When the Wild West beckons groups, Idaho answers with a list of scenic, adventure-oriented properties that will have attendees feeling focused, content and revitalized. Visitors are welcomed by local communities and can participate in events such as the 10-day Winter Carnival in McCall or the annual Huckleberry Festival in Donnelly.
The friendly atmosphere and sense of community at the following seven properties will leave groups smiling and filled with memories of fly-fishing and huckleberry pie.
SHORE LODGE, MCCALL
Payette Lake and Shore Lodge have been delighting visitors since 1948. The resort stood by as the city of McCall transitioned from a mining and logging community to the charming tourism destination it is now.
According to Jennifer Franklin, public relations manager at the property, located 110 miles north of Boise, the lodge first opened as a family vacation spot and meeting groups came along later, once word got out what a great retreat site it was. The property has approximately 13,000 square feet of meeting space and in 2002 the addition of the Payette Pavilion, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking its namesake lake, expanded event options.
The year-round resort harkens back to true Idaho style; casual and comfortable, yet productive.
“It feels small compared to some of the huge ski resorts in the state, and it’s less congested,” Franklin says. “It is perfect for incentive trips or smaller corporate groups.”
Brundage Mountain ski resort is just 10 minutes from the lodge, and in the summer guests can play on the Whitetail Club golf course.
In addition to skiing, resort activities include tennis, racquetball and basketball.
Franklin has seen an emerging trend where more and more groups are bringing their families along on business trips and corporate retreats to combine work and play. This family atmosphere aligns with the community-centric history of Shore Lodge. The resort is well respected locally, and many Idaho families have been coming to the resort for generations.
With plenty of advance planning, groups can take part in major regional events such as the McCall Winter Carnival and the Payette Lake Antique & Classic Wooden Boat Show in the summer.
The lakefront setting provides memorable experiences for groups. A popular way to unwind after a long day of meetings is to embark on a sunset cocktail float on the resort’s pontoon boats.
Sixty-one of the 77 suites have lake views, and groups love the resort’s cozy atmosphere.
“We have great fireplaces, and it’s easy for groups to feel like they own the property. Buyouts are very popular,” Franklin says.
The rustic authenticity carries over to the Narrows Restaurant, the lodge’s fine-dining experience, where acclaimed Chef Eric Gruber prepares his take on gourmet Rocky Mountain cuisine. He forages for his own mushrooms when they are in season and has 24 different recipes for locally picked huckleberries, the Idaho state berry.
The Cove spa opened in 2011, rounding out the luxury package for incentive groups and guests looking to relax. The spa features a range of treatments, and indoor and outdoor saltwater immersion pools lined with granite boulders mimick Idaho’s famous mineral hot springs.
TAMARACK RESORT, TAMARACK
Tamarack Resort’s location in the Payette River Mountains of central Idaho offers a unique blend of mountain, meadow and lakefront space. The four-season resort, situated in the Donnelly area about 100 miles north of Boise, offers year-round recreational activities.
“Summer and winter are huge for golf and skiing, but autumn retreats are really good as well,” says Margo Flaherty, sales and events manager at Tamarack.
For snow enthusiasts, the Tamarack ski area has 32 runs and three high-speed quad lifts, as well as Nordic ski trails and snowshoeing. With 86 miles of shoreline along Lake Cascade, many watersports await groups, and the Osprey Meadows signature golf course is laced with rolling bike trails and walking paths.
“We have a huge selection of lodging and prices, from standard king hotel rooms to four-bedroom chalets, cottages and custom estates,” Flaherty says.
In 2008, the resort was hard hit by the collapse of the real estate market and filed for bankruptcy, but the Tamarack Municipal Association kept the property’s hotel, golf and ski mountain operating, and things are looking up for the resort. According to Flaherty, Tamarack is receiving a large number of group inquiries and the property resumed booking events in March.
Conference facilities at the property’s Arling Center include a schoolhouse and a chapel totaling 6,700 square feet. Named for the historic town of Arling, which disappeared when Lake Cascade flooded in 1948, the facility is nestled in the center of the resort and surrounded by trees.
SUN VALLEY RESORT, KETCHUM
Sun Valley Resort was created in 1936 by the Union Pacific Railroad to draw entertainment and celebrities out West, and that tradition continues today, according to Brent Gilette, director of sales at the property.
“We have a lot of arts for a small town,” he says.
Sun Valley and the city of Ketchum are lined with galleries and shops, and the resort is more than just a ski destination, offering an array of unique entertainment options that are perfect for groups.
“We’ve done the summer resort convention business for a long time,” Gilette says. “We are just as busy in the summer as we are in the winter.”
During the warmer months, Olympic-caliber performers take over Sun Valley’s ice rink on Saturday nights.
Groups as large as 400 people can book a dinner buffet and enjoy the show from a section of reserved seating. Another dining option is to take a sleigh ride just over a mile to Trail Creek Grounds, a historic hideaway at the base of a mountain. Groups can feast on a Western-style barbecue that is served from wagons and features Idaho trout or locally raised beef.
In recent years, nighttime dining at the Roundhouse restaurant on top of Bald Mountain has become increasingly popular.
“Groups love that is has such a great view,” Gilette says, “You can ride the gondola up, so you don’t have to be an expert hiker or biker.”
The restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner during both winter and summer seasons.
Sun Valley’s acquisition of a second full golf course and the construction of its own 9-hole course rounded out the package for golfers.
“This really set us up as a golf resort,” Gilette says. “It’s one of the biggest draws because when corporate groups and travelling golf clubs come here, they can play more than one course.”
Sun Valley caters to a variety of groups, and up to 45 percent of its group business comes from repeat visitors. Meeting space is primarily located in the Sun Valley Inn, the newer of the property’s two hotels. There are also rental condos available for groups that want to make their trip into a vacation experience.
“It doesn’t get crowded here like it does at other destinations, and when I bring a group in, they just fit in with the locals and it’s relaxing,” he says.
COEUR D’ALENE RESORT,
A frequent recipient of awards and accolades, Coeur d’Alene Resort makes a splash with groups. From lakeside dining to boat rides to the golf course’s famous floating green, all the action at the resort centers on the lake. There is a 373-slip marina, and in the summer, performances on a floating stage.
The resort recently completed a major renovation, upgrading its lobby and two of its restaurants and adding new outdoor spaces.
“The renovation is really exciting,” says JJ Jaeger, director of sales and marketing at the property. “I’ve always thought we had one of the best golf courses in the country and a fantastic spa. Now we have renovated our lobby and added a large koi fish pond. It feels like a new hotel when you walk in.”
Open year-round and boasting 32,000 square feet of meeting space in 25 rooms, including a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, the resort is sandwiched between the town of Coeur d’Alene and the lake of the same name, offering activities and adventure in both directions.
According to Jaeger, the resort sees a lot of Pacific Northwest regional groups during the winter off-season and more national corporate and incentive groups in the summer.
Meeting groups can walk to town to explore nearby shops and restaurants, or charter boats from the Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruise Fleet, sometimes referred to as “floating boardrooms.” The boats are also used to transport golfers to and from Coeur d’Alene’s golf course, which is a seven-minute shuttle ride away. The course is open from April through October. Visitors can ride in a seaplane or go parasailing on the lake as well.
Alongside the golf course, the 7,000-square-foot Hagadone Event Center was unveiled in 2011 with beautiful glass doors that open onto the lake and space for 500 guests. Another popular way for groups to experience the water is to enjoy cocktails on a boat ride before adjourning to the resort’s main restaurant.
A new outdoor infinity-edge pool is also located on the golf course side of the lake, and Celebration Garden, with 15,000 petunias and a discreetly integrated sound system, can host lively outdoor events. “These recent additions, as well as fire pits and outdoor fireplaces tie in well with the water theme,” Jaeger says. “They will allow visitors even more opportunities to enjoy the stunning outdoor setting and spectacular views.”
TWIN PEAKS RANCH, SALMON
Just down a country road in a canyon lined with cottonwood trees, attendees will find Twin Peaks Ranch, located 18 miles south of the town of Salmon. The 2,900-acre working ranch, offering an authentic Western-style experiences, was created by sportsmen and has been putting together group events, meetings and conferences for years.
The surrounding wilderness is home to wildlife including big horn sheep, moose, bear, deer, antelope and protected herds of Rocky Mountain elk. Team-building and adventure options include trap-shooting, cattle drives, horseback riding and rafting. Attendees can also explore the trails like Lewis and Clark did when they mapped the Northwest Territories or brave a rugged overnight wilderness trip for the ultimate in bonding and teamwork.
Cabin lodging can accommodate up to 55 guests. Though the rooms do not have televisions or phones, they offer covered porches and comfortable chairs for guests to admire the majestic views.
RIVER DANCE LODGE, KOOSKIA
Billed as “Idaho’s Outdoor Adventure Resort,” River Dance Lodge sits on the banks of the Clearwater River, about three hours north of McCall and adjacent to the 1.1-million-acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
Sprung from modest origins, the seed for River Dance Lodge was planted when Peter Grubb, owner and founder of the property, came west for a summer job running rapids as a river guide. He fell in love with the wild waters of Idaho, founded an outdoor adventure company and in 2002 bought five acres of land in north central Idaho with his wife. The lodge grew from there, and now hand-crafted log cabins can accommodate up to 64 guests and there is camping space for larger groups.
River Dance Lodge is not a luxury property in terms of fancy amenities, but for small groups looking to escape into nature, break down barriers and push their boundaries, the team-building experience offered at River Dance is powerful.
“We’re a fairly unique property in central Idaho,” Grubb says. “For a company with the right culture, it is great place to let their hair down and think outside of the box.”
Grubb says one of the biggest perks for groups is that, in addition to the lodge, he also owns and operates the adventure outfitter ROW Adventures (www.rowadventures.com). Planners can control every aspect of group excursions and activities, from white-water rafting to gentle float trips, saving time and avoiding hassle.
The lodge specializes in all-inclusive packages and operates from April through October. Team-building activities depend on the season and include rafting, casting a line for steelhead or trout on the river, hiking to hot springs and horseback riding.
“We have a fun, friendly ranch staff and with notice, they can put together any number of activities for groups,” Grubb says.
MOOSE CREEK RANCH, VICTOR
Location is a major selling point for Moose Creek Ranch, according to Jeanette Beard, manager of the property. Situated one mile from the Wyoming border and “just over the hill from Jackson Hole,” the property is set between the ski meccas Grand Targhee Resort, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King and offers convenient access to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
Beard took over the property three years ago and has completely renovated it. Currently, Moose Ranch has a meeting capacity of up to 100 and hosts midsize regional events, but she is looking to expand and is eager to work with larger events. A variety of lodging includes cabins, a ranch house and glamping-style tents.
“It doesn’t feel like a tourist trap here,” Beard says. “Our location allows for Yellowstone adventures, but groups can still get work done.”