Winter in the West

Where to go and what to do when clients start to feel the winter blues

Austin Keeps With the Beat
By Kevin Brass

Austin loses much of its sun-baked, self-proclaimed weirdness in the winter. The days turn crisp and cold, making the River City’s intimate blues clubs and tasty Tex-Mex restaurants seem a little bit cozier, a little more inviting. It’s the perfect romantic getaway for a couple who likes good music and long walks along the tree-lined shores of the Colorado on a brisk evening.

The Driskill Hotel, an elegant Victorian-style hotel in the heart of downtown, is the ideal headquarters. For decades a favorite of cattle barons and political power brokers, it’s a slice of old Texas, with cowhide chairs and portraits of heroic Texans in the massive, Texas-size lobby. It’s also perfectly located at the crossroads of Congress Avenue, the wide main drag leading to the Capitol, and Sixth Street, the epicenter of the rockin’ nightlife scene.

During the holiday season, Congress is draped with colorful lights and decorations, making a horse-drawn carriage around the Capitol and the storied Governor’s Mansion especially picturesque. Across the river, the 155-foot “moon tower” in Zilker Park is adorned with lights, giving the city a special holiday glow. Zilker Park is also home to the annual mile-long Trail of Lights, scheduled for Dec. 10-23, when local groups try to outdo each other with elaborate light shows.

From the Driskill it’s a short walk to the Capitol and the 10-mile hike-and-bike trail that loops along the banks of Town Lake, the section of the Colorado River snaking through the heart of the city. It’s one of the most scenic urban trails in the country, whether you’re running, biking or people watching. (Keep an eye out for local athletic celebs like Lance Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey.) More adventuresome types can rent kayaks or canoes and explore the length of the river, which is particularly inspiring at sunset on a cold winter day.

For a different type of fresh-air experience, bargain hunters will love the funky Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, the annual event which is part eclectic arts-and-crafts fair and part music festival. Shoppers will also want to hit the stretch of South Congress known as SoCo, across the river from downtown. From Texas boots to folk art to the finest Southwest furniture, SoCo is recognized as the place to find the offbeat and wacky, the items uniquely Austin. It is also home to Guero’s, an old feed barn converted into a legendary Tex-Mex restaurant, and the Hotel San Jose, an ultra-hip restored motor lodge popular with the Hollywood crowd. The San Jose’s open-air patio, with the heaters blowing, is the in-spot for a quiet glass of wine and discussion about the hot new bands.

At night, Austin flows with music. Sixth Street is a rival to Bourbon Street, but music can be found in clubs throughout town, including famous haunts like the Continental Club and Antone’s, where blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan became a legend. While Texas is best known for country, boot- scootin’ music, Austin’s music scene is a vibrant mix of blues, rock and folk, ensuring that visitors will find the perfect spot to hunker down and boogie on a cold winter night.


Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Dec. 9-24

Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau

Driskill Hotel
800-252-9367, 512-474-5911

Hotel San Jose
800-574-8897, 512-444-7322

By Bob Demyan

Of all the things people associate with Oregon in winter, abundant sunshine is generally not one of them. Storms blowing in off the Pacific bump up against the Cascade Mountains and off-load the Pacific Northwest’s legendary rainfall. But by the time those storms clear the Cascades, they’re done. On the east side of those mountains, there’s a whole other Oregon, a land of year-round high-desert sunshine, juniper and sage, canyons and buttes, towering Ponderosa pines and big volcanic mountains that get an average of almost 400 inches of snow a year. This is Bend, Oregon.

A longtime favorite with ski buffs and outdoor lovers, this former mill town has become one of the hottest boomer retirement spots in America. Bend’s population doubled from 35,000 in 1997 to over 70,000 today, and it’s no mystery why: 300 sunny days a year, snow-draped mountains, rivers fat with trout and a vast inventory of open space.

Winter in Bend begins at Mt. Bachelor and what many consider the finest skiing and snowboarding in the Pacific Northwest. Bachelor has over 3,000 acres of terrain for every level of ability and interest. Nordic skiers can schuss for days on 35 miles of cross-country trails. And Bend’s proximity to thousands of acres of designated wilderness and national forest land provides endless opportunities for snowshoeing, snowmobiling and solitude.

But what’s all that high-octane fun without a little civilizing balance? Bend’s upscale downtown offers an array of shopping and dining opportunities where high-desert Western cool meshes with a sophisticated Portland vibe. There’s no shortage of places to enjoy a latte or microbrew, listen to jazz or browse Western art, buy artisan home furnishings or read a book in front of a cozy fire.

When it comes to hanging your ski boots up at night, options abound. For something uniquely Oregon, there’s McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School downtown. Portland’s McMenamin brothers, known for their distinctive properties, converted this one-time Catholic school and its sundry buildings into one of the coolest places to stay anywhere. The beer is McMenamin’s own and it can be enjoyed in one of several pubs or while watching a movie in their in-house theater. Top the evening off in their romantic Turkish soaking pool with its gorgeous tile work, sculpture and fountains.

For a completely different experience, the Sunriver Resort, about 20 minutes south of Bend, offers 3,700 acres of high-desert tranquilo. Originally a U.S. Army training camp, Sunriver has become one of central Oregon’s premier destination resorts.

“We offer over 150 different events between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,” says ShanRae Hawkins, Sunriver’s marketing director. “Kids love the elf tuck-ins and stuff-your-own-bear workshops, and adults love the moonlight snowshoe tours and sleigh rides.”

With Turkish soaking pools, moonlight snowshoeing, sleigh rides, desert wilderness and jazz by the fire, Bend’s many offerings keep visitors smiling.


Bend Oregon Visitor and Convention Bureau

McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School

Mt. Bachelor

Sunriver Resort

By Janeen Christoff

As anyone living in Southern California already knows, Mammoth Mountain is one of the top ski areas in the country. Located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mammoth is currently the second-most visited ski resort in the country, and most visitors close to 80 percent come from the West.

What some people may not know, however, is that over the last few years Mammoth has had a vigorous renovation and building spree. And it’s not over yet: Still to come is the introduction of air service to the mountain from LAX, scheduled for December 2007, as well as the completion of several big-name hotel projects.

The boom is hardly surprising. Even with more than 400 inches of snow on average, the area boasts 300 sunny days a year and a ski season that runs into June. The mountain truly lives up to its name, with more than 150 trails on 3,500 acres.

Not only will clients find enough snowy terrain for outdoor activities, but with the addition of the The Village in 2003, this former gold-rush mining town now has more shops, bars, restaurants and activities to keep clients busy on and off the slopes. Visitors can wine-and-cheese taste at the new Side Door Cafe, check out the latest snowboard gear at the Unbound store, wander through clothing boutiques or grab a quick bite to eat at the Old New York Deli & Bagel Co. before heading up The Village Gondola to the slopes.

For those who enjoy fine dining, old favorites like the Shogun and Whiskey Creek have competition with new Village favorites like Hennessy’s and Restaurant LuLu.

Getting around in snowy conditions is easy on the town’s free shuttle, connecting visitors with The Village, Main Lodge, Canyon Lodge and Eagle Lodge. Lodging in the area has typically included condos and various roadside inns, but in the last year, the resort completed a multi-million-dollar renovation to the Mammoth Mountain Inn, and upgrades to Eagle Lodge like the addition of a new ski-school area have made Juniper Springs Lodge even more attractive to families. Tamarack Lodge and Resort, tucked among the pines, is a Mammoth favorite, and soon, there will be even more room with the addition of two cabins.

Mammoth also offers educational experiences, not just recreational fun. The area’s newest attraction, the state-of-the-art Top of the Sierra Interpretive Center, is designed to educate visitors about the dynamic nature of the Eastern Sierra.

“We’re not only creating a fun and interesting destination for our guests from out of town to visit,” said Pam Murphy, senior vice president at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, “but we’re also giving the community a place to learn about their surroundings.”


Mammoth Mountain
Commission: 10 percent

January Midweek Madness packages feature lift tickets and lodging from $113, double occupancy, per person, per night. Rates are valid Jan. 8-31 for arrivals on Monday and Tuesday nights. A two-night stay is required.

Spring Fest lift and lodging packages start at $107. Clients who stay two or more nights get lift tickets for each night stayed. Prices are based on double occupancy, per person, per night, and valid May 1-31.

Park City’s Powdery Punch
By Irene Middleman Thomas

Once a silver boom town, nowadays Park City’s claim to fame is snow lots and lots of powdery snow. Just 36 miles east of Salt Lake City’s airport, Park City, Utah, is a winter wonderland with downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more. Three major ski areas are here The Canyons, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort, easily accessible with the town’s free area-wide bus service offered from 7-1 a.m.

Park City is known not only for recreation, but cultural offerings as well. Architecture and history buffs enjoy viewing the many 19th-century buildings hailing from the mining days, which are on the National Register of Historic Places. This outdoorsy, yet sophisticated community also has several museums and art galleries, as well as some 100 restaurants with a wide range of cuisine. And despite Utah’s alcoholic beverage restrictions, Park City has over two dozen bars and clubs.

The Sundance Institute’s Film Festival helped put Park City on the map, not only as a snow-sports oasis, but as a cultural center as well. Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, the Sundance Film Festival, held each January (this year Jan. 18-28) is considered the premier U.S. showcase for independent film, storytelling and documentaries.

The opening weekend is the busiest time of the event. The second half of the Festival offers the same daily events, screenings and parties, with more opportunities to see films, including the closing weekend encore presentations of all the award winners. Tickets to individual screenings are $10 each, and many are followed by a Q&A with the director and cast.

Snow is what most visitors come for, however, and The Canyons Resort, one of the largest resorts in the country, features eight mountains, five bowls, two terrain parks, 152 trails and 3,700 acres of terrain. Park City is home to nine bowls, four terrain parks and one superpipe. Deer Valley offers 91 trails and six bowls.

Clients looking for special thrills might try the one-day bobsledding classes offered at the Stephan Bosch Bobsled Driving School. Six sessions will be offered this year, all in March, each priced at $500.


Park City CVB

Sundance Film Festival

Ski Areas

Stephan Bosch Bobsled Driving School

For clients who want to relax at the spa after hitting the slopes, try the Stein Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley, the Hotel Park City or Papillon at Westgate at The Canyons.

By Lucy Ramos

The Great Southwest is truly a land of contrasts. While the good citizens of Flagstaff are bundled in down digging their cars out from under two feet of snow just 45 minutes to the north, the lucky denizens of Sedona are flaunting chic leather jackets and doing gallery tours under bright blue skies. It’s not that it doesn’t get cold about mid-50s during the day and some 20 degrees lower at night it’s just that it never gets any worse. In other words: c’mon over, the weather’s perfect.

Some would agree that perfection was front and center in Mother Nature’s mind when She created Sedona. Majestic pines and cerulean skies serve as the setting for some of the world’s most amazing red-rock monoliths, some with romantic names such as the Cathedral, others with less lofty ones, such as Snoopy Rock. Highbrow or low, there’s no denying every one of them is a major draw.

Sightseeing is definitely at the top of any visitor’s list: just driving through town gives the camera a workout. Sunset is a favorite time of day, when the light hits the rocks just right and makes them shimmer in coppery shades of red. Many of the local eateries, bars and hotels take advantage of this wealth of physical beauty, framing the sights in the windows at every opportunity. One such spot is El Portal Sedona, a 12-room inn with an award- winning design that is quite at home with its gorgeous surroundings. All the rooms at El Portal are lovely, but the last eight are high on repeat visitor’s lists. Each one has its own decor, echoing the charm of owner/designer Lynda Bourgeois’ vision.

Its enviable location goes beyond the red-rock backdrop: It’s right next door to the exquisite Tlaquepaque, Sedona’s premier arts-and-crafts village. Fashioned after a traditional Mexican village with cobblestone walkways and arched entryways, the village is a delightful maze of unusual shops, classy galleries and local eateries.

And though El Portal does welcome families, “most of our guests are looking for a quiet, intimate setting within walking distance of the best that Sedona has to offer in terms of retail and galleries,” said Bourgeois. “Most people, though, come to Sedona for the natural beauty, so the outdoor activities are very popular, including horseback riding, hot-air balloon rides, jeep tours to historic sites and hiking.”

Here, the artistry of nature serves as inspiration for manmade art. According to this year’s AmericanStyle magazine, Sedona was ranked the No. 5 Small City in the 9th Annual Top 25 Arts Destinations reader’s poll. Art lovers the world over flock to its eclectic gallery offerings, featuring everything from the loftiest designs from local Native American tribes to inspiring glasswork, bronze, carvings, jewelry and myriad oils, watercolors and collages. An afternoon of gallery-hopping followed by a glass of wine and a great dinner at, for example, the famous Heartline Cafe, is just what the shaman ordered. Speaking of which, Sedona has gained a reputation and rightly so for being one of the major energy centers of the world. Its so-called vortices have attracted sentient creatures from far and wide, many of whom claim to have received a spiritual charge from these hidden spots.

Real or not, Sedona does seem to influence its visitors one way or another at the very least, the sense of wonder they get from seeing what Nature has wrought is not easily forgotten.


Sedona Chamber of Commerce

El Portal
Impulsive clients will love the Whirlwind Getaway special: up to 30 to 50 percent off their room rate, plus the usual complimentary use of the Los Abrigados spa and pool facilities next door. Suites start at $250 per night; rates are set to change in 2007.


Mission Inn Merriment
Every holiday season, the historic Mission Inn, in Riverside, Calif., celebrates with the Festival of Lights. To get into the holiday spirit, the hotel is offering a variety of packages to entice clients. For $295, the Festival of Lights package includes one night’s accommodation in a deluxe guestroom, a 2007 Mission Inn calendar, a $50 gift card that can be used at the hotel restaurant, gift shop or spa and a gingerbread-men-and-milk turndown.

The Winter Wonderland package, priced at $365, includes a one-night stay and a choice of a holiday facial or a peppermint pedicure and gingerbread bath at Kelly’s spa. The package also includes a Mission Inn calendar and gingerbread turndown service.

Perfect for kids, the Santa’s Little Workshop package offers a two-night stay for $895. The package includes cookie decorating for kids, gingerbread baths for adults, a family photo in front of the Christmas tree and dinner at Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood. A calendar and gingerbread turndown service is also included.

Napa: Winter in Wine Country
The Harvest Inn in California’s Napa Valley is tempting guests with its Winter in the Wine Country group package. Especially good for the holidays, parties of 10 or more can take advantage of the inn’s cozy guestrooms, each with a fireplace, and enjoy a one-hour wine and cheese reception, complimentary bottle of Merryvale wine in each guestroom and a VIP upgrade to an executive junior suite for one guest.

The package is available Sunday-Thursday, and prices start at $269 per person.

Pueblo Holiday Traditions in New Mexico
During the holiday season, clients can experience pueblo traditions at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa. Located halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the 350-room property along the Rio Grande River is attracting visitors with special value-added holiday packages. The Fall Feast Festival package and the Festival of Luminarias package both allow clients to experience the cherished holiday customs and enduring traditions of a New Mexico pueblo community.

Rates start at $199 per person and include accommodations, $25 resort credit, 10 percent savings at the Galleria Tamaya gift shop and $20 in free slot play at the nearby Santa Ana Star Casino.