Blog

Shred the summer away in Tahoe

Mountain resorts make history by extending ski season to July Fourth

 

Careful what you wish for

For the first time in history, mountain resorts in Lake Tahoe have officially extended their ski season through July 4th weekend. After several dry winters, the Lake Tahoe resorts saw their snowiest season on record, reporting 700 inches of snow, approximately 300 percent more snow than a normal season. While the Reno-Tahoe area has always attracted many year-round visitors, for art and culture events and outdoor activities on the mountains and Lake Tahoe, this year visitors will enjoy an epic après ski.

 

For anyone who didn’t make it yet to Tahoe for the 2016-17 ski season, or for those who didn’t get enough, excellent powder and no crowds make it a perfect time to visit. And that’s just what a couple of my besties and I did, on a blizzard of a vacay of skiing, dining and lounging, hitting five resorts, in five days.

Parking it at Parc Foret

Our posse met up in Reno, where we enjoyed ultra-luxurious accommodations at the Parc Foret at Montreux. If you haven’t heard of it, this enclave of the Montreux master-planned development of luxury homes, about 30 minutes from the Reno-Tahoe airport, is a high desert oasis with year-round appeal, known for its 300 days of sunshine, world-class golfing, nearby casinos and nightlife, and of course, its proximity to the mountain resorts.

As we arrived at Parc Foret and got directions from the guard at the gatehouse to our abode, we kept looking for the landmark of the clubhouse, but we got confused, because we mistook every gigantor eight-bedroom manse on the street as the clubhouse.  “Oh, there it is; no, that’s a house. Now I see it, oops, that’s another house…”

 

 

The custom-built homes in the Montreux development impressed us with both their grandeur and design. We were lucky enough to experience the Stay and Play package, whereby potential homeowners are invited to reside a few days in the community – a clever marketing tactic, as its pretty impossible not to fall in love with the place.

Our modest 7200-square-foot house featured an open floor plan on the first level with a full kitchen and marble bar that opened into an enormous family room with a long, wall-to-wall gas fireplace, a perfect for gathering place to hang after a day on the mountain.

Each of us had our own grand master bedroom and bath, and there was plenty of space to spread out, from the downstairs game room and bar to the sunny deck overlooking the snowy woods. We also enjoyed lounging around our outdoor fireplace, right outside the front door.

We felt very at home at Montreux, where we were taken in at the clubhouse by the residents with whom we made fast friends, dancing the night away at a private party, as the DJ played surprisingly current rap and hip-hop. We were tempted to hang out there all day and skip the skiing, but the mountains kept calling our names.

Looking at the slopes through Mt. Rose-colored goggles

Our first stop was Mt. Rose, which is so close to the airport – about a 25-minute drive – that the resort offers discounted lift tickets for those who show their same-day airline boarding passes.

The resort is known for its spectacular views and its mellow attitude.  The resort features terrain for all levels as well as the longest continuous vertical in North America; and at 8,260 feet elevation, Mt. Rose is Tahoe’s highest base resort, which means the resort often has the best conditions even on the warmest spring days. As far as amenities, Mt. Rose is pretty much hard-core skiing, with not a lot of frills, but this may all change soon as the owners plan to develop it soon into a luxury resort.

Skiing large at Squaw Alpine

Our second day we spent at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadow, now known as Squaw Alpine since the two neighboring resorts merged in 2012.  The resort is massive in size, boasting a combined 6,200 acres and 43 lifts and 270 trails, attracting 6000,000 skiers a year. Although lift tickets and amenities are interchangeable, the two resorts feature distinctly different feels to visitors.

Squaw, famed as the site for the 1960 Olympics and recently voted as the top resort in North America by USA Today, is a high-energy resort that attracts many professional skiers, though it has a variety of terrain, including 25 percent beginner’s slopes. Alpine Meadows is known for its down-home and approachable hospitality and its easy-riding progression parks and wide-open bowls, with terrain for all levels of skiers.

Because of Squaw Alpine’s size and resources, it has amazing offerings. From tubing and snowmobiling, to dog sledding and ice-skating, there’s just about no snow sport you can’t do there. There is also a lovely village at Squaw with terrific dining and shopping and generally except for holiday weekends, it’s not too crowded.

Wishing upon Northstar

On day three we hit Northstar California, aptly named for its location on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. The resort is part of the Vail Group which also includes the Tahoe resorts of Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood, which all have the reputation as resorts dedicated to a premier visitor experience.

It was a bit of a drive from Parc Foret, about an hour and half, but we were glad to make a day of our venture to this luxury destination. Northstar features a Ritz-Carlton and other upscale accommodations and dining for visitors who like their skiing experience made easy. On-mountain dining includes the popular Zephyr Lodge, accessible by tram for pedestrians, which makes mincemeat of the standard chili and hot cocoa lodge fare with gourmet cuisine, which of course comes at a cost, but the typical Northstar clientele are not too concerned about a $25 lunch.

Northstar prides itself in its laid-back luxury, which is exactly what it sounds like. You’re treated like a VIP, but the tenor of the staff and the vibe in the village is definitely not uptight. The resort features amenities such as a valet who will carry your skis to the snow’s edge, though if you are staying in the luxury accommodations in the village, there’s hardly a reason for such a service, since the slopes are about 100 feet from your door step. In true ski-in-ski out fashion, one of the gondolas actually travels underneath the village condominiums.

Treasure of Sierra-at-Tahoe

As a storm came in, we rushed on our second to last day of vacation to Sierra at Tahoe. Unfortunately, the only road up to the mountain was bumper-to-bumper with other vacationers on the holiday weekend with the same idea. We spent more than 90 minutes edging up the hill for the last 7 miles to the top. The situation got a little desperate after morning coffee, forcing us to make an unscheduled stop behind a snow mound for a potty break.

The lumbering ride up to Sierra-at-Tahoe is worth the trip though. Having the only half-pipe on the south shore, Sierra is popular with snowboard riders, and because of its focus on value and affordable lift ticket packages, it draws many day users, making base camp a vibrant place to hang out. Being on the south shore, Sierra is also close to the night life and casinos, so it has become a favored resort of the party crowd.

In keeping with their theme of fun in the snow, Sierra’s kids lessons and the Smart Terrain classes for all ages are led by qualified instructors, upon whom the resort has bestowed the Certified Unserious badge, a designation that guarantees, among other things, that staff are dedicated to guests learning in a fun environment suited for their skill level.

 

Heavenly Can’t Wait

Our last day was at Heavenly Mountain Resort, which in my experience skiing there for more than 25 years has always lived up to its name. As the resort with the highest elevation of the Lake Tahoe area resorts, with a peak elevation of 10,067 feet, Heavenly has some of the most magnificent vistas. For skiers who like their terrain raw, Heavenly has no shortage of intense backcountry terrain, along with plenty of varied terrain from wide-open cruisers fo plunging 1,600-foot chutes. While they didn’t need it this year, Heavenly owns the largest snow-making system in the area, so even during dry years, they usually have decent conditions.

Our last journey down the mountain was on Roundabout, a winding narrow intermediate trail that traverses the mountain at a leisurely pace, sometimes where we had to use our poles to push ourselves. It’s a good thing the mellow terrain allowed us to catch our breath, as it would have been taken away by the spectacular views we got to enjoy all the way down.

Cool digs

We changed our accommodations our last two nights to the new Hotel Becket, a Joie de Vivre property.  It was quite a switch from our Parc Foret three-bedroom luxury home, but we expected and got a different experience at this uber cool millennial lodging spot. Directly across from the Heavenly Village of restaurants and bars, and sporting its own Ten Crows Restaurant, this happening hotspot is social central.

The hotel has everything a guest needs for a quick and comfortable slumber, wide screen TV, Wi-Fi, spa services, etc., and guests’ choice of rooms, either the rustic alpine charm of the Sierra-style Woods rooms, or the newly renovated and contemporary Village rooms, with architectural details such as reclaimed barn wood doors. But honestly, the target clientele of this hotel does not spend much time holed up in a hotel room, no matter how luxuriously appointed.

Rent-and-go

Hands down the most aggravating part of the skiing is returning rental equipment, but our newfound friends at Tahoe Dave’s made it a breeze.

Getting our gear there was much smarter than renting at each resort. We kept the gear overnight and saved ourselves the hassle of waiting in lines to rent and return gear each day. The folks at the shop were highly knowledgeable and helpful. They are also great salespeople, as they convinced us to buy the top-of-the-line ski goggles with chroma-pop lenses, which we were glad we did when we skied in blowing snow and the goggles did their job of amazingly sharpening the definition of the contours on the terrain.

You’ll be coming year-‘round the mountain

Even if you don’t want to hit the slopes for summer, there are plenty of warmer-weather attractions that will be in full swing during the overlap of spring skiing and summer season, such as scenic gondola rides and even a mountain coaster at Heavenly, as well as mountain biking, hiking, camping, ropes courses and ziplines, river boat tours, fishing adventures, water sports on the chilly waters of Lake Tahoe – and fun events like Squaw’s Peaks and Paws dog swim fest – bring a boon of year-round business.

While for ski resorts generally the rule is there can’t be enough snow, the 2016-17 season was a challenge. Some resorts brought in snow melting equipment from New York to clear parking lots. Also, because of the fierce storms and winds, many chairlifts were grounded and slopes opened late or not at all due to dangerous weather conditions.

The good news of course is that a more than 60 feet of snow is slow to melt, and for the first time ever, après ski will include Fourth of July fireworks.

Get your vehicle ready to hit the road

Protect your paint and interior and keep all systems go for summer road trips

Just like your Mom told you, even if the sun is behind the clouds, UV rays can be damaging to your skin; but bet she didn’t mention what those rays can do to your vehicle.  Sun, heat, salty sea air and other harsh environmental elements can take a serious toll on your car or truck, inside and out, and under the hood.  Get your car ready for summer vacation with these DIY maintenance tips.

 

  • Check your tires. There’s nothing worse than a flat tire on your road trip. Be sure to check for proper inflation pressure, especially since under-inflated tires consume more energy, therefor giving you poorer gas mileage.

 

  • Protect your car from the sun. Similar to protecting your skin with sun tan lotion, it’s important to shield vinyl, plastic and rubber surfaces on your car from the sun’s harsh UV rays. You can use a product like Meguiar’s Ultimate Protectant, which creates a rich shine & darkness on interior surfaces, while bringing new life to exterior trim, moldings & tires. 

 

  • Wash and wax your car. Your car’s finish can easily fade and rust from the salty air and sunshine. Be sure to give your car a solid wash and don’t forget to wax before heading toward the shore. You can use Meguiar’s Ultimate Fast Finish, the easiest and fastest way to wax your vehicle in just 10 minutes. Simply spray and wipe with a microfiber towel and your vehicle will have a slick, protective top coat that will deliver up to one full year of water beading protection—no buffing required.

 

  • Clean the underside of the hood. Any salt and grime build-up remaining from the winter months along with added beach salt could harm electrical connections and fuel and brake lines. Spray Nine Heavy-Duty Cleaner/Degreaser can help wipe away bugs, tar and other unwanted hitchhikers on surfaces and can also help control mold and mildews as well as fungicidal growth.

  • It’s hot out there…don’t forget about your cooling system. The last thing you need on your relaxing trip is a problem under the hood. It’s important to inspect your antifreeze/coolant to make sure it’s free of debris and contaminants. If you notice an issue, flush and fill your system with a mixture of 50 percent concentrated antifreeze and 50 percent distilled water. If your reservoir is low, you can easily top off with Prestone® 50/50 Prediluted Antifreeze/Coolant with patented Cor-Guard® corrosion inhibitors.

  • Wipers! Even if you have not used your windshield wipers in a while, they need regular replacing due to dry rot that can make them ineffective when you need them.  Rain-X Arch beam blade wipers are a step up from standard wipers as they have a curved design engineered to improve pressure distribution on the windshield and a graphite coating, so that they wipe smoothly and chatter-free, plus they are simple to install with nearly all wiper arm styles.

United to give $10K to future re-accommodated passengers

In case you didn’t see it, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a mea culpa yesterday, apologizing for the horrible handling of “re-accommodating” a passenger who was left bloodied and dazed after security thugs dragged him from his seat.

While many outraged consumers vowed to #neverflyunited, as a frequent traveler, I often do not have the luxury of being choosing when it comes to flights, due to price and scheduling considerations, but now I don’t have to feel guilty about flying United again. And I do love that the subject line of his email letter was “Actions Speak Louder than Words,” which happens to be my favorite adage.

As a PR professional, I was astounded at the blunders United made immediately following this incident, but clearly they are feeling the sting of disappointing their client base, as in financially they are taking a hit, so they are doing the right thing by upping their compensation for involuntary removal from a flight due to overbooking to $10,000, and they are raising their reimbursement for permanently lost luggage to $1,500 – no questions asked.

I applaud these moves to regain consumer loyalty and trust, and I hope this puts pressure on other airlines to follow suit, though I do have to wonder if people will start purposely buying tickets on overbooked flights or doing everything they can to “lose” their luggage; but hopefully this will simply signal a turn for passenger rights, a movement that started several years ago but still have not put consumers in the pilot’s seat.

 

Here’s Munoz’ letter in its entirety:

Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It’s not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.

Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.

For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?

It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.

Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it’s my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.

That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.

We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.

We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new “no-questions-asked” $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.

While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.

I believe we must go further in redefining what United’s corporate citizenship looks like in our society. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.

Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, “I fly United.”

Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfill our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.

We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.

With Great Gratitude,

Oscar Munoz
CEO
United Airlines

Spring ski and shred in stlye


Trew-Chariot-Back-640x471

This year’s epic snow sports season is likely to go strong into late spring and even early summer months on the West Coast.

Some North American resorts have reported on high-snowfall years that their slopes stay open as late as the Fourth of July. So gear up in style for spring skiing and riding with these slick head-turning fashions and take advantage of some great near-the-end-of-season sales prices.

Pull on your big-boy/girl bibs

Bibs are back in a big way. The sister of the full-on zip-up onesie snowsuit of the 70s, ski bibs are rising up as the nouveau chic on the slopes. Not only do they look stylish and sassy, they are the far better choice for snow wear than traditional ski or snowboard pants. Bibs are perfect when you want a bit of extra warmth over a fleece pullover or under layer, but you don’t want to wear a vest. For aggressive riders and steers, the bibs come up high under the arms to prevent snow from getting in your waistband. They also stay up, so you don’t find yourself constantly tugging and adjusting your waist band, which is especially a hassle with gloves on.

M_TREWTH_NEW_BLACK

A hot and hip company, Trew, is leading the revival of bibs, with their high-performance bibs, that style spotters are seeing all over the best resorts this season, like the Trewth ($399) men’s bibs that set the standard for tit-to-toes coverage, or Trew’s already legendary women’s Chariot bibs ($399) that tackle the biggest complaint about bibs for women, with its “she pee” side zip (check it out here https://trewgear.com/trew/trew-updates/article/bathroom-break-in-your-bibs), that makes bathroom breaks easy and fast.

They also have beaucoup pockets for stuffing glasses, digital lift tickets, lip balm, wallets and other necessaries for the slopes. The styling of the Trew bibs, with bright colors and water repellent materials and fashionable bright colored zips and trims, will make you stand out in the snow. When it’s time to chill out in the lodge, you can roll them down to the waist, but they look pretty cool anyway you wear them.

Who wears the pants?

All that said about bibs, if you choose to go traditional, Trew has perfected snow pants, with the plentiful pocket design and fashion forward colors and trim, with an adjustable Velcro strip to keep the waistband snug. The pants for a little larger opening at the leg for heftier snowboard boots. For women, the Tempest ($349) features an adjustable waist, long legs, and three-dimensional articulated panel design that fits all shapes of physiques.  For guys, the Eagle ($349) pant is articulated and ventilated for sidecountry stash runs, with durability for long days hot-lapping your local mountain, and relaxed for comfort.

W_Tempest_Pant_Lagoon_480

As with all the Trew stormproof wear, their technologically advanced proprietary material, Dermizax®NX, is tops in breathability and toughness. The water-repellent membrane keeps you dry after fall, and next to the skin the material keeps you warm yet it is breathable, with ventilation openings.

As someone who has gone through many snow pants due to rivets popping, zippers tearing off we’re getting stuck, and seems tearing open, Trew has impressed me with its durability, looking and wearing like new for an entire season.

Top it off

For spring shredding, pair bibs with a lightweight water-repellent cold breaker like Trew’s Stella ($190) women’s fly freeride shell that has set the standard for the industry with its tailored-to-flatter, articulated-to-shred, and built-to-last design.

W_STELLA_JACKET_Indigo_480

Layer up

Underneath it all, Trew’s women’s lightweight Nuyard Merino ¼ Zip (sale priced $109) is ultimate hi-tech baselayer, woven with NuYarn merino, a  warmer, softer, better thermal-regulating and more mobile wool than its traditional merino brethren.  For warmer days, the Merino Sweater ¼ Zip (sale priced $55) keeps out the chill and regulates as you move, and it looks sharp and stylish for hitting the lodge apres ski.

W_Merino_Lightweight_Qtr_Zip_Top_Cyan_480

Hot mitts

Serius Heat Touch Torche component gloves ($394.99) may be the first gloves you have to read a manual to use, but hands down you will be wearing the smartest gloves on the mountain with these on your mitts. These three-in-one gloves have a battery-heated component glove that slips inside an insulated shell. They can be worn together or separately and with or without the heating batteries. The heat can dial down for spring skiing or up when you are at the top of the peak and the temps drop. Charge the batteries for about three hours, insert the batteries into the wrist cuff and press the button to the desired heat level.  What’s even smarter, and you can swipe away on your smart phone screen while wearing these gloves.

1087-heattouch-component-outter1087-heattouch-component-inner1099-heat-touch-battery-set

DSC_1374

Pack it up

Nothing’s more of a drag on your travels than hauling a bulky duffle around stuffed with all your gear.  You don’t have to lighten your load and leave stuff behind, instead get rolling with the massively spacious Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 36 ($419) or ORV Trunk 30 ($359).  This bag fits all your winter adventure gear plus the kitchen sink, with lots of pockets and compartments to keep wet stuff separate from dry and all your gear easily accessible. Some extra bells and whistles include an Equipment Keeper Porter Key with bottle opener, exterior and interior compression straps, and an external pocket for easy grab items. All that and a waterproof boot bin, to boot.

OVR Trucnk 30

Sundance kids and families explore art, nature and community together

Sundance Mountain Resort offers year-round family friendly activities

mountains-horiz

When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits, and it has become known as a wonderland for families, where they can spend quality time together and make lifelong memories.

shoes-by-the-fire

Purposefully kept small, true to Redford’s vision when he took over the former Timp Haven in 1968 and developed it to create this idyllic resort, Sundance prides itself as a sanctuary committed to the balance of art, nature and community.

20151218_155027

kids-make-pottery

20151218_162312

Many families we met at Sundance say they vacation year after year at the resort because of its smallness and the appeal of its family friendly offerings, such as a top-notch children’s snow sports school, art and pottery classes, wooded paths and mountain streams for exploring, and activities such as evening snowshoe hikes with owl spotters.

The wild, wild best

The resort sits on 5,000 acres of beauteous mountain land just outside of Provo, Utah, on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Locals and those who return year after year to this best-kept secret in Utah ski country refer to it as Shangri-La.

stream-by-chalet

A true testament to an enterprise that is well-managed from the top down, the staff, from the hotel check-in clerks to the ski instructors, are impressively professional and enthusiastic about their work. And like a dedicated CEO and true believer in his mission, Redford himself skis at the resort at least a few times a season, ensuring the resort runs at peak level.

no-lines-at-rentals

excellent-kids-ski-school

Accommodations are limited to approximately 400 guests at the privately owned or leased 115 cabins and a dozen mountain homes at the resort. Our ski party of two adults and two kids stayed at one of the resort’s chalets nestled in the wooded property, which felt like a private retreat. Paths from the villas lead to the restaurants and other resort buildings, or guests can utilize the resort’s fleet of SUVs to shuttle around the resort.

friendly-staff

The chalets on the property speckle the woods of the hillsides, and in a heavy snow they are barely visible except for their rooftops and chimneys. After one snowy night we awoke to a fresh foot of powder on our doorstep, perfect for snow man making and a snowball fight in our front yard.

snowball-fight

Inside, the cabins are luxurious yet designer-rustic.  Each feature breathtaking views of the mountains, a private deck, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-paneled and slate stone walls, an open floor plan with a climb-up loft – a favorite with the kids, a kitchen, large fireplace, and rooms outfitted with alpine chic pine and leather furniture and hand braided rugs.

taking-pics-window-800

Our cabin was also stocked with board games, which we played by the fire, until the tired kids passed out before 8 pm, after a day on the slopes.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

Snow, snow on the range

While the dining is superb, it’s the mountains that are the main attraction of Sundance.  For those old enough to remember the Redford classic “Jerimiah Johnson,” these are the mountains that provided the stunning backdrop for the film. Though quaint in size compared to other local resorts, such as Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, Sundance holds its own when it comes to the quality and variety of terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders, and the resort boasts four chair lifts and a beginner tow lift, with the newest quad lift, Reds, carrying 500 people uphill per hour.

no-crowds-at-lifts800

During our visit near the holidays, which is peak ski season, the staff remarked that the “crowds” were large, but not once did any of our party wait more than five minutes for a chair lift; and even during the busiest hours for renting and returning skis, we did not experience any long waits more than 20 minutes.

Heading for the hills

Sundance is easily accessible, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City airport. Rather than brave the mountain roads after dark when we flew in at night, we opted to stay overnight at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. If we had not been so eager to get to the mountains, we would have certainly stayed longer at this gorgeous hotel, which offers the only five-star luxury accommodations in Salt Lake City and features one of the most beautiful displays of holiday lights and Christmas trees in the world during the holidays.

grand-american-entrance800-1

grand-american-entrance800

Sundance’s proximity to the airport makes it an easy ski-in, ski-out resort, but its location lower on the mountain range, at about 12,000 feet, means the resort has a shorter snow season than its neighbors at higher elevations.

The compact season is a boon to the resort, as the resort hosts more guests after the snow melts. When other area resorts are winding down with dwindling crowds for spring skiing, Sundance is gearing up for its busiest time of year, when spring and summer vacationers come for horseback riding, mountain biking, zip tours, and, of course – for fans of Redford’s “A River Runs Through it” — fly fishing.

Like the plot of that film, the great outdoors and the notion of family is treated as sacred at Sundance. The resort’s fame may be born of its celebrity owner and the Hollywood-once-removed SWAG-circus festival that bears its name, but otherwise this serene retreat is an escape from city life, and a place where visitors can reconnect with nature, and their families.

The coolest luxury hotel, The Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

The only thing better than a luxury boutique hotel is a new luxury boutique hotel.  The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach, which opened late November 2016, still has that fresh everything smell.

shade-redondo-beach-exterior-41 The chic and modern hotel is so waterfront that peering out of the sliding glass doors of the guest rooms you would swear you are floating on a ship.  For a true feeling of communing with the sea, guests can enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the sail boats bouncing in the harbor below while soaking in their private outdoor tub, discreetly situated off the boudoir, on the balcony.

20161013-shaderb-spaces-lifestyle193

Dining is conveniently at Sea Level restaurant, located at the hotel’s culinary building across a breezeway adjacent the lobby.  The restaurant serves a chef-driven menu of California coastal cuisine, including a raw bar of fresh oysters and craft cocktails to be enjoyed in the LA-lively bar inside or outside, under the stars, by the patio fire pits, along the spectacular seascape boasting views from Palos Verdes to Malibu.

20161013-shaderb-spaces-lifestyle17420161013-shaderb-spaces-lifestyle180

During the day, enjoy the quiet roof top pool, or grab a complementary cruiser bike and head to the beach path just a couple hundred feet from the hotel’s entrance.  Other hotel perks include day passes to the Bay Club fitness facility, a short walk across the neighboring parking lot of Bluewater Grill Seafood, and a partnership with Trilogy Day Spa for special treatment packages.

dayspa

The Redondo Beach locale is up-and-coming, and though the immediate neighborhood has a number of warehouses and visible smoke stacks across the skyline, the area continues to evolve into a hip and happening destination, with more restaurants and trendy shopping popping up, such as Riviera Village, featuring more than 300 boutiques, restaurants and galleries.

dsc_1297

img_3650img_3659

While the term “boutique” generally connotes small, the rooms of this three-story, 54-room property are spacious, and each is fully equipped with mini-fridge, coffee maker, and other comfort amenities, and there are plenty of USB plug-ins and Wi-Fi to keep all manner of tech connected.  The rooms feature chromatherapy, whereby guests can tune the color of the neon accent lights in the room to set a particular mood.

img_3670img_3672

img_3671

The hotel’s efficient service is on par with that of a grand hotel, yet the Shade delivers cool luxury with a laid-back feeling, beginning with check-in, when guest are guests are greeted with a glass of champagne.  Rooms start around $249 per night.

20161013-shaderb-spaces-lifestyle010

dsc_1276dsc_1273dsc_1277

A short trip to Long Beach

img_3980A beach, a city, and a harbor for ships and visitors

Living 17 years in LA, I visited Long Beach about half a dozen times. It served as a halfway meeting point for me and friends who lived in Orange County. We had brunch and dinner there on occasion, and I visited the aquarium with my son and went whale watching once, but I never really considered Long Beach a destination. That was before I had the opportunity to spend an entire weekend there, and I truly got to know what this 55-square-mile city offers unique from its neighbors.

Long Beach has 11.5 miles of beach, which is how the city gets its name, but what sets this  Southern California seaside town apart is its urban environment by the waterside. Think Seattle or Miami, but with constant sunshine, and relaxed attitude of Southern California, along with a desirable geographic position 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

img_3962

Whereas across the Southern California coast, denizens can brag that they can snow ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon, Long Beach one-ups that boast with the promise that residents can go sailing or deep sea fishing, or even visit the island of Catalina for lunch, then go skiing, and be back by dinner time to dine at a world-class metropolitan restaurant and hit the nightlife in the city, until the wee morning hours if they wish.

dsc_0825dsc_0788dsc_0837

20140531_18511820140531_183924

It is a vast city, with a plethora of diverse offerings in the area of culture, cuisine and arts.  The latter category of arts happens to be one of most thriving for the city in the last decade, in which the city has dedicated 1% of its revenue to developing arts programs. Long Beach is the home of the Museum of Latin American art, along with the long beach museum of art, which combines contemporary collections and classical architecture with an oceanfront view. The city is also known for its street art, including the gigantic outdoor murals of the Pow! Wow! international art collective.

The local art scene inspires much of the culture of the town, from the awesome award-winning architecture of the Long Beach airport, named one of the 10 most architecturally beautiful airports in the world, to Retro Row, a 1950s-inspired walk back in time into a mid-century throwback of restaurants and coffee shops, barbershops, and furniture and decor shops that seem like a scene out of  Mad Men, for which in fact the set designers of said show often visited for props, wardrobe and inspiration.

One cannot talk about Long Beach without mentioning the RMS Queen Mary. The behemoth transatlantic ocean liner, built in 1936, that is three times larger than the Titanic, is permanently docked on the Long Beach shoreline, where at now serves as a tourist attraction and hotel where visitors can stay in one of the refurbished first class state rooms.

img_4020

In speaking to locals of Long Beach, it seems everyone has a connection to the Queen Mary. Many have worked there, or their friends or family members have, and many have their own personal stories about the lore of the old ship, purported to be haunted by ghosts.
img_4007

The boat has been floating at its current resting place since 1967, and it rises twice a day, up and down with the tide, hosting hundreds and even thousands of tourists daily for tours and special events. Visitors and ghost chasers revel in the stories told by the Captain and Commodore and the many knowledgeable docents who share a passion for the ship as strong as any Brit’s fealty to their royal figurehead.

Aside from the Queen Mary, there is much more to the shoreline and the bounty of the sea that is an essential draw to the city. The Long Beach aquarium is also world renowned, housing more than 11,000 animals and nearly 500 different species and featuring exhibits that allow visitors to get an up-close perspective and even touch the animals displayed there, in addition to sponsoring many learning programs for visitors of all ages.

img_3977

In addition to these two major attractions there is also a wharf area with seafood restaurants, like the renowned Parker’s Lighthouse, offering tourists and locals spectacular views along with the region’s best and freshest seafood. The culinary scene, like the city itself, has great variety, such as renowned authentic Mexican food at Lolos Mexican Cuisine; The Attic on Broadway, a southern comfort food eatery; the trendy Sip Bar & Lounge at the Marriott Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, featuring the “ocean to fork” culinary creations of award-winning Top Chef contestant Executive Chef Janine Falvo; and L’Opera, a sophisticated fine dining restaurant featuring Northern Italian fare.

img_3959

Lest we forget to mention the shopping, Long Beach is home to one of the area’s newest outlet malls, called the Pike Outlets, which not only has a number of premium discount stores, such as Restoration Hardware and Columbia sportswear, but it also features a Ferris wheel that has become an attraction in itself.

pike-outlets

While a day trip is an easy excursion from Los Angeles, for out-of-towners and those who want to stay overnight, the city offers a growing number of hotels, from the downtown Hyatt Regency, which offers spectacular vistas of the city to the quaint feeling Hotel Maya, a Hilton Doubletree hotel, which though is a sizable property of 200 rooms, has the charm of a boutique hotel, with views overlooking the bay and it’s own marina, which maritime guests can slip into and then stay overnight on their boats or in hotel rooms.

img_3971

The hotel also features Fuego restaurant, famous for its handcrafted margaritas made from its expansive selection of premium tequilas. Its best-kept secret its small private beach, Playa Maya, for which the hotel developers brought in thousands of pounds of sand to create an inviting alcove with lounge seating around fire pit which are the scene of s’more making and merry making in the evenings.

img_3963

img_4037

The hotel offers bike rentals which I took advantage to take a quick, three-minute ride to the Queen Mary, then I doubled back and headed into the city, which was easily accessible by bike designated bike paths. I rode to the Pike and took a break by the Rainbow Lagoon Park and a spin by the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, which was dark on the weekend I visited.

On a sleepy Sunday afternoon, the city was quiet, almost deserted, which is part of the diverse character of the city that is a lure to visitors. It is a bustling city during the weekdays, and a laid-back beach city on the weekends – a city that embodies work and play. While tourists may find its appeal as a central outpost for visiting Los Angeles and many of Southern California’s other major attractions, such as Disneyland, California Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood Long Beach in itself has the draw of a tourist destination, with its features as a metropolitan city, with the added appeal of a sunny beach comprising its boundaries.

img_4066

As a port city, where cargo ships dock from around the world, and to which trucks haul goods back and forth, Long Beach can experience a fair amount of traffic, and the tangled maze of roads to the harbor, with the abundance of signage directing visitors to the various attractions, can make it a navigation feat to find one’s way around at first. Once I got the hang of the roadways, with the help of Waze, I was able to steer myself around like a native, and in fact I found a few short cuts. While I got a good sense of Long Beach by staying there for a weekend, I learned there was a great deal I have yet to explore in this sprawling beach, I mean, city.