Mountain Meetings: “Let’s Do Something Positive”

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Mountain Meetings: “Let’s Do Something Positive”

By Blair Potter | Apr 26, 2021

Like much of the world, business at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center in Breckenridge, Colo., essentially came to a halt in summer 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a challenge, but also an opportunity.

“We said if we’re going to be shut down, let’s do something positive,” says Bruce Horii, director of sales and marketing for the resort. “We had the opportunity to replace our roof and HVAC system (scheduled for 2022), which led us to improve our air-handling system and meet the new 5 Star State Certification requirements to operate our conference center more safely.”

Colorado’s 5 Star State Certification is a voluntary program that enables businesses that meet enhanced safety guidelines in qualifying counties and municipalities to open at greater capacity.

As the number of vaccinated Americans increases and because state COVID trends have improved, gathering restrictions have partially eased recently, and Horii believes it’s possible that most restrictions will be lifted by July. And though most group business booked at Beaver Run through May and into June has been canceled, he says one group meeting at the resort in June has restructured its program to incorporate something many people find appealing in the age of social distancing: the outdoors.

“Long-term relationships overcome the pandemic, and true partners help each other overcome the situation using creativity and sheer determination.”

“We’re located at the base of the Breckenridge ski area and adjacent to trails, activities and fresh-air options, and many groups are now taking advantage of these assets,” Horii says. “InnEdCO is going to go up the Burro Trail adjacent to our property for a team-building activity. This group was initially scheduled for a three-day conference, but because of the limits on the number of people who can gather, they changed their model. They’re going to do two days with elementary education and have this break/activity bumper day in between on Wednesday, and then they’re going to do the secondary school education on Thursday and Friday. So both groups will kind of overlap for that bumper day and take advantage of the town and the activities. They just want to get away from their schools and really kind of release some of their pent-up demand.”

And although group business has been limited during the pandemic up to this point, Horii says a sense of partnership and friendship between the resort, meeting planners and event attendees has only grown stronger.

“I think for me the most gratifying piece is we see a lot of repeat business, and with that you know all of these people have felt really bad not only for themselves going through this, but for us as a hospitality partner,” he says, noting that the resort has been lenient in contract enforcement with partners, some of whom they’ve worked with for decades.

The Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) has hosted its largest annual conference (around 1,200 school and district leaders from across the state) at Beaver Run for many years. Though the 2020 event had to be canceled, CASE didn’t leave Beaver Run empty handed.

“[This event] was organized in such a short amount of time and allowed us to showcase The Broadmoor as a safe and secure venue to hold in-person events during a pandemic.”

“When we made the decision to explore hosting an in-person Superintendents Conference last fall, we knew we needed a venue that would be able to think creatively and work with us to ensure a quality event that also met COVID-19 health and safety regulations,” says Melissa Gibson, director of communications and strategic partners for CASE. “Beaver Run went above and beyond to help ensure a great—and safe—experience for our attendees.”

She says the Superintendents Conference—which featured nearly 150 participants—certainly looked different than in past years.

“To ensure social distancing, we split up our attendees into several large meeting rooms with four attendees per table,” Gibson says. “Our speakers presented in one room with live streaming in the other rooms, and we intentionally kept attendees in their designated meeting rooms rather than moving them around to different sessions in different rooms during the event. Meals were grab and go rather than plated or buffet service, and we did temperature checks every day for attendees, among other things. Feedback from attendees was really positive—they felt safe and that the opportunity to learn and talk with one another was still there.”

Horii says Beaver Run has become more adept at hosting hybrid events during the pandemic through its partnership with in-house technology provider Image Audiovisuals.

“Long-term relationships overcome the pandemic, and true partners help each other overcome the situation using creativity and sheer determination to stay within safety protocols while finding ways to ensure we meet our mutual goals to stay afloat,” he says.

Showcasing Safe Events

The Broadmoor, which debuted in Colorado Springs more than 100 years ago, is now prepared for much larger events than it was pre-pandemic thanks to the addition of Bartolin Hall. The facility—which features 125,000 square feet of meeting space, a 93,500-square-foot show floor and 32 breakout rooms—brings the resort’s total function space to 315,000 square feet.

During a recent Zoom digital “first look” at Bartolin Hall, Curtis Robison, director of convention sales for The Broadmoor, said the resort has hosted nearly 350 meetings since reopening (following a pandemic-related closure) on June 28.

“These have ranged from as small as a 10-person board meeting to up to 300-person networking events while following both [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and Colorado health regulations and guidelines,” he said.

Robison tells The Meeting Professional about one story he particularly loves: hosting a meeting industry event in person in November.

“Our client needed to relocate an event from California, and we were fortunate enough to secure it with about five to six weeks’ lead time,” he says. “We pulled off an amazing in-person event for about 25 to 30 planners and an additional 15 to 20 suppliers over the course of three days.”

Robison says the F&B team utilized the resort’s extensive outdoor space and creative service via bento box-style lunches and outdoor reception events.

“The key portion of the event, a one-on-one marketplace, was conducted outside on one of our terraces so that planners and associates could have that valued face-to-face interaction in a safe and controlled environment,” he says. “There are other successful stories, but this one stands out because it was organized in such a short amount of time and allowed us to showcase The Broadmoor as a safe and secure venue to hold in-person events during a pandemic.”

Robison told Zoom participants that the first main event in Bartolin Hall will be the annual Space Symposium in August.

“It started out years ago at The Broadmoor as a 200-person event and has since grown into the largest single space/aerospace-focused convention in the world. While we do not expect to get the full 7,000-person daily traffic, we do think it will be very substantial compared to some of the other events that we’ve held so far,” he said. “Also, due to other states not having the ability to reopen or host meetings and due to the addition of Bartolin Hall, we’ve actually been able to pick up several relocation opportunities for the fall.”

Robison said a big part of The Broadmoor’s appeal is its location at the base of Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak and access to outdoor activities from a large convention facility, such as the cog railway that can take more than 200 people from the base of Pikes Peak to the summit.

Photos: Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center; Bartolin Hall, The Broadmoor



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).