Of the local tours Stoweflake suggests to planners, the most popular is Taste of Vermont. During the four-hour tour, groups are taken to local favorites including the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Cabot Cheese, and Lake Champlain Chocolates.
Recently, Stoweflake Resort & Conference Center
in Stowe, VT, unveiled a new program for groups to experience local food, beverages, and activities, both on- and off-property. The program, Merchants-to-Meetings
, brings more than 30 local businesses into the attendee experience. Everything from the small (using local maple sugar in the property's 50,000-square-foot, 30-room spa) to the large (tours through Stoweflake's partnerships with eight local breweries, distilleries, and wineries) can be brought into a group's meeting for a totally local, Vermont experience.
The Merchants-to-Meetings program is the latest way in which Stoweflake -- which has been owned and operated by the Baraw family since the resort's founding in 1963 -- has incorporated its deep Stowe roots into the meeting experience.
"Anything local is hot," says Scot Baraw, vice president of sales for Stoweflake. "Vermont farm-to-table dinners are in high demand and our chefs love preparing them."
Another recent Stoweflake group initiative pairs golfing at the resort's par-3 course with a trip to the adjacent -- and nationally renowned -- Alchemist Brewery, where lines to buy their limited-supply beer routinely stretch out the door. (Alchemist is "America's most coveted beer," according
to Men's Journal,
and it can only be purchased within a small pocket of Vermont -- nowhere else in the world.)
"The group plays nine holes followed by a tasting over at Alchemist," says Baraw. "The great thing about this program is that it only takes about an hour, it's right here on property, and there is no fee to play the course or to taste the beer."
Groups that aren't interested in golf but are interested in trying the famous local beer can instead opt for a dinner-and-brewery pairing."We are now selling dinners on the edge of our property over by the Alchemist," says Baraw. "[Groups] dine on our property, trying some local and Alchemist brews, then can stroll over to the tasting room for free samples. Both programs are starting to gain traction and get noticed by our groups."
The Spa at Stoweflake contains 30 treatment rooms and over 150 varieties of spa services, as well mineral soaking pools and a 10,000-square-foot meditation garden. In addition to a gym, the property features squash, racquetball, and tennis courts.
These groups are coming primarily from the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, Baraw says, but Stoweflake is hosting groups from all over the country and some international meetings, too. He says that the groups themselves vary -- they include corporate, association, and SMERF -- a situation he ascribes to Stoweflake's "incredibly flexible and diverse property, well suited for all types of meetings and events."
The 176-room property, which is the only IACC-certified facility in Vermont, features 19 meeting rooms and over 42,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, and is able to handle small, large, and simultaneous groups. Stoweflake is seeing group business year round, due in part to Stowe's most well-known attraction -- incredible skiing -- but also because of its wide range of summer activities, including hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. In fact, Baraw says, ski season isn't even Stoweflake's busiest time of year with groups.
"We are far busier in the summer and fall," says Baraw. "Winter is busy, but mostly on weekends and holidays, whereas summer and fall are much more consistently busy. Guests love the warm weather and all of the activities that are offered on and nearby the property."
Stowe is poised to become even more of a destination now that Vail Resorts has closed on a $41 million deal to acquire Stowe Mountain. Stowe Mountain is the first and only East Coast property in Vail Resorts' 15-resort portfolio, and Baraw hopes the purchase will bring attention to Stowe and to Stoweflake.
"I think it helps put Stowe on the map even more, and Vail will have a more multi-pronged, multi-property marketing effort to help bolster business, in particular during the winter mid-week times," says Baraw.