The Castle in the Rockies

Our amazing home while in Banff for STxTS19.

STxTS19 in the rearview mirror… Take one part amazingly beautiful destination (the Canadian Rockies), one part beautiful resort hotels (Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs), one part forward thinking SITE Chapter (SITE Texas!!) and one part thoughtfully constructed educational content, sprinkle cream-of-the-crop incentive buyers and suppliers on top and you get four of the absolute best days that anyone in this incredible industry could ask for. Yes, there were a few last minute time changes dictated by situations that were beyond the host committee’s control but, with plan B firmly in hand, every little ripple was met with a quick return to calm waters and superior experience.

Things started with a big Calgary Welcome the moment we stepped off the plane. A large group of White Hat Calgary Ambassadors met the flight and set the hospitality tone that would be visible for the balance of the trip. A quick trip through immigration & customs and we were in the warm Meet & Greet embrace (with snacks) of STxTS19 partner, Cantrav (my good friend, Karin Wallace), for our transfer to Chateau Lake Louise for buyers and Banff Springs for suppliers. Thanks to ongoing narration by our driver/guide, and the majesty of the mountain as we got closer, the time flew by. How do I describe the balance of day 1? Amazing views, incredible hotel, service and hosts, cocktails & dinner with a very entertaining and engaged chef, and I could go on.

Day 2 begins with a breakfast befitting a mountain resort situated on one of the most photographed lakes in the world. If you weren’t with us, or haven’t been to Lake Louise, Google it and have a look. Take my word, it’s even better in person. Next up was a morning of hosted activities, followed by lunch then the short transfer to the Fairmont Banff Springs, the iconic “Castle in the Rockies.” I’m at a loss concerning adjectives that can capture in words how amazing the resort and the view are. Upon arrival, the buyers experienced a gifting experience courtesy of our local hosts led by Banff & Lake Louise Tourism (Aysun Lunch, I’m looking at you). – a special welcome by amazing partners. Before we could all get too comfortable, it was time for the “Speed Meeting” portion of the event – fast 3:30 visit with each of the sponsor suppliers – just enough time to connect and make plans to spend some time together over the next few days. A few complained that they would have liked a bit more time, but at 3 hours long, it was enough time for everyone to connect. The balance of the day was a gifting experience delivered by our friends at Cultivate (Thank you Rebecca Meskis!) then right on into our reception/dinner with an awe-inspiring view looking down the Bow River Valley.

Day 3 began bright and early with yoga and a fun run for some and conversation and a hot breakfast for others. I was a breakfast and conversation guy. No shame it that. Kicking off a full day of education was a keynote by Mike Dominguez, Senior Vice-President and Chief Sales Officer for MGM Resorts International. Mike has been gracious enough to join us for all 7 of our Tech Summits. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, and the chapter.

The evening event offered adventure, more amazing views and an unforgettable evening of over the top culinary display and entertainment as our sponsors’ Pursuit and Rimrock Resort Hotel (STxTS19 shout out to Marilu Adams with Pursuit and Heather Nelson with The Rimrock Resort) showered us with Canadian hospitality.

Day 4 opened with the kind of snow that most of us don’t ever experience. Big, fat snowflakes were creating a true winter wonderland. Yes, I know it’s spring, but snow like that at any time is a wondrous sight. After yoga, and yes, a fun run, followed by another mountain breakfast it was on to more education and an afternoon of activities and time at leisure.

Our evening off property was a true Cowboy dinner courtesy of Mountview Barbeque and Banff & Lake Louise Tourism. Tables were groaning under the weight of the spread they put on. If you haven’t seen hunks of beef so large that they are delivered to the buffet for carving via pitchfork, you need to spend more time with SITE Texas.

In a flurry of last-minute bidding, the silent auction came to a close with a record total. Just as last year, SITE Texas donated 50% of the proceeds to the SITE Foundation – $8,570. Wow! Over $17K raised at the silent auction. Thank you chapter Rockstar Eddie Haisten for a fantastic job!

All good things must come to an end, but the weather continued to tease us. In the middle of the Achy Breaky Heart line dance, the announcement was made that the group departing for the airport at 3:30 AM might be delayed due to icing on the highway to Calgary. As it turned out, everyone got out and off on time. Like a well-oiled machine, our friends at Cantrav made it look easy.

Day 5 was back to reality for many, but 20 lucky folks transferred to the Banff rail station and boarded the Rocky Mountaineer for a scenic two-day rail trip to Vancouver. I’ll be telling that story in my next blog. I think you will enjoy it.

In summary – it was a fabulous event filled with moments, memories and friends, both new and old, that we will never forget. Best STxTX ever! I’ve got a bit of a bias. Eight years ago, after three days of great education but low turnout, at what was then known as the SITE Texas Education Summit, my final question to the crowd before we said good-bye was, “If we change education content and focus on technology, would you come?” “Yes!” was the unanimous reply. I can’t take credit for all that has happened as the program developed since then. I can’t take credit for the recognition the event has gained among our peers and the SITE family of chapters, the conversations it has influenced and the value it has brought to those that have attended and participated. That goes to all of those that stepped up then and continue to do so. That support and embrace of a shared goal are what have allowed this event to raise the bar every year and continue to be the envy of others. Forgive me if it sounds like I’m bragging, but being proud of helping create something that continues to grow, improve and deliver an experience that people appreciate just feels good. It’s the industry we are all part of, and I couldn’t love it more.

For those suppliers that I failed to mention, or overlooked, I apologize. This event could not have been the overwhelming success it was without your participation and support. To those that return every year, and our first (and hopefully not last) timers, your partnership is invaluable. My personal thanks to each and every one of you. You’re the best! Like I said, I have a bias.