Michigan's numerous ski resorts are ideal spots for visitors to create memories and engage in team-building activities. Among snow-capped peaks and scenic vistas (talk about a change of scenery from the boardroom), guests can relax and build camaraderie through a host of fun wintertime activities. As Matt Alagna, sales director at Boyne Resorts in Boyne Falls, says, “If you sit on a chair lift with somebody, you really get to know him.”
However, guests don’t need to be skiers—or even athletic—to enjoy the resorts’ many offerings. “Tubing is, literally, sit on an inner tube and go down the hill,” Alagna says. “It’s a blast.” The resorts even tow guests back up. Snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, dog sledding, fat-tire biking, horse-drawn wagon and sleigh rides, and sitting around warm fires toasting marshmallows all are crowd favorites. So are group ski and snowboarding lessons.
Another benefit is attendees come to meetings with clear minds, allowing them to work more productively after the time spent outdoors, says Kevin McKinley, who directs golf and ski operations at Treetops Resort in Gaylord. The resorts have plenty of meeting and conference amenities to ensure business goals are met. Varied lodging options, including hotel rooms, loft units, condos, townhomes, cabins and houses, give planners flexibility to take over a property or scatter guests throughout. Spas, pools and even waterparks round out the resort experience. So grab a cup of cocoa and check out our favorite spots for hitting the slopes.
Boyne Mountain, Boyne Falls
Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs
The two resorts of Boyne are go-to destinations for groups like Allstate Insurance, Top Flite Financial and Spectrum Health. “People come here and it changes them,” Alagna says. “The sense of relaxation just can’t be overstated.” Neither can the many amenities and world-class ski experience.
Boyne Mountain has 470 guest rooms, 37,000 square feet of function space, and 415 acres featuring 60 downhill ski runs and 35 kilometers of cross-country trails. It’s also home to Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark. Boyne Highlands has 435 skiable acres, the most in the Lower Peninsula. It has 405 guest rooms and 31,500 square feet of convention space. Both offer winter zip-line adventures. boyne.com; 800.462.6963
Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville
“Winter is a pretty special time here,” says Director of Sales Arah Johnson. Crystal Mountain offers 50 downhill slopes and additional trails for cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking and snowshoeing. The resort creates custom activities to suit a group’s size and abilities. The horse-drawn surrey ride followed by a toasty bonfire is among of the resort’s most popular, Johnson says.
Another plus: Crystal Mountain is the only four-season resort in the state accredited by the International Association of Conference Centers. The award-winning Crystal Center was designed for productive meetings with 10,200 square feet of dedicated winter meeting and prefunction space, accommodating groups large and small. The resort also features nearly 250 guest rooms. crystalmountain.com; 888.968.7686
Shanty Creek Resorts, Bellaire
Even with 4,500 acres and three villages, Shanty Creek makes groups feel like they’re “the only game in town,” says Chris Hale, vice president of sales and marketing. Cedar River Village was designed for meetings, with 95 guest rooms (85 one-bedroom suites, 10 two-bedroom suites) and 10,000 square feet of meeting space. Summit Village, with 183 rooms and 16,000 square feet of function space, suits larger gatherings.
Resort highlights include cooking competitions, private tubing, 53 downhill slopes, six terrain parks and 30 kilometers of cross-country trails; custom-built ice bars elevate the après ski experience. Shuttles go between villages and into the charming town of Bellaire, home to Short’s Brewing Company (winner of the 2014 Best of MIM+E readers’ choice award for Best Brewery). shantycreek.com; 800.678.4111
Otsego Club and Resort, Gaylord
Last winter, 25 Detroit auto executives arrived at Ostego looking for an escape and a place to focus on a special project, according to Resort Sales Manager Lisa Hickok. Alpine charm and views of the Sturgeon River valley helped accomplish just that, and a glamping (glamorous camping)-style dinner and bonfire at the snow-capped River Cabin toasted the meeting’s success.
Skiing is not open to the public, so your guests will never stand in line for winter fun, Hickok says. Membership (or sponsorship) is required to ski; affordable test-drive memberships are available. For larger meetings, planners can take over the entire property (117 guest rooms; meeting space for 200 plus). The resort’s central location off Interstate 75 makes navigating to the resort a breeze. otsegoclub.com; 800.752.5510
Treetops Resort, Gaylord
The staff here knows how to put fun in offsite meetings. Consider the Skiable Feast, a progressive dinner on cross-country skis or snowshoes with food and beverage stations set up approximately every kilometer under snow-covered trees. The activity appeals to even non-athletes, McKinley says. With private session tubing, 23 ski hills and three excellent terrain parks, the resort offers something for everyone, he adds.
The smaller property has a family atmosphere, and, with three chair lifts converging in one location, it’s easy to locate your party after meetings. The resort has 238 guest rooms and more than 20,000 square feet of versatile meeting space, and is located minutes from Interstate 75. treetops.com; 866.348.5249
Indianhead Mountain Resort, Wakefield
With incredible views of Ottawa National Forest and Lake Superior (on clear days), this summit-top resort guarantees a relaxing, Upper Peninsula experience and 200 inches of snow. If your group wants to get away from distractions and stress, “the Upper Peninsula is the right place,” says Dave Nyquist, vice president of sales and marketing. Guests can access some of the Midwest’s biggest and best terrain, including Indianhead’s 30 ski runs and those at the nearby Blackjack Resort. Additional distinctive offerings include guided moonlight snowshoeing and bonfires.
The resort’s Main Lodge and Summit Center are favorite spots for training sessions and board meetings. Indianhead can accommodate groups up to 150, but intimate meetings are its specialty. indianheadmtn.com; 800.346.3426
Big Powderhorn Resort, Bessemer
After a catastrophic fire in 2011 razed Big Powderhorn’s main building, the owners rebuilt, and today the beautiful resort is the newest one in the Midwest, says co-owner Mary Segalin. The Caribou Lodge now offers dining, meeting space and three break-out rooms for groups of up to 100. The resort manages 41 properties, ranging from one-bedroom cabins to six-bedroom condos that sleep 17. Some larger units are ideal for catered 10-person retreats, says Segalin.
Lounging at the outdoor gas fire pit is a favorite activity after enjoying up to 17-plus feet of natural snow and 250 skiable acres. Shuttles transport guests to lodging, into town and to the regional airport. The resort is on the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway, known for its waterfalls. bigpowderhornresort.com; 800.501.7669
MAKE THE MOST OF SKI RESORTS
Here are a few tips to help you plan a winter meeting that is both productive and enjoyable.
Put fun on the agenda. “Most successful meetings have one thing in common: Their attendees have a good time,” says Dave Nyquist, vice president of sales and marketing at Indianhead Mountain Resort. Give attendees some individual time, or integrate meeting goals into recreation. “There’s nothing worse than being in a place that has all this great stuff to offer and not having an opportunity to take advantage of it,” says Crystal Mountain Director of Sales Arah Johnson.
Hold mid-week meetings. The best rates and lodging options can be had Sunday through Thursday. Pricing tends to be driven by the school calendar and is highest on weekends and when kids are on break. Midweek discounts on ski rentals and lift tickets make spending a few hours on the slopes more affordable. If families want to join attendees for the weekend, stay-over packages can be arranged, says Chris Hale, Shanty Creek’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Plan ahead. Book at least six months out if you want to take over a property; less if the group doesn’t need to stay under the same roof, Hale says. Thoroughly share details about your group and what you want to accomplish. “[With enough lead time], we can create some magic,” says Matt Alagna, sales director at Boyne Resorts.
Size it right. While most ski resorts can accommodate larger groups, the ideal meeting size generally is up to 150 guests. This lets the resort cater to the group and create customized teambuilding activities that integrate meeting goals, says Kevin McKinley, director of golf and ski operations at Treetops Resort. Planners also will have greater flexibility in terms of lodging.
Bring the kids. Ski resorts have indoor and outdoor activities suited to guests of every age, and plenty geared toward children. Many offer child care. At Treetops Resort, for example, the licensed child care center hosts themed parties for kids similar to the ones their parents attend.
Don’t fret the weather. Planners sometimes shy away from holding off-site meetings in the winter
because they’re concerned about weather. While that certainly can be a factor, winter is a great time to meet and come north, Johnson says. Ski resorts are the one place where abundant snow is a good thing.