By Kim Wright Wiley

“We host an incentives meeting each year in January for our sales staff,” says Donnette Matthews, director of special events at AlphaGraphics. “And we rotate between a ski location and a beach location. Last year was ski year.” Since AlphaGraphics meetings are fairly low-key, requiring minimal technical support, Matthews was most concerned with finding a site that would keep the diverse sales team happy.

“A ski lodge is great for a winter meeting,” she says, “but only about half of our attendees ski. We have lots of couples and a 50/50 gender mix, so we need a full vacation destination with activities that will keep the whole group entertained. And it has to be high-end.”

Enter Telluride Conference Center, located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. “We have a superb meeting space that’s at the center of a complete mountain resort,” says director of sales John Burchmore. “Our conference center is freestanding and nonresidential, but near a diversity of lodging.” Freed from the burden of thinking, “We all have to be together 24/7,” attendees select where they want to stay, and the Telluride area offers plenty of choices. Sports enthusiasts love the Peaks Resort, and couples craving more privacy might choose a B&B. Since both are in pedestrian towns, event planners can let attendees explore on their own, without having to worry about arranging transportation between events.

The big pull of the Telluride area is that it’s a ski town with more than just skiing. Telluride and its sister town, Mountain Village, are linked by a 12-minute gondola ride (with views so breathtaking that some visitors consider it the highlight of the trip). Between them, the two towns offer golf, tennis, horseback riding, Jeeping, fly-fishing and rafting, as well as upscale shops and restaurants. Matthews reports female attendees were especially dazzled by the 40,000-square-foot Golden Door Spa, located just steps from the Conference Center.

While AlphaGraphics didn’t require high-tech support or elaborate entertainment, Telluride is prepared to offer it. The Center has 11,000 square feet of conference space and can provide such theatrical elements as lighting and staging for sales meetings and product rollouts. “We can do themed parties,” says Burchmore, “or host events like a Stevie Wonder concert for 150 guests in our ballroom.” The catering team puts a Western spin on many of its menus, such as the Native American Dinner, which has Seared Venison with Sage and Roasted Pear and a Cherry Cornbread Pudding. The Western-themed events, not surprisingly, are big hits with East Coast execs looking for the chance to play cowboy.

“For us, the big questions are always ‘Did our people have fun? Will they want to attend again?'” says Matthews. “At our closing banquet, we got great reviews on the meeting, even from people who don’t ski.”

So was AlphaGraphics happy with their Rocky Mountain High-End sales meeting? Matthews offers the Telluride Conference Center team the biggest compliment an event planner can pay:

“We’ll be back next year.”