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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

Four Seasons, Scottsdale, Arizona

The sun lives in Arizona and vacations in Phoenix. Temperatures reach a hundred and the mid-teens there in summer. They rarely fall much below 70, even in winter.
Phoenix is generally a flat place connected by freeways and malls. There are the mundane malls, anchored to fast food drive-throughs. And there are power shopping meccas, anchored by elite European name brands. Only Bank One Ballpark gives the place a little special pizzazz. That and perhaps half a dozen five-star luxury resorts in the Phoenix area, most in or near Scottsdale, northeast of downtown Phoenix, where it's an average of 10 degrees cooler most of the year. For sun worshipers, I imagine these places are heaven.
I've stayed at several of Phoenix's desert oases. (You may have read my column about the Phoenician and Royal Palms). Almost all are set against awe-inspiring mountain backdrops. Their décor is lavish, pools inviting, restaurants award winning, spas invigorating, and golf courses scenic and challenging. There is one resort, however, that has all that and a name - the Four Seasons - a name that has become synonymous with luxury and superlative service. In my recent stay at the Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale at Troon North (480-515-5599), I was not disappointed.
The Four Seasons Scottdale is a smaller, more intimate, and cozier resort than the larger luxury resorts like the 600-room Phoenician, 700-room Biltmore, and 900-room Marriot. Newly built in late 2000, it has 210 spacious rooms arranged in one and two-story southwestern style casitas. All have gas burning fireplaces and private balconies or terraces with views of the High Sonoran desert and mountain peaks that overlook the resort. The grounds are a virtual specimen garden of desert cacti, predominately grand Saguaros. And the hotel is saddled between Pinnacle Peak and Crested Butte, tan and green rugged hillsides with spectacular boulder outcroppings precariously balanced atop one another.
Rates are seasonal, peaking January through April at $395-650 with summer bargain rates, June through August, as low as $145. And there are several packages that include multi-night stays, dining, golf, or spa treatments that in combination make a holiday or a business junket more attractive. There's even an affiliation with the nearby Arizona Cowboy College. You can attend "college" there during the day and learn to be a "real" cowboy - roping, shoeing, branding, and finally setting off on a cattle drive - and yet return each evening for pampering at a Four Seasons. You can be a John Wayne during the day; a Sinatra at night.
The main building, with its lobby, restaurants, and convention rooms, is a territorial design with large telephone pole roof beams interspersed with small latia poles. Walls are decorated with wonderful desert photography, native art, and indiginous indian handicrafts.
The resort is set in Troon North, an area of Scottsdale with multi-million dollar homes and the Troon North golf courses, two award winning 18-hole courses designed by champion golfer Tom Weiskopf. Although they are public courses, guests at the resort get preferred tee-times.
There are four hard surfaced tennis courts, two lit for evening play. Nature lovers can hike up Pinnacle Peak. The resort has built a trail directly from the hotel to the city's Pinnacle Peak trail. Chilled towels and bottled water will await you at your return.
Their full service spa, adjacent to their fitness center, has 14 treatment rooms and spa suites for couples. And, of course, they have a "signature" treatment - the Four Seasons massage. Winter is a prelude cooling scrub. Spring a warm floral wrap. Summer a medley of massage techniques. And Fall a herbal scalp treatment. In late evening, after spa hours, and perhaps after a vigorous day of golf or branding, you can enjoy a massage on your private casita terrace under a star-filled desert sky.
There are three restaurants - the Acacia, a fine dining steak house with a southwestern touch serving dinner only; the Crescent Moon with more of an Italian flare, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner inside, or on an outside terrace; and the Saguaro Blossom serving snacks at poolside.
There are three pools - a children's pool with miniature lounge chairs, an upper pool for family activity with private cabanas, and below that, a strictly adult pool in a quieter area with more cabanas available.
There are a lot of resorts in Scottsdale, a lot of wonderful choices, but service is what sells a Four Seasons. From the moment the valet opens your car door when you drive up, to the twice daily maid service and a star constellation chart laid atop your pillow at nightly turndown, service is extraordinary. But it is the complimentary services that I think make the world of difference.
There's a "Kids for All Seasons" program at the Four Seasons. There's no charge and you can leave your child for 4 hours or 8 hours to be entertained and educated in a structured program designed for 5-12 year olds. For the very, very young, there's no charge for cribs, diapers, high chairs, strollers, playpens, even baby wipes. There's even a kid's concierge to provide further advice for anything child related.
Poolside, attendants walk around and deliver a free food amenity every ˝ hour - from fruit cabobs, to frozen candy bars, to frozen yogurt. And ever cognizant that this is a desert, they'll be by with ice water, chilled towels, and an Evian spritz. While other first class resorts charge for their poolside cabanas and canopies, there's no charge here.
Use of the fitness center is free. Use of the spa is free. Use of tennis racquets and balls, free. And there are free daily fitness classes including yoga, spinning, pilates, Tai Chi, and more.
Leave your shoes out to be shined at night. They'll be on your door with your newspaper in the morning.
While the resort is just 35 minutes from Phoenix International Airport and 20 minutes from downtown Scottsdale's most opulent shopping areas, it is certainly more off the beaten track than most of Scottsdale's other luxury resorts. But the resort also sits nearly 1200 feet higher than Phoenix and Scottsdale and so it is definitely cooler and has grand panoramic views of the desert and city below. Away from city lights, its night sky is awash with stars. A telescope in the lobby is available to look down at the lights of the city below or at a myriad of stars above. Being a little bit "out of the way" is perhaps what makes the Four Seasons more conducive to a restful or romantic interlude or a business group's harmony. The perfect place to worship the sun and get a little closer to heaven.