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Back to The Future at a Posh Desert Retreat

Lauren Swanson | October 16, 2017 | Story Travel

Thumbing through photos of Arizona’s Mountain Shadows Hotel in its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s feels oddly satisfying. Women with impressive bouants lounge poolside next to men in tightly cropped swim shorts, smiling and sipping Coca-Cola. Lucille Ball steps off a helicopter, dressed from head to toe in white, awash in sunlight and poised to enjoy a sojourn at the posh desert retreat.

Standing on the same Paradise Valley grounds more than six decades later, flanked by mountains and pert palm trees, you can still see nods to that old-school desert luxury. However, the resort itself is entirely new. A $100 million rebuild by Woodbine Development Corporation and Westroc Hospitality brings with it contemporary flourishes and modern panache. Now simply called Mountain Shadows, the resort boasts 183 guest rooms; a Presidential Suite; two pools; a golf course; and a gourmet restaurant called Hearth ’61, helmed by Valley culinary treasure and executive chef Charles Wiley. Condominiums will be completed and available for purchase by fall (from $840,000).

The look is decidedly sleeker and more minimalist than its past counterpart. “Modern design, by definition, is of its time,” says Mark A. Philp, founding partner of Allen + Philp Architects. “Our charge here was to design a grouping of buildings that [is] fresh, forward-thinking, optimistic and [as] of-today as the original was in 1959. The prominence of the resort pool, the views to the mountains, the reuse of salvaged screen block all pay homage to the original.”

Floor-to-ceiling windows, expansive patios, midcentury-modern decor and raw materials like exposed concrete allow the mountains to take center stage. “It is all about the environment and making the most of it,” says Amber Anderson, director of design for Westroc Hospitality.

With Camelback Mountain to the south and Mummy Mountain to the north, the grounds offer a quiet safe haven, secluded from the hustle and bustle of Scottsdale and Phoenix, yet also conveniently minutes from both. While there is no spa, guests can easily hop inside a Tesla Model X courtesy car for a ride to the neighboring Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort for its world-renowned spa amenities (from $105).

The Short Course, designed by golf-course architect Forrest Richardson of Forrest Richardson & Associates, is one of only a handful of 18-hole par-3 golf courses in the world. “Our goal was to find the same beauty, harmony, function and innovation [that renowned original golf course architect] Jack Snyder created more than 50 years ago,” says Richardson, who also studied under Snyder. The course is designed to be completed in only a few hours, so guests can have plenty of time to relax and enjoy cocktails at Rusty’s lounge or fresh cold-pressed juices by the pool.

Art afficionados will appreciate the museum-quality gallery right off the lobby, featuring handsome displays of original Arizona artwork from public and private collections, all handselected by local art curator John Reyes and rotated every two months.

Yes, Mountain Shadows is equal parts art, architecture and swagger. And while the bouffants may be long gone, the framed photos of the past endure throughout the hotel as a shadow of its storied beginnings.
Room rates from $319 per night, Presidential Suite from $1,019 per night

Originally published in the September/October issue of Silicon Valley

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