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."

Enoteca 5, an intimate new wine bar in LA’a Pacific Palisades neighborhood, is perfectly aligned with a comfortable return to gathering. The wine bar itself seats 8, with additional indoor tables for a dozen more and an outdoor patio that can accommodate 10 at a long narrow table, making for a very festive party for 30.  If you’re planning a larger gathering, you can take over the adjoining Cinque Terra WEST restaurant and patio, a longtime beloved community spot, for a total capacity of 90.

 

After serving as director of food and beverage at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino more than a decade ago, David Lockard returns to the Lake Tahoe community as general manager of the 405-room Resort at Squaw Creek, a luxury Lake Tahoe resort located in California’s Olympic Valley and featuring 33,000 square feet of indoor and 14,780 square feet of outdoor event space. 

 

Make no mistake: Group business is returning to Anaheim. In a marketing campaign dubbed “Calling All Characters,” Visit Anaheim, the official destination marketing organization for the city, is spreading the news that the home of Disneyland is open and welcoming both leisure and business visitors back.