For 46 years, conference has pulse on Snowmass tourism
Snowmass Village has many loyal guests who return year after year to ski with their families and loved ones. But one group in particular has been visiting Snowmass almost since the resort began and has established enough of a reputation for itself to have a ski run and a room named for its founder.
The American College of Cardiology is back this week for its 46th annual Cardiovascular Conference at the Westin Snowmass. The four-day continuing education course for cardiologists and other health care professionals starts Jan. 16, but many attendees are already here visiting with their families and others will be staying through next weekend, said Jim Morrissey, general manager of the Westin.
After doing some research in Colorado on altitude and lung damage, Dr. Jack Vogel founded the conference in 1968 and planned it annually up until a few years ago.
“He loved Snowmass,” said Dr. Carole Warnes, now the course director. “He used to eat at the Stew Pot and often chatted to John Denver, with whom he was friendly.”
Because Vogel was credited with bringing so many people to Snowmass, the run Jack of Hearts, off the Big Burn lift, was named for him. Prior to the change in ownership of the Westin — formerly the Silvertree Hotel — in 2011, the ballroom in the conference center also carried his moniker.
Steve Miller, a senior account executive with Snowmass Tourism who also worked at the Silvertree, said he’s never known a group to show loyalty to one location for this long.
“They are incredible people who are clients and have become friends,” said Miller, adding that many businesspeople in Snowmass would likely say the same.
About 300 cardiologists and health care professionals, most from the U.S. but some from Europe, Scandinavia and Australia, attend annually, Warnes said.
Warnes, who is a professor at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Minnesota, has attended for 25 years and learned to ski on Snowmass.
The attending professionals study advances in their field, discuss cases and network at the conference, Warnes said.
“In the practice of cardiology there is such an overload of new information every week it is hard for cardiologists to keep pace with new science; this is an opportunity to have experts and the best teachers distill down that knowledge and educate using different and interactive approaches,” she said.
And, it’s unique in that it also provides them time to spend with their families and to ski, she said.
The college probably has one of the largest economic impacts of any group or conference that visits the village, largely because they have time while they’re here to explore and recreate, Miller said.
“It touches every one of our vendors here,” he said.
While the college continues to return year after year, Morrissey knows that his hotel — and the village — still have to earn the right to host them each time they visit.
“We are very fortunate and privileged to be of service to them,” Morrissey said.
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