June 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Incommunicado - June 2000 Current Issue
June 2000
Nature's way: Guests at Hawaii's Molokai Ranch are lodged in solor-lit bungalows.


All’s quiet at these remote hideaways, where the perpetually wired escape from modern intrusions and reconnect with themselves and each other

By Dale Leatherman

Earlier this decade a sociologist coined the term “cornucopia kids” to describe disenchanted youngsters who are blessed with too much of everything. In essence, we are all members of a cornucopia generation, living in a time of rampant and exciting technology that keeps us perpetually connected to the workplace, business associates and the Web.

It has become almost impossible to hold meetings without the warbling of cell phones and the certainty that attendees will disappear into their rooms to interact electronically rather than talk to each other. Almost impossible. Some resorts have chosen to eschew connectivity and let nature take its course. Without phones, computers or televisions, guests commune with each other and draw a renewal of energy and spirit from the natural setting around them.

“It doesn’t surprise me that meeting planners are looking for remote locations that offer a chance to break away from an increasingly interconnected electronic world,” says Gary LaBranche, vice president in charge of professional development for the American Society of Association Executives. “Sometimes business professionals need a chance to get away, reflect, think and be a little unconnected. It allows us all to focus more when we have that opportunity.”

When it came to choosing a conference venue for 50 top managers at Title Guaranty, a Honolulu-based title insurance company, planner Jim Pietsch selected Hawaii’s 54,000-acre Molokai Ranch, which includes firms like Anheuser-Busch on its client list.

“[The attendees] were apprehensive at first,” says Pietsch, “but they enjoyed having a chance to relax in a non- stressful environment, not at the beck and call of realtors and it was productive.”

Sound enticing? Following are a selection of properties more notable for what they lack than what they offer. Few are equipped with state-of-the-art A/V, although for those who insist on technology, they will arrange to bring in whatever a planner needs. These are places where groups can disconnect to reconnect.

Averill’s Flathead Lake LodgeAverill's Flathead Lake Lodge
Bigfork, Mont.
(406) 837-4391

This 2,000-acre Rocky Mountain dude ranch lies just south of Glacier National Park. The Averill family established the ranch in 1945 and continues to offer a genuine Western experience. What makes it unique is that the ranch fronts on a secluded bay on the largest freshwater lake in the West, with a backdrop of the Rockies. It offers activities as diverse as horseback riding, rodeos, remote mountain cookouts, waterskiing, sailing and cocktail cruises for 150 guests. Along the tree-lined lakeshore are 46 guest cottages accommodating 90. Four meeting areas for 20 to 125 people overlook the lake.

Caneel BayCaneel Bay
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
(800) 928-8889

At the Caribbean resort of Caneel Bay, the wake-up call has been replaced by a gentle “wake-up knock” on the door. The resort provides a luxurious natural setting intentionally lacking in technology and sweetens the experience with sublime personal service. The former Rock Resort lies within the tranquil wilderness of the 5,000-acre Virgin Islands National Park and fronts on seven beaches. The 166 rooms and cottages are decorated in native wood and stone to blend into the surroundings. Hiking and biking trails wind through the park, and the waterfront staff provides equipment and instruction for all watersports. The resort has six meeting rooms and terraces, the largest accommodating 200 guests.

Costanoa Lodge
Pescadero, California
(800) 738-7477

One hour south of San Francisco on a beautiful stretch of beach, Costanoa is adjacent to 30,000 acres of state parks and a wildlife preserve. Guests stay in a 40-room rustic lodge, cabins or tent bungalows. Three meeting rooms, all with natural light and great views, accommodate from 20 to 65 people. The resort is a base camp for coastal or wilderness adventures hiking, horseback riding, biking, kayaking and more. At the end of the day, restorative treatments await in the Spa at Costanoa.

Gold Lake Mountain Resort and SpaGold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa
Ward, Colo.
(800) 450-3544

On a site once favored by Arapaho Indians and gold miners now stands an intimate mountain resort with a Corporate Escape Program for groups of 34 or fewer. Guests at Gold Lake (less than an hour from Boulder or Denver) stay in 18 restored historical cabins. Meetings are held around an oversized stone hearth in the 100-year-old log lodge; in the three-bedroom Lake House with its kitchen and private sauna; at Inspiration Point, a peninsula on the lake; or on the Lakeside Patio. Seven cabins have living rooms suitable for gatherings of up to 10 people. Activities range from reading and napping in hammocks to fishing, canoeing, hiking and snow-shoeing. If the lakeside hot pools aren’t sybaritic enough, the spa can accommodate up to 20 massage treatments a day.

Greyfield InnGreyfield Inn
Cumberland Island, Ga.
(904) 261-6408

It is not easy keeping progress from sullying places like this tiny barrier island 40 miles north of Jacksonville, Fla. Fortunately, the Carnegie family and the National Park Service have managed to do so. The island is three miles wide and 18 miles long about the size of Manhattan but it has only 30 residents. Guests arrive by boat. The pristine beach is a protected National Seashore with no dwellings. The 100-year-old mansion, still owned and operated by the Carnegie family, is furnished as it was in the early 1900s, and the cuisine and personal service is as fine as it was in that genteel era.

The inn’s private compound of more than 1,000 acres provides a sanctuary guests share with 300 species of birds, wild horses, deer and other wildlife. Walking, biking, beachcombing and lounging on the verandah are favored pursuits. In this setting, where not even a daily newspaper sneaks in to spoil the peace, corporate retreats for 25 to 40 are very productive.

Gunflint Lodge
Grand Marais, Minn.
(800) 328-3325

Not much is more remote and beautiful than this lodge in the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the world’s largest area restricted to paddle craft. Groups meeting here, near the border of the United States and Canada, share the woods with bears, wolves, otters, moose and deer, but can count on no intrusions from the outside world.

The lodge comfortably accommodates up to 100 guests. Also on-site is a 2,500-square-foot conference center with a big stone fireplace.

More than 1,500 miles of canoe trails with designated campsites offer opportunities for the ultimate small group breakaways. Diversions that do not involve paddling include fishing, hiking, horseback riding, dogsledding and cross-country skiing.

Molokai RanchMolokai Ranch bungalow
Molokai, Hawaii
(877) 726-4656

Title Guaranty’s conference was held in the Ranch’s beachfront Kapoa Village, one of the resort’s three 40-room villages. The property also has a 22-room lodge. Guests in the villages stay in comfortable solar-lit canvas bungalows with private bathrooms. Designed with open space in mind, meeting areas are covered pavilions in natural settings with spectacular views. The bungalows can be used as breakout rooms, and audiovisual presentations are held in a state-of-the-art 154-seat theater. Guests enjoy all the comforts of a fine dining room, elegant lounge and day spa, and can chose from such activities as mountain biking, nature walks, kayaking and beach combing. Team building also is available.

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Banff, Alberta, Canada
(403) 522-2167

There is a surreal quality to this 102-year-old lodge deep in the Canadian Rockies, north of Lake Louise. The turquoise waters of Bow Lake reflect rugged mountains and blue-white glaciers. It’s no wonder Num-Ti-Jah Crowfoot for “pine martin,” a weasel-like animal is a popular retreat for artists. Guests once arrived on horseback, but today a road leads to the rustic 25-room log lodge. Guest rooms are simple but spacious, with thick duvets on the beds. In the library up to 50 people can gather comfortably, and the lounge, restaurant and sitting room provide additional meeting space. The only distraction is the great outdoors, which casts its spell regardless of the season. Snowshoeing and skiing are popular winter activities; fishing, hiking and horseback riding take over in the summer.

Ravenwood Castle
New Plymouth, Ohio
(800) 477-1541

When you log on to the castle’s Web site, baroque music pours from your speakers while the image of a medieval castle takes shape on the screen. Equally delightful is the castle itself, built in the 12th-century Norman-style atop a hill surrounded by a 50-acre forest in central Ohio (two hours from Columbus). Four guest rooms are on the first floor; other rooms and suites are in the castle’s crenelated towers, each with its own distinctive decor. All have antique stained-glass windows and lamps, gas fireplaces and garden or whirlpool tubs. Most have private balconies or decks. Twenty-four guests can be accommodated in the castle or cottages.

Common areas suitable for meetings include the Gothic Great Hall, the library, the dining deck and the terrace. Trails, gardens, croquet and other peaceful activities are provided on site, and adjacent state parks offer canoeing, horseback riding and a variety of other diversions.

Southern SafariSouthern Safari
Asheville, N.C.
(800) 454-7374

Guests who bring cell phones will have to leave them in the office for emergency calls. But lack of electronics is the only deprivation in this African-style base camp on 300 acres high in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Though the setting is rustic, a lot of pampering still goes on. A maximum of 40 guests stay in heated tents on platforms with sheltering roofs, electricity and real beds.

The staff includes four chefs (one a vegetarian), who use only range-fed meats and homegrown vegetables to prepare gourmet meals. Repasts are served with African wine and followed by sherry, fine cigars or s’mores around a campfire. The property is experienced in corporate retreats and team-building, including a unique harambi (Swahili for “community”) program in which teams barter for materials to build bamboo huts. Activities range from golf on nearby courses to hiking, rafting and hot-air ballooning.

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