New ownership has transformed FireSky Resort, formerly Caleo Resort, into a worthy Scottsdale accommodation option close to excellent area golf courses such as Boulders South and McCormick Ranch.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Bad hotels don't tend to last in this trendy desert town that only seems to grow in popularity every year. Especially bad high-end hotels with room rates that would make a grandmother from Iowa faint.
There is just too much competition for luxury travelers. With the Phoenix-Scottsdale resort corridor seeing a virtual arms race of resort renovations, a hotel with something lacking to begin with holds little chance of survival.
It's probably no surprise then that the Caleo Resort & Spa found itself bought out by Kimpton Hotels and renamed and revamped as the FireSky Resort almost two years ago. If you had bad experiences at Caleo, it's time to put those to rest.
For a visit to the FireSky Resort offers up a dramatically different vibe. Oh, you'll recognize the lobby and its distinctive wood columns even after the Trading Places style makeover that rendered its furniture much more comfortable. And the courtyard patio is still filled with little lagoons and fire pits that practically scream for you to pop a squat and just hang out for a while.
The biggest difference can be found in the attitude of the staff.
I stayed at Caleo near the end of its run and found the air conditioner not working in my room. An inquiry at the front desk brought out the fact that the hotel shut down its air conditioning in "the winter." It was over 80 degrees on the Arizona winter night in question. The staff would not turn the air conditioning back on.
It's hard to imagine that ever happening at the Four Seasons Troon North or the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - hotels Caleo's rates and now FireSky's (around $300 a night in high season) put it in competition with.
Incidents like that seem to be a thing of the past now, though.
In fact, FireSky Resort goes out of its way to offer some unusual guest perks. The hotel will shuttle guests anywhere within three miles of the hotel for free in a Cadillac Escalade (yes, you can feel like P. Diddy back in the day - at least until you roll down your window).
One of FireSky's biggest advantages is that you might not ever need the Caddy shuttle though. The resort is a short walk across the street to Fashion Square. From Fashion Square, it's only a few more blocks to Old Town Scottsdale and its array of great restaurants and nightspots.
If you're going for the tasting menu at See Saw - a Scottsdale spot that competes in taste with New York's famous Nobu restaurant - you could probably use the walk.
"I was surprised how much more convenient it was to things compared to some of the bigger resorts we've stayed at in Scottsdale," vacationer Maggie Coscarelli said. "You can spend a lot less time in the car. That's nice."
What you gain in location at FireSky, you lose in huge resort sprawl. This is not one of those Scottsdale-Phoenix resorts where you can get happily lost in a web of pools. You're not going to feel like you're away from it all at FireSky.
One turn outside the lobby and you're in the middle of everything.
In fact, the biggest complaint with the redone resort seems to be the lack of pool space. Several guest said that it takes getting up early to claim one of lounge chairs as your own. If you're an adult who doesn't particularly like kids - and there are plenty of those on vacation in Arizona - there is a grown-ups-only pool separate from the kids' pool.
You'd be better off not sweating the lounge chair race and just golfing though. FireSky's outdoor courtyard scene is better off at night anyways. This is when you'll find groups kicking back around the firepots, drinking and talking deep into the night. On many nights, a lot of these groups will be corporate workers on a retreat or business conference.
It often takes on something of a college scene for suits.
Of course, another segment of the hotel's guests might be off in their rooms snuggling with Fido. FireSky is the last place you'd find Michael Vick. It's one of the most pet-friendly hotels in Scottsdale.
How friendly? The resort's high-end spa Jurlique offers 30-minute massages and 30-minute facials for dogs. The spa's motto is: "Show them the same unconditional love they show you; because dogs have muscles too!"
And you thought you'd seen it all.
At least, at FireSky Resort you can contemplate this in big rooms with patio balconies and flat screen TVs. You can watch Animal Plant. Or plan your golf days.
In most cities being so close to the mammoth mall and the downtown nightlife would put you farther from golf. This is Scottsdale though. Mid-range plays like McCormick Ranch are close by and high-end must plays like Boulders South are still within 15 minutes.
This may not be the best address in town, but thanks to the new ownership and changes, it's now a pretty good one.
November 6, 2007