TALK ABOUT FIRST IMPRESSIONS-when meeting attendees pull up under the porte-cochère at the Resort at Squaw Creek, and the bellman swings open the doors, the wow factor immediately kicks in.

Across the lobby, a wall of windows frames one of the most dramatic views in the Sierra Nevada, the six-peak Squaw Valley massif, home to the most extreme ski terrain in California. Summer or winter, conference attendees and other resort guests can be found lingering in front of the imposing river-rock fireplace near the entry and staring outside as though watching an IMAX movie on a larger-than-life screen.

When it opened in 1990 with 405 guest rooms, a championship golf course, ski-in, ski-out accessibility and a 33,000-square-foot conference center, the Resort at Squaw Creek was something altogether new for Lake Tahoe. Designed to meet International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) standards, it features an unusual configuration for a luxury resort, with guest rooms segregated in a tower separated by a walkway from the building housing the conference center, restaurants, lobby and other public spaces.

Property management company Destination Hotels & Resorts dropped IACC certification as the needs of conference groups changed, but features conducive to high-end meetings-ergonomic chairs, tackable walls, built-in screens and PSAV technology services-remain.

"We’re the largest mountain meeting destination that I know of," says Kristy Olk, senior sales manager for the AAA Four-Diamond property. "And because we have so many activities on-site, people often bring their spouses and families. This is a place where they can combine vacation and business."

Joyce Jones, director of operations for the California Society for Healthcare Engineering Inc., brought her first group of about 325 attendees to the resort in May 2007. The occasion was an annual institute that rotates between venues in the northern and southern parts of the state. "We’ve always met close to an airport," she recalls "so when the club president said, ‘Let’s try Tahoe,’ I was shaking in my boots because people coming from L.A. would have to fly to Reno, 45 minutes away, and people from the Bay Area and Central Valley would have to drive. I was sweating it because if I don’t have enough attendees, vendors aren’t happy."

Jones needn’t have worried. During the registration period "our numbers kept going up and up and up," she says. "When we got there, everyone had a wonderful time-and when we left, they said ‘How can you possibly top this?’ So five years later, we went back. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we return again."

Lura Hawkins, director of member services for CAPG, an association of physician organizations, will bring a group of about 60 health care professionals, many accompanied by their spouses, to the resort for the fourth year this fall.

 "It’s beautiful there," she says. "You feel like you’re getting away from everything. And by coming in the offseason, I’ve been able to get everyone a onebedroom fireplace suite at a good rate. Our medical directors and CEOs really appreciate that. We usually play golf and set up fly-fishing. In fact, about a third of our people either come early or stay an extra day to make a nice weekend of it."

Besides an activities program covering a gamut of summer and winter sports, the resort is home to a full-service spa that was listed among the nation’s Top 10 resort spas in a 2013 Condé Nast Traveler poll. The outdoor pool and hot tub complex is open year-round, and the Mountain Buddies program provides supervised activities for kids 4 to 12 while parents are in meetings or off campus.

Olk notes that up to 350 guest rooms can be blocked for large gatherings, with many overflow options available at hotels elsewhere in the Olympic Valley. The resort typically hosts meetings and events for 10 to 550 attendees, although up to 1,200 can be accommodated.

Perhaps the resort’s best quality as a meetings destination, says Olk, is its ability to satisfy so many diverse needs. "For a larger property, it feels intimate," she says. There’s always a lot of networking going on because people aren’t going off in separate directions after their meetings."

Temperatures are starting to dip in Seattle, but if you want to get in one last outdoor gathering before winter, consider The Rooftop at WeWork Cap Hill. Located on the penthouse level on 11th Avenue near Seattle’s storied Pine and Pike Streets, the space offers inviting landscapes and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Capacity: 74.  Bring sweaters and scarves!

 

The Shay, a Destination by Hyatt hotel, in the Culver City neighborhood is opening its doors.

This marks the Los Angeles debut of the Destination by Hyatt brand, a diverse collection of independent hotels and resorts, with each property embodying the spirit of its location. For the 148-room Shay that means pop-up shops in the lobby, a lobby fire pit, rooftop socials on a pool deck that offers views of downtown.

 

After many delays and budget overruns, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has finally opened. It’s a blockbuster, with enough dazzle, beauty and innovation to, arguably, justify its $484 million cost. And, in good news for meeting planners, the event space here is gorgeous!