As Krista Heinicke guided me across the main campus of The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs in mid-November, she filled me in on the philosophy underlying all the offerings at the resort: Everything must be Instagram-worthy. And sure enough, on my tour with Heinicke, who serves as the property’s public relations and communications manager, I found plenty of reasons to unlock my phone and snap away. A museum-quality collection of more than 175 pieces of Western art, a sprawling 12,000-square-foot Estate House restored to its original 1920s beauty, a Wall of Fame that features celebrity guests like Bing Crosby, George Bush, and Lionel Richie, two world-renowned golf courses — no filter is needed to stir a sense of FOMO in anyone who sees photos from a stay at The Broadmoor. Luckily for me, the property invited my wife, Lexis, to join me for the hosted experience, so unlike on other fam trips I attend on my own, she felt not even a twinge of envy.
Social media may help drive how The Broadmoor operates today, but Heinicke’s passion for the property can be traced to an era before liking, commenting, and Boomerang-ing. She came to Colorado Springs to train for ice dancing at the original Broadmoor World Arena in 1984. Since her first visit, The Broadmoor has been on a consistent path to outdo itself, attracting a range of group business — the CMP Conclave was taking place during our visit — and opening additional properties for small retreats, such as the seven cabins at Fly Fishing Camp, the 13 cabins at The Ranch at Emerald Valley, and the 11 cabins next to the seven-room Main Lodge at Cloud Camp.
More Space for Outer Space
The focal point for my visit, though, was an expansion that positions the resort for much bigger pieces of business. The property is in the midst of adding more than 125,000 square feet of new exhibition space and 32 new breakout rooms in The Broadmoor Event Center. In total, the new facility will offer more than 315,000 square feet of space and will debut on March 30 when the resort welcomes the 36th edition of the Space Symposium. The annual gathering of leaders from space agencies, military and security organizations, and a range of companies that explore the skies, has been held at The Broadmoor since its inception in 1984. While the initial event attracted an intimate group of around 250 attendees, more than 14,000 people from around the world are now regulars. The crowd, coupled with the local headquarters of prominent organizations like the Air Force Space Command, a major command of the United States Air Force, have earned Colorado Springs a reputation as the runway to the stars.
“There’s a common saying,” Barry Brown, The Broadmoor’s vice president of sales and marketing, told me over a pint of Prospector’s Pick, a specialty beer brewed just for the resort, “that if it goes up in space, it came through Colorado Springs.”
But in order to explore the potential of outer space, the Space Symposium needed more physical space here on Earth. “The symposium has continued to grow, and we wanted to make sure they could grow with us,” Brown said. “This expansion is a direct reflection of our focus on listening to client needs.”
That focus extends beyond hosting the Space Symposium. Bob McGrath, director of engineering at The Broadmoor, traveled around the country, studying other notable convention centers to get a sense of how the plans could deliver a true trade-show experience for all kinds of clients. McGrath was in the thick of overseeing drywall, HVAC installation, and the many moving parts of the massive project when I visited, and he shared the significance of the venue’s expansion. “It’s a great thing for the hotel, and it’s a great thing for the Space Symposium,” he told me, “but it’s also a really great thing for the entire community. This will let us attract bigger shows with attendees that cannot all fit here [in the property’s 784 rooms], so the rest of the city will feel the impact. This will put The Broadmoor on another level.”
In the Wild
Thinking about attendees who explore the far reaches of outer space inspired us to catch some sky ourselves. We hopped in a van for a 10-minute journey up a mountain for the appropriately named Soaring Adventures zip-line course. After a tutorial on the ground with Carl and Derek, our expert guides, we strapped in for five wind-in-the-face rides over South Cheyenne Canyon. With a heart-pounding walk over two suspension bridges, hitting a speed of 40 miles per hour on the final 1,800- foot rope course, and working together to rappel over a waterfall to the finish, the activity is an ideal fit for a team- building exercise. (Or, in our case, a good test of wills for a married couple who are both afraid of heights.)
Next, we decided to see some more experienced flyers in action with a falconry lesson from Deanna Curtis, a master falconer at The Broadmoor. Earning that title requires a level of commitment that puts my bachelor’s degree to shame: a minimum of seven years, including two years of apprenticeship, securing state permits, and more. We spent 30 minutes in the mews — a large birdhouse — learning about owls, red-tailed hawks, and of course, falcons, before a 10-minute drive to a field to watch one of the birds at work. Flying overhead and directly between us, these birds are right at home with humans. I worried that any loud noises or sudden movements might scare the falcon as I held it at the close of our session, but Curtis reassured me that these are party animals — literally. They play a role in plenty of group outings, including a happy hour networking reception where guests get cocktails and a chance to hold the bird.
We had worked up an appetite being in the great outdoors. Luckily, there are 20 dining outlets at The Broadmoor to choose from. Among them are The Golden Bee, which has a British gastro-pub atmosphere, and the Ristorante del Lago, which offers a taste of Tuscany.
The top spot, though, belongs on the ninth floor: the Penrose Room atop the Broadmoor South building. Named for the property’s founder, Spencer Penrose, it’s Colorado’s only Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond restaurant, and with each dish — served with a presentation that felt more Instagram-worthy than the last — I could see why. Beets with spiced poached pears, candied walnuts, and bleu cheese glistened in a black truffle vinaigrette. A bordelaise sauce drizzled across the most tender cut of prime beef tenderloin imaginable. I dug into the blackberry cream mousse in my white chocolate cheesecake before I could take a picture, but that was okay. Because between my view of the moon peeking through the surrounding mountains, the calming female lead singer of the band playing that transported me back in time to the 1940s, and my still fresh zip-line adrenaline rush, there was no way that my phone could capture even a fraction of my experience. I forgot it was in my pocket.
David McMillin is an associate editor at Convene.