CBMR looking to woo big winter season events
Two popular special events formerly held in Mt. Crested Butte—Country in the Rockies and the Carter Center Winter Weekend Auction—won’t be returning to town this year, although Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s (CBMR) Gina Kroft says there’s a good possibility that at least one of the events will return soon.
Country in the Rockies is a music fundraiser for the T.J. Martell Foundation’s Nashville Division, which helps promote cancer research. At the event, country music stars perform at local venues and act as celebrity bartenders. The event was held in Mt. Crested Butte between 1995 and 2006. In 2007 the event moved to Steamboat Springs, Colo. where the 2008 event is also scheduled.
The Carter Center Annual Benefit Auction and Winter Weekend fundraiser originated in Mt. Crested Butte in 1993, founded by former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
The Winter Weekend annually raises nearly $1 million for the organization’s international efforts to encourage peace, advance democracy, control debilitating disease and expand economic opportunities for the poor. In 2002 the event was moved to Snowbird, Utah, but revisited Mt. Crested Butte in 2005. The event is now being held in Sandpiper, Florida, according to Kroft.
Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick says losing these two events made a big impact on the town in 2007, particularly because they were signature events that brought hundreds of return visitors. He says the town is definitely in need of more events of that caliber.
Kroft says hosting the events at CBMR was also a great way to receive national publicity for free. "There’s a great (public relations) value when the Carter event is here and when Country in the Rockies is here because of the publications that CBMR is featured in," she says, referring to magazines, radio and television advertisements that promote the events. For instance, County in the Rockies is broadcast live on Great American Country television, a popular cable channel.
Both events were traditionally held at the Grand Butte Hotel, which is now the Elevation Hotel and Spa. When the Grand Butte was sold to Club Med in 2002, Carter Center Winter Weekend event organizers said the new rates for the conference facilities were too expensive, and the event was moved to Snowbird. However, Club Med did compromise with the Carter Center and the event returned for a year. Conversations with Jay Beck, event coordinator for the Carter Center are ongoing, according to Kroft. According to the Carter Center, the group enjoys the all-inclusive package that they receive from Club Med and the sun destinations, rather than snow.
Country in the Rockies remained at Club Med until the hotel was sold once again in 2006 to the Florida-based development company Sunvest. The new owners immediately began a multi-million dollar renovation of the building, leaving the event without a venue. "They only left because there was nowhere to hold the event since the theater was not available," Kroft says of Country in the Rockies. "Club Med left so quickly it was difficult to create a venue for this special group."
Kroft says the T.J. Martell Foundation’s executive director Laura Heatherly visited the new conference center in Mountaineer Square last year and the Elevation Hotel renovation to see if the resort’s new facilities could be home to Country in the Rockies during 2007. "She thought they were both beautiful, but they were still under construction… Logically they had to go to a facility that was finished and that they were sure of," Kroft says.
Heatherly says she’s pretty busy organizing the upcoming Country in the Rockies, but is considering a visit to the completed facilities this spring. She says there’s certainly a possibility the event could return to the area next winter, but there are factors other then just the venue that will determine its future. "The people of Crested Butte have been fabulous. We appreciate everything the folks in Crested Butte have done and continue to do for us," Heatherly says.
Kroft says the Carter Center Winter Weekend event organizers will also be conducting a site inspection of the new conference facility this winter and she hopes the event could return as soon as next year.
Another event formerly held in Mt. Crested Butte, the Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, may also make a comeback in the next few years, Kroft says. Event organizers for the Winter Sports Clinic are also making a site inspection of the new conference facility in January, although Kroft says the event is still booked at Snowmass Mountain through 2009. Although each of these events has deep roots in the community, Kroft says it will take time to have all of the events back. "We had to create new venues for them to hold their events in order to get them back after changes at the resort."
Fitzpatrick says he’s very optimistic that the new facilities will help lure special events back to the town and CBMR.
Fitzpatrick says, "There are a lot of possibilities" for bringing conference-type events to town, citing the organizations of the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado Education Association and the Colorado Association of Libraries—each of which has held conference-type events in Mt. Crested Butte in the past. "Those types of things are already being looked into," he says.
Outside of the conference center, Kroft says there are plenty of skiing events that could bring a signature image to CBMR and Mt. Crested Butte, like the Honda Ski Tour, which has taken over the familiar Jeep King of the Mountain series.
A handful of familiar skiing-oriented events will once again grace the slopes of CBMR this year, including the Butte Bash College Ski weeks, the Randonee Rally, the Alpine and Telemark Extreme Freeskiing, Championships, the Dan Prater Memorial Cup, and the always-popular Al Johnson Uphill Downhill race.