|By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 23, 2009 - PARK CITY -- Luxury with a few surprises.
Developers Lee Hindin and Reza Fakhrieh set out to emphasize both at the Dakota Mountain Lodge, Utah's first Waldorf Astoria luxury brand hotel, which opened without fanfare last month on a hillside just off the main entry to The Canyons Resort.
And how did they do that?
Well, for starters, the dominant wood in the lodge is not the knotty pine characteristic of so many mountain resort buildings. Instead, it is a hardwood stained dark to match the hotel's cocoa-brown mohair drapes and carpets, interior designer Stephen Brady's way of connecting Dakota Mountain Lodge to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
Breaking the rustic mountain mold once more, the lobby's elegance is accentuated by a sweeping spiral staircase to the second floor, a 400-pound Czech crystal chandelier hanging above the open area in its curve. The furniture is all reupholstered antique.
Two 100-year-old carvings of stags, at least four feet tall, pay homage to the mountain feel. But then one wall over -- what's this? -- classic Japanese art in the form of a floor-to-ceiling screen, featuring nearly a dozen side-by-side panels of a village-life scene. That's behind tables and chairs arranged to serve as a European-style check-in desk.
"They're little things, but unexpected," said Hindin, founder of DuVal Development, which owns Dakota Mountain Lodge.
Off another side of the lobby is the Spruce restaurant, based on the original in San Francisco. It offers fine dining as well as quick bites for people coming off ski slopes or just finishing a mountain bike ride.
Entry to the restaurant is through the bar, so that "its fun, vibrant atmosphere will spill into the lobby," noted Fakhrieh, DuVal's executive vice president. More mohair curtains partially separate the marble-topped bar area from the dining area, elegant in all respects except for the rustic image of a half dozen sets of deer antlers attached to a wall above tables for four.
Branch another direction off the lobby and the Golden Door Spa offers relaxation. It breaks from the hotel's darkened-wood motif. The spa's walls and ceiling feature a stylized mix of light brown woods and whitish rock, flanked by two more eye-catching features: a dozen strings of water cascading two stories into a basement pool and a wall of plants, 20 feet high and seven feet wide, that extends from the salon entry desk to 15 treatment rooms on the lower floor.
"Between the sound of falling water and the visual, it's beautiful," said Jim Miller, Dakota Mountain Lodge's general manager.
There are two entries to the spa -- one from inside the hotel, the other from the outside -- a design feature that reflects Dakota Mountain Lodge's desire to appeal to Park City and Wasatch Front residents as much as destination visitors.
"We don't want this to be a stuffy place off limits to outsiders. Everyone is welcome," said Hindin. "You can rent a room for a weekend or for a month during ski season. You can come up to the Golden Door Spa for a half-day break. We've tried to make everything here inclusive and part of the greater community, including the [Salt Lake] valley. We can't do it alone on the ski season. It's not big enough yet."
Building community ties also figured into Golden Door Spa hiring Park City resident Scott Cowdrey to manage its sixth salon in a 50-year history. The spa also brought in a number of local fitness instructors.
"We're offering something attainable for the local," said Cowdrey, noting that many fitness classes go outside and use "the outdoor canvas we all live here for. Many of our instructors are people [who locals] have come to know in the community. ... We have the brands and systems of Golden Door and employees from Park City who people trust. We educate people that facials and massages are not indulgences but promoters of good health, agents in creating active lifestyles."
Cowdrey's description conforms with an earlier Hindin observation that part of Dakota Mountain Lodge's strength stems from each partner being able to "have some swagger." After all, he added, "being uptight is not what the Waldorf Astoria Collection [of hotels] is all about. You're here to enjoy yourself and be comfortable."
Hindin and Fakhrieh are confident that Dakota Mountain Lodge will appeal to the millions of members in the frequent guest program of Hilton Hotels, parent of The Waldorf Astoria Collection. Many of those people have never been to Utah before and, the developers believe, will find that the first surprise of their trip will be a realization of the beauty and recreational opportunities available in Summit County, particularly at The Canyons.
In turn, they added, the lodge's pedigree lends credence to the greater Park City area's effort to establish itself as one of the world's elite resort communities.
"If you're not branded, you're just another very nice product," said Hindin. "We're glad we made the decision to hook up with Waldorf Astoria. It's helped The Canyons and Park City, letting people know we can play ball in the 4-5-star hotel market."
Added lodge manager Miller, who came to Dakota Mountain Lodge after managing the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui for Waldorf Astoria: "Having these luxury brands puts Park City into the same sentence as the Whistlers, Vails and Tellurides of the world. Park City has not had that luxury hotel product before."
Fakhrieh said the developers know that skiing and snowboarding are their biggest draws, hence the presence of a ski lift that will take guests directly to The Canyons' base facilities. "But we're big believers that there are another 200 days when it's pretty great up here," he added. "And if you have the amenities, people will come."
One amenity still being developed is a golf course. Although it is a year away from being playable, Hindin noted that the opening of several other premier courses in the "Wasatch Back" -- Tuhaye (Kamas), Glenwild (Park City), Victory Ranch and Red Ledges (Wasatch County) and Promontory (Summit County) -- already has helped make the area more appealing as a summer recreation destination.
"A rising tide carries everyone up. As an old school merchant developer who puts his money where his mouth is, where else in the country are they doing this?" Hindin asked, contending the developers' insistence of living up to their promises will enable Dakota Mountain Lodge to withstand the assault of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"We are not going to live or die with any one ski season or economic cycle," he said. "It may take longer in this [economic] environment to get everything launched, maybe 1 or 1 1/2 years instead of a winter. But I expect we'll reach a point where people say 'this is what they said it would be -- and more.' "
The Waldorf Astoria Collection
Self-described as a "distinctive group of unique luxury hotels from the Hilton Family of Hotels, each indigenous to its destination and situated in key cities around the world. Home to world leaders, royalty and society's elite ..."
18 hotels in New York City, south Florida, Puerto Rico, Rome, Saudi Arabia, Naples, New Orleans, Phoenix (Frank Lloyd Wright, architect) and Versailles, France
William Waldorf Astor built the original 13-story Waldorf Hotel in New York City in 1893. His cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, then built the 17-story Astoria next in 1897. Henry Hardenbergh, architect on both, connected them with a 300-foot marble corridor.
In 1932, Conrad Hilton wrote "The Greatest of Them All" onto a photograph of the The Waldorf Astoria. He bought it in 1949.
Dakota Mountain Lodge
Overall cost not disclosed; major financing provided by Goldman Sachs.
170 hotel and condominium units in two buildings.
Residences range in price from $479,000 to more than $2.5 million.
155 employees now, 220 in the winter with addition of more ski valets, bellmen, housekeepers.
Spruce Restaurant has 140 seats, indoor and outdoor, offering contemporary American cuisine and access to more than 1,400 wines.
Golden Door Spa is a 16,000-square-foot facility with 15 treatment rooms, fitness classes, Pilates, kinesis and resistance training.
First day was July 29.
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