Park City's Winter Wonderland


Utah

This old mining town has sure built itself up into an incredible getaway.

At first light you were schlepping a plastic bin through an airport security line. Now, the only line you’re worried about is which of the pitched white curves of Deer Valley’s Ontario Bowl to ski down—still untracked, it should be noted, at two in the afternoon. Visiting Park City is like slipping through a rabbit hole: It’s a quick, convenient and a true getaway. This historic mining town, just 40 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, beguiles you with its downtown full of top-notch restaurants and galleries, and then tempts you with a trio of world-class ski resorts. Welcome to wonderland, Alice.

THE SERENDIPITY OF SILVER
While many ski towns try to manufacture charm, old Park City’s nearly abandoned boxy Wild West storefronts and frilly Victorians were waiting in mothballs, courtesy of the miners who chiseled more than $400 million worth of silver out of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains in the 1800s. Today, Park City’s fairy-tale Main Street twinkles with lights and brims with activity. Since the skiing here is considered less challenging than at neighboring resorts like Snowbird and Alta, the clientele tends to be of intermediate skill—couples and families looking for a well-rounded experience that includes shopping, dining and relaxing.

Pack snow-proof footwear, because this is a town for strolling. On foot, you’ll discover a warren of diversions tucked above, below and along Main Street and Park Avenue. Browse Bahnhof Sport for skiwear, Chloe Lane for designer jeans and Mary Jane’s for funky women’s clothing and accessories. A free trolley travels Main Street if you find yourself loaded down with packages.

Two dozen art galleries showcase everything from local watercolor landscapes to western bronze statues. Start with Phoenix Gallery, an airy, three-story space that provides a perfect backdrop for the contemporary mixed-media sculpture on display.

Shops and galleries seem to be outnumbered only by restaurants. It’s not easy to find a bargain, but the financial hit is worth it for some memorable meals. Rustic chophouses serve chile-rubbed prime cuts; trattorias could hold their own in Tuscany. The name on locals’ lips is Shabu, where you can cook your food in sizzling broth at the table. The atmosphere is fun and informal, and the “freestyle Asian cuisine” playfully pairs flavors, like sake-steamed sea bass with black bean and garlic paste.

Despite what you may have heard about Utah’s bewildering liquor laws, nightspots abound as well. Those wishing to close out a day on the slopes with a cocktail need only pay a nominal “membership fee” to get in to most clubs. Whether your tastes lean toward meeting for martinis and appetizers (Jean Louis) or drinking beer and dancing until dawn (Harry O’s), you can find it in spades in Park City. In Utah terms, Park City is “Sin City,” and the town takes pride in that nickname.

UP ON THE SLOPES
Above all, Park City is a ski town. Its fortunes were transformed from silver to snow in 1963, when a local mining company opened Treasure Mountain to skiing. Photos at the Park City Museum show zealous skiers traveling through old mine shafts and surfacing in soot-covered parkas on mid-mountain slopes.

Today Park City has 3 ski resorts, all regularly deluged with the dry-as-dust Utah snows that drift down the east side of the Great Salt Lake. Few ski hills are as centrally located as Park City Mountain Resort. To hit the slopes, all you need to do is hop on a chairlift downtown and soar over the city up the mountain. On the way down, skiers and snowboarders still schuss past the occasional mining relic. This 3,300-acre resort is especially well suited for families, thanks to its great location, abundance of ski-in/ski-out lodging, diversity of runs and teen-pleasing terrain parks (even lighted for night-riding) that routinely win kudos from snowboarding magazines. Near the base is the Alpine Coaster, a 2-person roller coaster that blazes downhill.

Four miles north, The Canyons has quietly become one of the largest ski areas in the country, with 3,700 acres of terrific bowls, gullies and ridiculously long, mellow cruisers. It's still expanding: 300 acres of aspen glades were added in 2008 around the new Dreamcatcher chairlift. And there's a growing village at the resort's base, though guests staying there might feel a bit isolated from Park City's other attractions.

The area's toniest accommodations can be found sidled up to Deer Valley Resort, a mile south of downtown Park City. This exclusive mountain prides itself on elite customer service and amenities. To prevent lift lines and give skiers plenty of elbow room, ticket sales are limited. Trail grooming approaches high art, and snowboarding is prohibited. Mid-mountain restaurants cater to the upscale clientele with dishes like grilled Atlantic salmon with orange hollandaise; the resort even markets its own line of signature foods (cilantro-lime glaze, anyone?). On sunny afternoons, after their 2-hour lunches, guests contentedly sip blueberry mojitos on The Beach, where Adirondack chairs are lined up in the snow.

The 1,825 acres of ski terrain at Deer Valley gets better every year. Guests tend to gravitate to those delightful corduroy groomers, leaving the wide-open steeps and glades for accomplished skiers off the Empire and new Lady Morgan chairlifts.

Not that you need more variety, but the scissor-sawed peaks ringing the horizon are home to more than a half-dozen additional ski resorts. These include Alta and Snowbird at the south end of Salt Lake City in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Robert Redford's Sundance near Provo, and the virtually undiscovered expanses of Snowbasin and Powder Mountain north near Ogden.

THE DETAILS

Bahnhof Sport: 693 Main St.; 435-645-9700

Chloe Lane: 556 Main St.; 435-645-9888

Mary Jane’s: 613 Main St.; 435-645-7463

Phoenix Gallery: 508 Main St.; 435-649-1006

Jean Louis: 136 Heber Ave.; 435-200-0260

Harry O’s: 427 Main St.; 435-655-7579

Park City Museum: 528 Main St; 435.649.7457; www.parkcityhistory.org

Park City Mountain Resort: 435-649-8111; parkcitymountain.com

The Canyons: 435-649-5400; thecanyons.com

Deer Valley Resort: 800-424-3337; deervalley.com

The Olympic Nordic Center at Soldier Hollow: soldierhollow.com

Utah Olympic Park: olyparks.com

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Sedona – So much to do, see and eat!


I hope you enjoyed our stories, photos, and tips about Sedona this week! Before we move on to another topic, I’d like to leave you with one last story – my story! – about a recent trip to Sedona:

After many years of hearing the praises of Sedona, I finally took the plunge and went for a week in mid-May.  I can't believe I waited this long! The drive from Phoenix to Sedona only takes about two hours and flies by with all the new sights to take in (loved seeing all the cacti). Once you hit the red rocks, you'll be blown away!

Entering Sedona by car is breathtaking.  You will want to stop and take pictures along the way but I recommend waiting so the cars behind you don't get mad.  You will have plenty of time for pictures when you plan an excursion or two (or three or four...).  After attending a breakfast orientation at my resort, my decision was made.  I would do a hot air balloon ride, an all day trip to the Grand Canyon, and a day trip to Jerome, AZ.  Please keep in mind that these were my personal choices.  There are so many things to do and see in Sedona (either on your own or by tour).  Your options are endless.

I have to say that the highlight of my trip was the hot air balloon ride.  It is something I can now mark off my bucket list.  They picked me up at 4:30am and we were in the air by 7am. We floated for about an hour and fifteen minutes and then, once back on the ground, had breakfast and champagne courtesy of the hot air balloon company.  What an unforgettable experience!

You can't go to Sedona without checking out the Grand Canyon!  I had been there as a kid, but was dying to go back.  No disappointments there!  Had a wonderful day.  I didn't want to do it on my own so I did go on a 12 hour tour.  So worth it.  A wonderful lunch at the El Tovar Hotel and even got to stop at a Navajo Reservation on our way back to Sedona.

Last, but not least, was my day trip to Jerome, AZ.  I did this on my own as it is an easy, albeit curvy, drive up a mountain, about 40 minutes from Sedona.  Lots of fun, eclectic shops and history here.  I did more shopping than history. I even had a fabulous lunch of a hotdog wrapped in bacon with all kinds of yummy toppings with a side of flash fried spinach (a must).

I could write a novel about Sedona and all the fun stuff to do, see and eat (there are so many great restaurants).  I can't wait to go back!

 

Hot air balloon ride

Hot air balloon ride

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, Arizona

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Scottsdale Camelback Resort


A stay at the Camelback was as relaxing as this butterfly captured in a photo at the Desert Botanical Garden in nearby Phoenix!

 

A stay at the Camelback was as relaxing as this butterfly captured in a photo at the Desert Botanical Garden in nearby Phoenix!

- Maggie N. from Staten Island, NY

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Phoenix


My trip to Phoenix, Arizona was incredible. It was the first trip that I took with my daughters off the east coast. The resort was beautiful and the change of scenery was spectacular. We went to several national landmarks. It was a great experience for my family to see the other side of the country. I did not know how hot it was going to be in August but the resort had water misters, another new experience for us, and double pools. We were given a 3 bedroom lock -out which gave us ample space.

- Laurie K. from Waller, TX

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Looking for history and breathtaking views? Go no further than the Grand Canyon


Vacation Travels with RCI TV's Dan "The RCI Guy"For those of you who read my blogs, you know I've got the greatest job in the world! As the RCI Guy, I get to travel all over the world and visit fantastic RCI affiliated resorts. Yup, my job is great.

 

My most recent travels took me to New York City, Galveston and Austin, Texas, then down to Barbados and finally on to Phoenix, Arizona. Each place I am able to visit is unique and offers different things to do while on vacation...but for me, I've always been partial to the mountains in the West and the Southwestern portion of the United States. I love the raw, rugged and often unspoiled beauty that’s offered among the stunning mountain and fertile valleys fed by small streams and roaring rivers. I love to drive through Utah, Colorado and Wyoming and discover new, hidden areas where my kids and I can go camping or fishing. The world seems to more easily slip away in these serene places. History comes alive and I like to let my imagination take me back several hundred years, when brave explorers were blazing new trails throughout the West… Imagine what the Spanish explorer, García López de Cárdenas must have thought in 1540 as one of the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon…277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep.

 

I like the views from the North Rim the best. When you pull into the parking lot, take the paved trail to the left and just a few yards away you'll find a beautiful, weather-worn bench planted in the earth as firmly as the interesting tree providing shade directly overhead. Take a seat on that bench and the view will take your breath away! No wonder the Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon a holy site. For me, there is definitely something "spiritual" about it. The endless array of colors splashing across the rocks as the sun reshapes the canyon through long shadows at the beginning and end of every day.

 

It's hard to fathom the magnitude of this monumental scar in the ground until you reach the rim and peer down into the belly of this awe inspiring beast. I haven't taken on the challenge of hiking from rim to rim but have taken an exhilarating mule ride down to the bottom. I've got some very cool pictures from that trip. In fact, if you want to enjoy the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, consider booking ”Red Rock Ride". This six day adventure is one of the coolest things I have every experienced! You ride with real cowboys as they guide you through the heart of all three of these mesmerizing masterpieces of nature – my favorite was Bryce Canyon! But the Grand Canyon was a close second. If witnessing one of the Seven Wonders of the World is on your bucket list, then make plans to visit the Grand Canyon on your next vacation. It's a sight you won't soon forget... I promise!

 

Come back this week to the RCI Blog, where we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have visited the Grand Canyon. If you have a story or picture of your own, share it here!

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Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort


Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort - This was our first trip outside of the USA. The Caribbean is definitely a great place to go. We spent Christmas 2009 there. It was a big change having Christmas like this when you are from New England. We will be returning!

 

This was our first trip outside of the USA. The Caribbean is definitely a great place to go. We spent Christmas 2009 there. It was a big change having Christmas like this when you are from New England. We will be returning!

 

- Sandy L. from Bennington, VT

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Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort


On the beautiful beach in a serene area of the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort are these chairs just calling your name.

 

On the beautiful beach in a serene area of the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort are these chairs just calling your name.

 

- Lisa S. from Easton, PA

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Pagosa Springs, CO


We have been coming to Pagosa Springs for many years and staying at Fairfield Pagosa, now called Wyndham Pagosa. We fish and golf, bike and hike, we just love the area and the beautiful surroundings. While biking around the area, we saw a house for sale and bought it last summer. This has been our first summer spent in our mountain retreat and now we are free to travel elsewhere to find new places we have never seen. We have friends come up to visit and if we run out of room, we can just book them into an affiliated resort. It was so wonderful to come here year after year and see that it was a place we would like to spend our summers since we are from the Phoenix, Arizona area and it is too hot to stay there in the summers. We love RCI and exchanging!

 

- Barbara C. from Morristown, AZ

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Puerto Peñasco…one of Mexico’s Oldest Tourist Destinations!


Roberto L. - Latin America Vacation StoriesHome to the largest sand dunes in the western hemisphere and once a host for NASA lunar excursion trainings, the Piñacate Peaks have welcomed travelers to Puerto Peñasco, Sonora for the past 90 years, making this world class tourist destination one of Mexico’s oldest. Just a 4 hour drive south from Phoenix Arizona, Puerto Peñasco has something to offer for just about every traveler.

Since the 1920s, North Americans have been vacationing here and since then many have made it their home. Today, Sandy Beach boasts of modern vacation condominiums, luxurious resorts, and championship golf.  I have been traveling here frequently since 2006, and being the small community it is, have found it easy to call this my second home, of which I will share with you travelers a quick tour of the “house”:

“The Kitchen” – Whether its pizza at Capone’s, breakfast at the legendary Coffee’s Haus or fine international dinning at the 4 diamond awarded La Maria Bistro at Las Palomas resort, you are guaranteed authentic atmospheres, Mexican hospitality and happy taste buds.

“The Living Room” – Take a load off and relax on a 40 ft. fishing boat while cruising off the archipelago of San Jorge Island (Bird Island) and wait for the sawfish, grouper and horse mackerel to bite. Or, live the experience at Mayan Palace’s Peninsula de Cortez Golf Club, home to the Uniting Nations Cup and its nine ocean front holes that are up to par with its northern counterpart, Pebble Beach.

“The Back Yard” – A day trip to the Piñacate volcanic crater will provide incredible images for your photo album, as will the vast desert that surrounds with its 553 species of plants, 237 species of birds (the red-tailed falcon being my favorite to spot!). This nationally protected biosphere is a must for all travelers. ATV rides along miles of sand dunes are also highly recommended, and with a coastline of over 100 kilometers, long walks along the Sea of Cortez are very enjoyable.

Whether you enjoyed a delicious meal, took a relaxing boat ride or collected sea shells on the beaches of El Mirador, La Cholla or Las Conchas, you will have many memories to share with family and friends. But one will stand out…and that is the plan to return and continue living the experience.

Mi casa es tu casa.

This week on the RCI Blog, we will show you stories and photos from other RCI subscribing members who have visited Puerto Peñasco. Be sure to check back!

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Sedona


We flew into Phoenix and drove to Sedona. When we came over a mountain pass of high desert country and entered the valley toward Oak Creek Village, we were awestruck by the sudden appearance of dark red rock formations. The stark contrast to high desert scenery we had just passed was amazing. Bell Rock seemed to stand right before us. The wonders continued as we drove to Sedona. Our condo was in uptown near Oak Creek. We woke to the beauty each morning. We explored cave paintings, cliff dwellings, and the wondrous scenery so abundant in the very special place. Arroyo Roble Resort was wonderful.

- Madaline G. from Ferriday, LA
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New England 2008


New England has always been one of the top places we've wanted to visit in the fall. Last year with the help of RCI, we were able to make our dream come true! We traded our timeshare for one at the VILLAGE OF LOON MOUNTAIN LODGES in Lincoln, New Hampshire at the end of September through the beginning of October. It was the perfect location that allowed us to drive near the resort and also farther away to see so much of the area and the autumn beauty. One of my favorite highlights was visiting the home of the great American poet Robert Frost. His work has been so inspiring to me and being able to walk through his home, stroll the grounds and see the view of the New Hampshire mountains that he saw made me feel like I knew him just a little bit better. With a view like his, it's not hard to understand why he was such an amazing writer with so much inspiration, right in front of him. We also traveled to the Lake Winnepesaukee region where one of my favorite movies, "On Golden Pond" was filmed. On other days, we took drives to see the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory and the VonTrapp Lodge in Vermont, as well as driving many of the scenic highways in the area to take in the gorgeous natural surroundings.

- Nancy H. from Phoenix, AZ
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