Meet Outside the Box

Words by Cara Williams

When in person meetings and events returned last year, the quest for compliance with local and provincial safety guidelines opened the door to new solutions on how to gather. One of the most welcome changes has been turning to outdoor venues to ensure attendee safety, while at the same time, delivering an authentic destination experience and the opportunity to connect more fully to one another.

Blue Mountain Resort’s natural setting highlights its stunning position along some of the most scenic sections of the Niagara Escarpment. As one of Ontario’s top attractions, and the province’s only year-round mountain resort, the multi-acre property offers a variety of open-air pavilions, scenic courtyards, and impressive trails, all nestled against the stunning backdrop of Georgian Bay.

“We see 400 to 500 groups in a normal year,” says Helen Stukator, Director, Sales and Group Services at Blue Mountain. “So, the pandemic had a massive impact on the region in terms of employment. From housekeepers to chefs to office staff—it was devastating to lose that business. It’s what keeps us all afloat in the off-season. When we started welcoming customers back, it was very interesting to see this roster of companies that were coming back every two-to-three months. They felt safe here—they liked that they could meet for a half day then get outside and network together or team build. They didn’t have to spend eight hours in a boardroom. Whether they spent their afternoon on the golf course, or going for a hike, they were able to be together, but in a safe and fun environment.”

Building on this, Blue Mountain Resort curated a variety of non-traditional settings that could be used as special venue sites for groups, both big and small. “We’ve created boardroom type environments out-of-doors, around the resort— under trees, in courtyards and outside of the Village Conference Centre. It was really important that our guests felt safe, but it was also important to get back the group business so we could employ back the number of employees who unfortunately didn’t have work for several months.”

From May through October, multiple mountaintop venues including the Summitview Pavilion and the newest après adventure spot, the Off-Piste Patio, provide groups (and individuals) with jaw-dropping views and full food and beverage service—what a stunning vantage point to host your next budget meeting. “We’ve built such a great groups business that no matter what week you pick out of the 52 in a year, there’s always something fun for you to do at Blue Mountain. We’ve figured out how to entertain through all of our attractions, and it’s a great way to keep people employed.”

Since countless people have been working from home over the last two to three years, moving programming to a space that allows attendees to soak up the essence of a destination adds a valuable element, but also ticks a key “wellness” box that’s becoming an increasingly high priority. In addition to increased safety, outdoor spaces provide inspiration, and as an added bonus, they aid in fostering creativity and rejuvenation.

The appeal of hosting meetings “en plein air”, rather than via Zoom, is likely here to stay. Add team building, visiting a resort attraction or a mid-meeting hike and you’ve likely crushed your individual business goals while providing a full itinerary of outdoor activities that motivate and inspire. Blue is teasing a new outdoor wedding and conference venue at the south end of the resort— stay tuned for updates. “Blue Mountain excels when it comes to team building. The unparalleled setting, variety of programs and our partnership with Summit Team Building will take your event to a new level. Together, we can select the best team building option for your group that infuses fun, energy and excitement into your event while supporting your theme and development goals.”

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