trucks at Caras Park along Missoula’s waterfront, provide something for everyone.

ACTIVITIES + ADVENTURE

Whether you’re bringing your group to a large hotel or considering a more intimate retreat at a lodge or ranch, group and team-building activities abound here. Nothing brings people together like the wild rush of a guided whitewater rafting adventure, a hike in Glacier National Park, a festival or small-town fair, a music event on the banks of a sparkling river, or fly-fishing hiking, biking, skiing and stand-up paddleboarding. Take a brewery or distillery tour, or just explore downtown Missoula. Groups come together in Montana because our mountains inspire and our recreation is second to none.

Rafting the whitewater in Western Montana is a great team-building activity.

LOCATION IS EVERYTHING

There’s an endless list of reasons why Missoula, Montana makes for one incredible mountain meeting and group tour destination, but one of the top reasons is Missoula’s access to all things Western Montana. This arts and cultural hot spot and big-venue hub with all the amenities of a big city is just a stone’s throw from Glacier National Park, multiple wilderness areas and national forests, countless rivers and lakes, two Indian reservations, wildlife-viewing areas and dozens of incredibly charming small towns with museums, galleries, good food and plenty to drink. Here, you’ll find endless options for day trips and side excursions that let you take in everything Western Montana has to offer, making your meeting, convention or group tour an extraordinary adventure.

Hiking the M trail provides beautiful views of the Missoula Valley.

So, grab your cowboy hats, Texas, and head up north to big skies, cool temps and low humidity. We’ll see you in just under three hours. Let’s do lunch.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: MONTANA’S NOT-SO-OFF SEASON

5 Reasons to Schedule Your Next Meeting in Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Ah, the spring melt! One day the snow drifts are so high we are unsure if spring will ever arrive, and the next day we are sad to see it melting so fast, and we’re left wanting for more turns on the ski hill. The changing of the seasons is something we Montanans often take for granted. It’s one of those things that just sort of happens. When I moved to San Francisco in my mid-twenties, I was so excited to experience the city, even though I knew I would miss the mountains of my hometown, Missoula. To my surprise, it wasn’t the mountains I missed the most, but the four distinct seasons.

Spring sunset over Missoula

I will admit, for the individual traveler, a Montana  summer with warm nights and daylight hanging on until well after 10 p.m., and a winter with epic vertical and no lift lines are both too enticing. However, as a meeting planner and destination professional, I realize Montana’s “off” seasons or what we refer to as shoulder season (spring and fall) are not only spectacular, but perfectly aligned with the desired months for conferences and meetings.  Determined to avoid the travel-heavy summer months and the winter holiday chaos, annual meeting and conference planners often schedule events in spring, early summer and fall. As a self-described Treasure State expert and longtime resident, I’d argue there are no better times to host your event in Western Montana than during these seemingly “off” months. Here are five reasons why:

The Vistas Are Always There
Montana is beautiful year-round. Many locals will refer to this time of year as mud season. Sure, the need for a car wash is real, but the peaks of Glacier National Park are still spectacular and the sunsets on Whitefish Lake are still postcard perfect. Even an early fall thunderstorm rolling across Flathead Lake will take your breath away. The scenery never gets old and never disappoints—that, I  can guarantee. Often we hear that the panoramic views and clear mountain air serve as inspiration for quality discussions and out-of-the-box thinking. Clear skies or not, Montana seems to spark creativity and innovation.

A picture perfect day at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

So Much to Do
My expertise is in Western Montana’s Glacier Country (as it’s called), so I will focus there. Imagine you have a half day to wow conference attendees with an array of activities. You’d love to consider Montana because, let’s face it, you’ve heard so many awesome things, but your conference is in late March. Surely, you think, that’s too early for Montana. Think again. Even in Western Montana, spring will start to show in late February. The days are getting longer and the nights are not as cold. This often results in bluebird days with spring emerging in town, but winter lingering in the mountains—a beautiful contrast. By late March, your list of potential activities could include hiking to the “M” overlooking Missoula, world-class spring skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort, fly-fishing on the Blackfoot River (think A River Runs Through It), snowmobiling to Garnet Ghost Town, wildlife viewing at the National Bison Range, or snowshoeing in Glacier National Park (local secret: Glacier National Park has no crowds in the spring, fall and winter, but these are some of the most magical times to visit). Where else can you find this many diverse outdoor activities in late March? Heck, if you are up for it, you could raft the whitewater of the Lochsa River (full wetsuits, of course).

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

We’ve Got You Covered
Event planners live and die by their backup plans. Montanans are no different, as being prepared is a way of life. We’ll move that trail ride inside for an arena ride, if lightning threatens. Is snow forecasted during your rafting trip? We’ll gear you up or offer a lake cruise in a heated tour boat instead. It’s raining on the ski hill—let’s do a local distillery or creamery tour instead. We’re flexible folks and, while we love being outdoors, the indoor activity options are truly endless and truly Montana. Country jitterbug lessons, anyone?

Under Budget
Many venues that are too expensive or too booked “in season” may be discounted and available.  Imagine treating your attendees to a Montana dude ranch or luxury lodge. The discounts don’t end with accommodations. Many airlines have specials on flights to major Montana cities in the spring and fall.  Also, as the summer and winter crowds begin to dwindle, many of the area vendors will run specials just to stay competitive. Even the convention and visitor bureaus offer incentives for conferences and meetings during the shoulder seasons. Take advantage of these deals and your Montana meeting will be the one nobody forgets.

Unique, Local Events
Montana is no longer the well-kept secret it used to be. That’s great news for local and unique cultural events that can accompany your conference or meeting. If April is your month, attendees could participate in the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula. September features the Dragon Boat races on Flathead Lake. How about a pow wow or rodeo in late May, or a concert at a local brewery or riverside amphitheater? As destination meetings struggle to stay relevant in our digital world, making an authentic connection with a place is essential to the success of your meeting and ensures your attendees will return year after year.

Glacier peaks watching over Flathead Lake.

Meetings Northwest and MNW Destinations
Do you need a sixth reason to plan your conference, meeting or event in Montana? Meetings Northwest and MNW Destinations is now here to help. We plan conferences all over the country, but we’ve added a full service Destination Management Company to our portfolio. We have offices in the Flathead Valley (covering Glacier National Park, Whitefish and Flathead Lake), Missoula and Bozeman (covering Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky). We specialize in helping companies and associations pull off the perfect Montana meeting.

For more information on Meetings Northwest or MNW Destinations contact Amy at alucke@meetingsnorthwest.com

Amy Lucke, Conference & Event Planning/Destination Management

About the author: Amy has been lucky to call Montana home for almost her entire life.  Growing up in Missoula fostered her love for hiking mountains and floating rivers.  Her best memories are summer days spent just north on Flathead Lake and one of the reasons she now calls the Flathead Valley home.

She simply loves sharing the secrets of Northwest Montana’s mountain towns, outdoor adventures and of course the magic of Glacier National Park.  She started in events as a recruiter and admissions representative for The University of Montana and has now worked for clients all over the country as an event planner with Meetings Northwest.  Her favorite events are the ones in her neck of the woods.

13 NONSTOP FLIGHTS TO WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Getting to Montana has never been easier. With the increase in passenger demand for the treasure state and some of the larger airlines now offering direct-flight access into Western Montana as a travel destination from their main hubs, the time is right to visit and see for yourself why they call it Big Sky Country.

Fly direct from Dallas and Chicago to MSO on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers ease of accessibility via two bustling regional airports, Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, and Missoula International (MSO), located in Missoula. Whether you are a meeting planner looking for a relatively undiscovered mountain destination or an association needing convention space near an international airport, we’ve got you covered in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish. For tour operators with clients who have Glacier National Park on their bucket list, cut your clients’ time on a motor coach and consider flying into one of our regional airports before jumping on a coach to see the sites.

A picture perfect day at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Historic red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Six major airlines (United, Delta, Alaska, American, Allegiant and Frontier) provide service between these airports, with a combined 13 nonstop flights (some seasonal) to major cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Phoenix/Mesa, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle, offering flight schedules that make planning your next conference or tour in Western Montana’s Glacier Country a breeze.

Enjoy western hospitality. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

If attendees or clients are not located in one of these direct flight markets, not to worry; it’s a short flight from most hubs on these major airlines. To learn how simple it is to get to Western Montana, find out more.

Come see the Milky Way in big sky country.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP

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.

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

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA

For the fourth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 10 – 12, 2017 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 #A1310 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.

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

Returning to 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 and busiest 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 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 with 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

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 two new hotels that opened in 2016, and more coming in 2017, Kalispell offers over 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.

Mimi Hall Gustafson, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Group Sales Manager for Destination Missoula, Mimi Hall Gustafson will be at IMEX to talk about meetings in Missoula 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.

Dan Hansen, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Dan Hansen 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 more than 1,100 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 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

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 2017, 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, Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minutes 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 #A1310 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

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