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Beat the winter blues with these Western escapes featuring sun or let it snow

Published: Nov/Dec 2002
By Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein

If John Soule were writing for the “Terre Haute Express” today, he might want to change his famous 1851 quote to “Go west, everyone.” When those winter blues come to call, head west. Three favored tourist destinations are Palm Springs, Calif., Scottsdale, Ariz. and Aspen, Colo. Astonishing physical beauty enhances all three places.

Palm Springs

The sun shines 350 days a year in this resort playground. Towering snow-capped mountains encircle a setting of swaying palm trees. Brilliant desert flowers and beckoning Indian canyons create a sense of serenity and spirituality.

Three million visitors a year flock to 300 exquisite hotels, more than 100 area golf courses and 30,000 swimming pools. This golfer’s paradise is enhanced by the opportunity to see major tournaments, including the Nabisco Championship and Bob Hope Classic.

Cultural and recreational opportunities are varied to accommodate almost everyone. Take the family to The Living Desert, a 1,200-acre wildlife and botanical park inhabited by 435 desert animals, some of which are on endangered species lists. Board the narrated tram ride for insights into how desert animals and plants survive.

Journey back in time at the Palm Springs Air Museum, where World War II veterans guide guests through three hangars featuring prop-driven fighter aircraft, which still fly. Guides share their personal war stories.

For panoramic views, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up 8,516 feet to a wilderness station in Mount San Jacinto State Park. Appreciate inviting displays of contemporary, Western and Native American art at the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Browse exclusive galleries and shops on El Paseo, Palm Canyon Drive and The River. On weekends, 300 vendors offer intriguing merchandise at the College of the Desert’s Street Fair.

Don’t miss “The Fabulous Follies,” an entertainment extravaganza that consistently receives standing ovations. The dazzling review, which runs November through May, features a legendary line of long-legged dancers, all 50–87 years old.

The McCallum Theater presents a season packed with headliners and Broadway shows. The Piano Bar at Vicki’s of Santa Fe is the hottest ticket in town when popular, talented, charismatic Doug Montgomery takes the keyboard.

Check into the Westin Mission Hills Resort. A recent $6 million renovation included the luxe spa where my daughter and I experienced a ultimate pampering. For the bindi body wrap, the therapist smoothed warm herbal-infused oils over my daughter’s body and applied an herbal facial treatment. My fitness facial focused on using enzymes to give skin a healthy workout of lifting, tightening and toning. The dramatic effect lasted a week.

Fine restaurants flourish. The clubby Sullivan’s Steakhouse is known for its steaks and fresh seafood. Begin with irresistible onion rings. The house specialty–a 20-ounce Kansas City Strip–defined succulent. Side dishes of creamed spinach and au gratin potatoes were exceptional. End with a soufflé or Baked Alaska.

For serious French cuisine in an authentic, unpretentious Parisian atmosphere, we chose Palmie. Chef proprietor Alain Clerc whips up such delicacies as lobster ravioli garnished with caviar, a signature cheese soufflé made with Parmesan and Swiss cheeses and an irresistible warm apple tart.

For celebratory occasions choose the prestigious, award-winning Wally’s Desert Turtle. Walk into the exquisite mirrored and muraled restaurant for a memorable evening of gourmet delicacies and fine wines. Select the beet and goat cheese tower for an appetizer. For your entrée order mouth-melting Dover sole or rack of lamb. Finish with an apricot soufflé.


More sunshine and mountains await in the southwest desert metropolis of Scottsdale. Perfect golf weather (average year-round temperature is 72.6 degrees) blends with 200 golf courses throughout the Valley of the Sun.

For the perfect luxury holiday, check into the ultimate destination resort, The Phoenician, situated on 250 lush acres. The AAA Four Diamond-rated resort offers every ingredient of style, sophistication and service to make your stay memorable. You’ll never want to leave the premises, and there’s no need to.

There are three challenging nine-hole courses, 12 outdoor tennis courts feature four playing surfaces and nine extravagant pools. The Center for Well-Being is an oasis of relaxation. Try “Acusage,” an 80-minute combination of acupuncture and massage. For children, Funicians Kids Club keeps youngsters 5–12 engaged and happy.

Palatial public areas with Italian marble floors and sparkling crystal chandeliers are decorated with fresh flowers, desert plants and a $8 million dollar museum quality art collection. The lavish décor extends into the rooms and suites.

Experience ultimate dining at the esteemed Mary Elaine’s, a AAA Five Diamond restaurant. The opulent showplace features modern French cuisine created by chef James Boyce. Select one of his tasty dinners. The wine list doesn’t quit.

If you can bring yourself to leave the resort, peruse the 125 galleries in town. Visit the sweeping Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Don’t miss taking one of the guided tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert masterpiece, Taliesin West.

Want to shop-till-you drop? Do it all in the sprawling Scottsdale Fashion Square with more than 200 prestigious stores.

Bring a big appetite to local favorite, Don & Charlie’s. Try the special steak encrusted with spices. It’s not easy to leave room for their mouth-watering hot fudge sundaes after a meal that includes everything from chopped liver appetizer to soup or salad, potatoes and onion rings.

A fusion of Mediterranean and Southwestern dishes can be enjoyed at Medizona. Order char-broiled beef tenderloin with a sundried cherry barbecue sauce. Dessert musts are the prickly pear tiramisu or halvah crème brûlé.


The rich and famous may have claimed Aspen as their playground, but there’s plenty of room for you to join them on the slopes of the four area mountains (Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass) for winter sports adventures, including downhill and cross-country skiing, toboggan rides, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Aspen is one of America’s most visually exquisite communities, with powdery snow, brilliant starlit nights and crisp mountain air. You’ll catch the spirit of the Western frontier in the erstwhile mining town that now sparkles with glamorous retreats and beautiful people. The Colorado Rockies provide the perfect backdrop for your winter skiing sojourn.

Come back after a day of exciting sports escapades to luxury resort hotels. The St. Regis Aspen located at the base of Aspen Mountain in the town’s center recently underwent a complete renovation. The award-winning luxury hideaway has a rich mountain décor punctuated with bronze statues of elk and bison.

The hotel’s amenities include a “Ski Butler” in winter to coordinate all vacation needs such as rentals, lift tickets and ski school. The only bumps you need maneuver appear on the slopes. Complimentary shuttles take you to any of the slopes. Stay at the hotel to dine on award-winning Mediterranean dishes at the acclaimed Olives.

Walk to the historic Hotel Jerome for contemporary cuisine in the elegant Century Room. For Après festivities, try Ajax Tavern. A great people-watching spot is at the brassy horseshoe-shaped bar at Mezzaluna. Make tracks to the Crystal Palace for an evening of prime rib and satirical cabaret entertainment.

For sun and/or snow, visit the western states of California, Arizona and Colorado.

Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

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