Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage set to open May 15

The 244-room Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage is set to open on May 15. Requests for reservations at the new resort are now being accepted.

The resort will commemorate its upcoming opening with a special  Opening Celebration Package, to include luxury accommodations, American breakfast for two in State Fare Bar Kitchen, overnight valet parking, and a limited-edition welcome amenity. Priced from $379 USD per night depending upon room category and based upon availability, the Opening Celebration Package is offered through June 30, 2014.

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage has been designed in homage to the desert region’s popular open-air lifestyle, and it presents a spectacular sense of place and authenticity rarely found among luxury resorts. Panoramic views from a serene hilltop location, a vibrant indigenous landscape, integrated water features, and brilliant fire and light attractions complement the property’s contemporary guest rooms and exclusive

Ritz-Carlton Club Level.  The mindful use of desert stone, wood, copper and other natural elements is a highlight of the 36-acre property, while its unique grounds leave the surrounding terrain pristine, ensuring memorable sunrises, sunsets and panoramic views for guests enjoying their terraces or the resort’s many outdoor settings.

The property’s two spacious restaurants include State Fare — serving the best of California, and the dramatic cliff-side The Edge, which will be unveiled this fall. Beginning on opening day, the resort’s State Fare Bar Kitchen is sure to delight, with tableside cocktail trolley service, artisanal California menus and ingredients, a lively chefs display kitchen, fireplace “snug”, tableside carving service, interactive chefs market table and an extensive collection of brown spirits featuring local barrels, house-made bitters and fresh California citrus.

Further resort amenities include three swimming pools, a Ritz Kids center and comprehensive Ritz Kids program, 16,000 square-feet of stylish indoor meeting space, and 15,000 square-feet of outdoor event space incorporating two lush, cliff-side lawns.

The stunning Ritz-Carlton Spa, Rancho Mirage lies at the heart of the property’s free-standing spa lifestyle complex. With 25,000 square feet of space featuring outdoor terraces, fireplaces and water features, The Ritz-Carlton Spa presents 15 elegant treatment rooms, a complete fitness center, movement studio, full-service salon, and a comprehensive menu of massage, facial and body treatments. Treatment highlights include desert and California specialties, indigenous healing rituals, and the newest and most exclusive in skin and body care products and experiences. Among the spa’s signature spa experiences will be an ultra-relaxing Hammock Massage, presented outdoors; the Rat Pack men’s facial utilizing cultured black diamonds, and an exclusive OMNIA – Move, Train, Play program offered in The Fitness Center.

For golf enthusiasts, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage has secured guest access to premier courses and clubs in the Valley, while nearby tennis, hiking on 20 miles of mountain trails, and luxury shopping and cultural experiences also may be enjoyed within minutes of the luxurious new retreat.

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage will celebrate its opening with several enticing overnight packages, including the Opening Celebration Package. For further information, visit the resort website athttp://www.ritzcarlton.com/ranchomirage, call 800-241-3333 toll-free, or contact a travel professional.

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California Carver’s Guild plans rendezvous April 6-12

The California Carver’s Guild, along with the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau and Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce has announced the 7th Annual Oakhurst Woodcarver’s Rendezvous will take place April 6-12.

The event will once again be held at the Oakhurst Community Center. This year’s theme will celebrate the 150thAnniversary of the Yosemite Grant.

A Wood Quilt pieced together by individual, intricately carved squares will be crafted during this event. In this amazing piece of art each square will reflect the beauty and wonder that is Yosemite National Park. The Quilt will be raffled off throughout the year at various events.

The winner of the quilt will be announced after the New Year. The proceeds raised through the sales of the raffle tickets will go toward school scholarships for children involved in woodworking.

There will also be a special carving contest sponsored by the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. Woodcarver’s will be asked to carve  “aBEARham” Lincoln or something Yosemite Inspired as a tribute to the signing of the Yosemite Grant Act in 1864.

“This special week of carving is guaranteed to be fun for the whole family and we would like to extend a special invitation for everyone to come and join us,” said Larry Smith, co-chair of the event.

There will be carving classes, demonstrations and seminars for all level of carvers.

“We will also have crafts and other activities for your ‘tag-a-longs,’” said Smith.

There are many carving classes already set up, with more being arranged. The registration fee allows guests to attend as many classes during the week as they like.

Registration costs $105 for a single person, $160 per couple from the same household for the entire week. The price includes Sunday breakfast and dinner,Wednesday dinner, and a commemorative T-Shirt, as well as the classes, demonstrations, and seminars.  Attendees should bring their own knives, tools and equipment.

Looky Loos are welcome all week long, free of charge. You are encouraged to watch the carvers during the week and see how they create such amazing works of art.

“We had a great time last year with a record attendance. We hope to bring even more people in this year,” said Smith.

The event will also include an Open House on April 12. The Oakhurst Sunrise Rotary will be cooking up a delicious BBQ lunch.  The public is invited to come see the carvings from the week’s classes, some of which will be available for purchase.  The open house event is free of charge.

Lodging arrangements have been made with the Comfort Inn, High Sierra RV Park and Elks Lodge. For more information, contact Smith at 559-658-2405 or Jack Parks at562-425-0732.

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Killington Resort, VT: Tree skiing with Dan Egan

By Marlene Greer

Premier extreme skier Dan Egan holds all-terrain ski camps at Killington Resort a couple times each season. Don’t know the name? He’s the star – along with his brother John – of a dozen Warren Miller films that turned extreme skiing into a lucrative industry.

He was just a boy then, ripping up everything he could find, Dan Eganwhen Miller discovered him. These days, Egan produces his own sports films, covers world-wide skiing events (including the Sochi Olympics), and teaches ski clinics all over the world.

Today he’s at Killington explaining his teaching techniques before taking a group of skiers and riders to discover the joys of tree skiing at the Vermont resort.

His camps, he said, are about “total body skiing.”

“I can get you skiing better fast,” he explained. “I look at the alignment of your body over your feet and give you a set of drills and skills, and the only difference between beginning and advanced is the pitch we do (the drills and skills) on.”

At Killington, he said, skiers and riders can go boundary to boundary in the woods. But you need to know where those woods come out before heading in, he cautions.

In his tree skiing camp, Egan aspires to change the way his students see the hill. One skier, after a day of following Egan through the woods, said of the experience: “I was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing.”

Egan’s best tree skiing tips: “Better to kick them then kiss them.” And, “keep your feet below your head.”

Sound advice.


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World-Fest kicks off at Silver Dollar City on April 5

 Fiery Spanish guitar riffs, staccato flamenco heel clicks and rhythmic beats of Argentinian bombo drums announce the beginning of a global cornucopia of cultures and entertainment as World-Fest kicks off at Silver Dollar City on April 5.

America’s largest international festival, World-Fest brings performers from around the world, presenting the rich entertainment traditions that helped build our nation as the park presents “Celebrate America.” 

New this year, World-Fest features a showcase of Spanish/Flamenco music and dance in the park’s largest presentation hall, Spanish-inspired street entertainment, plus a new show of lively gypsy music from the Ukraine, all running April 5 – May 4 at the Branson, Missouri theme park.

The new show “Benise – The Spanish Guitar” features Spanish guitarist Roni Benise with a band of top musicians and dancers, pushing the boundaries of traditional Spanish/Flamenco music. The show includes rapid-fire Spanish flamenco, Brazilian samba and Cuban salsa rhythms and dance starring Benise, who has taken his show around the world, from China to Brazil to television’s Dancing with the Stars, also winning anEmmy Award for a television special. Spanish-inspired theatrics fill the Festa de Espana courtyard, with costumed entertainers, living statues portraying iconic figures from Christopher Columbus to Don Quixote, and living puppet “marionetas” all interact with park guests.

Also new is Via Romen, lively gypsy music from the Ukraine. The popular show Amamos Argentina returns, starring the Los Pampas Gauchos who play traditional bombo drums, dance and perform with boleros, plus Argentinian dancers perform the tango. Island Fire presents the rhythms, music and dances from Samoa, Fiji and the South Sea Islands, and features world-champion fire-knife dancers. Additional performers include Ireland’s premier harpist Dearbhail Finnegan and English musician Robin Slater, Austrian yodeler Kerry Christensen,plus the melodic pan flute music of Ecuador Manta.

Even the food goes global for World-Fest at Tastes of the World, a pavilion of international specialties. Guests can feast on selections from 20 countries, plus unique combinations from Irish Tacos to Polynesian Calzones.

World-Fest, April 5 – May 4, is open Wednesdays through Sundays (closed Easter Sunday, April 20). Information: 800-831-4FUN(386) orwww.silverdollarcity.com. World-Fest is presented by Humana.

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Killington Resort, VT: Skiers enjoy the view from the top

IMG_2912Story and Photo by Marlene Greer

The anticipated late winter storm which was expected to drop several inches of snow today at Killington, Vermont, instead veered further east, with the edges only skirting the state. The resort received maybe an inch of snow in the early morning.

This, of course, is on top of two feet of snowfall in the last two weeks and a foot the two weeks before that. Snowmaking at Killington stopped more than a month ago, said Michael Joseph, communications manager for the resort.

Though the snow came late to Killington, it’s now “full on winter – wall to wall,” Joseph said, indicating all runs and lifts at the resort are open.

It seems skiers on the east coast are accustomed to skiing on man-made snow and are finding the real snow a treat. Dave, a 69-year-old self-described Vermont farm boy and lifelong skier, called conditions at Killington this year, “the best it gets.” At least on the east coast, anyway, he added.

With the storm bypassing Killington and the state of Vermont, it turned out to be a second glorious day of skiing, with some clouds and sun, temperatures in the 20s and – most importantly – beautiful packed powder.

Killington is quite large, covering four mountains with 212 trails spread across 1,977 acres. Today we journeyed to the resort’s highest peak – Killington Peak – at 4,241 feet. I know it doesn’t sound like much to us west coast skiers accustomed to 10,000- and 11,000-foot peaks, but here it’s spectacular. Standing at the edge of the mountain, you can see 360 degrees. Skiers can take in the panoramic view of the Green, White and Adirondack mountains. A friendly skier and Vermont native pointed out Mount Washington, New Hampshire, in the distance and the nearby ski resorts of Okemo, Stratton and Pico.

           And you don’t have to be an expert skier to reach the top. All levels of ski terrain come off the peak. Now that’s a treat.


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Killington Resort, VT: Best skiing of the season

IMG_2871Story and Photo by Marlene Greer

When I woke up this morning at Killington Grand Hotel in Vermont, outside it was 1 degree below zero. The unseasonably cold weather gripping the nation for most of this winter has not yet released its grip on the northeast. Another storm is headed this way on Tuesday with a chance of yet more snow.

Fortunately by the time I hit the slopes at Killington Resort in the afternoon,  it warmed up nicely and was beautiful and sunny if a bit windy at times.

And the ski conditions were not at all what I expected.

This is the first time I’ve skied anywhere in the East Coast, and I couldn’t have picked a better place. Killington was at its peak.

“Today is the best skiing of the season,” said Mike, a Killington mountain host stationed at the top of a chairlift where we stopped to get some advice on the best way to ski back to where we started earlier in the day.

Other skiers agreed.

“This is our fourth trip this year, and this is the best skiing we’ve had,” said Evelyn, a teacher from Massachusetts skiing Killington with her husband.

Sometimes we West Coast skiers can be a bit of a ski snob when it comes to East Coast skiing. “It’s always icy.” “It’s hard snow.” “All you do is chatter down the hill.” “They’re all small hills.” I’ve heard it all.

But Killington has surprised me. It’s none of the above – at least for today.

Marlene Greer is a North Carolina based freelance writer

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Deer Valley Ski Resort plans major mountain addition in Park City, Utah


Skiing in the clouds at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Skiing in the clouds at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, is growing. President and General Manager Bob Wheaton announced recently the resort’s plan to add 1,000 acres of ski terrain with five or six new lifts.

The new ski area will be located on the resort’s east side below the Sultan Express and Mayflower lift on Bald Mountain. With this addition, Deer Valley will offer more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. A new lodge, dining area and possibly lodging will be built in the new base area.

Deer Valley has wanted to expand for some time, Wheaton said. On peak days the resort’s dining areas struggle to handle all the skiers. The expansion, he said, will alleviate much of the dining congestion and offer skiers another access point to the resort.

The anticipated start date for the project is 2017. The project is expected to be complete in five years and cost an estimated $50 million.

Also on the horizon is a new gondola from historic downtown Park City to Deer Valley. Another major ski resort, Park City resort already operates the Town Lift from one end of Main Street. Deer Valley wants its own gondola.

The gondola will run from Main Street to Deer Valley’s mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge area at 8,100 feet. The ride should take 15 minutes.

A decision has not yet been made whether the gondola will be free or if there will be a small fee. The gondola project will begin within two years and cost $10 to $12 million, Wheaton said.

All of this is great news for skiers and visitors to Park City. With a town gondola to Deer Valley Resort and a town lift to Park City Resort, skiers can skip the public buses and go direct from downtown to two of the area’s ski resorts.

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Big and beautiful, that’s Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah

Inside the beautiful lodge at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Inside the beautiful lodge at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

It’s easy to get to Deer Valley. It’s a 45-minute ride from the Salt Lake City Airport, and many transportation companies offer service from the airport to Deer Valley for a reasonable price.

There are many lodging opportunities at Deer Valley — all are on the expensive side. My stepdaughter and I stayed in a one-bedroom unit at The Lodges, a luxurious complex with a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, near Snow Park Lodge, Deer Valley’s main base lodge.

A free shuttle runs all day from The Lodges to Deer Valley and takes less than five minutes. Another plus at The Lodges is the free, on-call car service to anywhere we wanted to go in the town of Park City.

Skiers can also stay in Park City and take the free local public buses to Deer Valley that run all day and pick up at several locations.

On our second day of skiing at Deer Valley, the snowfall was heavy and wet, the kind of ski day that leaves your jacket and gloves soaked.

But that didn’t keep us from discovering and enjoying more of the resort’s beautiful blues and blue-greens, Deer Valley’s in-between groomers that challenge beginners and give intermediate skiers an easy final run at the end of the day.

Beautiful and easy. That’s Deer Valley.

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A Killington ski adventure


By Marlene Greer

Sometimes we west coasters can be ski snobs. We have so many great SoCal and Western US ski resorts to choose from we don’t bother with what’s on the other side of the country. Well, we’ve put aside our bias and are trying – for the first time – skiing in Vermont. Join us in our adventure on the right coast as we explore historic Killington and Pico ski resorts.

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Families and friends make Deer Valley Ski Resort a tradition

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley is a skiers-only resort — one of the few left in the country. And Deer Valley plans to keep it that way.

“We survey our guests and (no snowboarders) is among the top reasons why people come to Deer Valley,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager. He says the resort is doing well financially with only skiers, and he doesn’t see the policy changing.

No snowboarders made our skiing experience more relaxed. And quiet. Deer Valley is excellent casual skiing at its best.

Jill, skiing at Deer Valley with a friend and her friend’s daughter Lauren, described it a little differently. “It’s lazy skiing,” said Jill, a vivacious 50-something lifelong skier. “Nice runs, not crowded, no snowboarders, not too difficult. I’m old. I’ve got bad knees. I want nice, easy skiing.”

This was the trio’s third trip to Deer Valley in three years. The two friends from Texas, whose husbands don’t ski, have been skiing together for many years. Lauren joined them three years ago for their annual ladies-only ski trip, and Deer Valley is their go-to destination.

“It started with six of us friends,” Jill said. “Now only the two of us are going, with Lauren. We’ve been to Deer Valley many times. It’s our favorite mountain.”
It’s also the favorite of Amy and Bill from Austin, Texas. The couple returned to Deer Valley for the second year with their two young children, 7-year-old Ben and Caroline, 9.

The parents felt the resort was ideal for their family. Ben’s favorite trail is Ontario, a long green groomer running from the top of Flagstaff Mountain.
“We’ve been doing that all day,” Amy said with a sigh.

The parents also like the kids ski school program.
“They have fun with other kids, and Bill and I can go ski,” Amy said. “They could probably ski with us now, but we like the ski school. It’s expensive, but if you are spending this much to ski here, what’s a few hundred more?”

Deer Valley lift tickets are on the high side — $108 a day for adults, $68 for
children. The resort offers a nice discount for seniors 65 and older at $77 a day.

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