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Warm welcome

July 22, 2007|KEN VAN VECHTEN | Special to The Times

The key to surviving the desert in summer is keeping a close eye on the thermometer: the higher the temperature, the lower the resort prices. So who couldn't thrive in a resort's cool indoor climes at half the usual cost? With the sun high and days long, money-wise (and SPF-savvy) travelers mine the deserts of California and the Southwest for deeply discounted room rates.

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THE PLACES

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Gold Canyon Golf Resort

6100 S. Kings Ranch Road, Gold Canyon, Ariz. (800) 624-6445, www.gcgr.com

THE COIN*

From $69 (down from $175)

THE SEAR FACTOR * *

104

THE CHILL FACTOR

Gold Canyon's white-washed casitas scrambling up the flank of Dinosaur Mountain, an aptly named landmark 30 miles east of Phoenix, hint at the Greek isle of Santorini -- forgetting all the saguaros, of course, and a noticeable lack of Aegean blue. Most of the requisite vacation getaway stuff is present, from pool to food, tennis to horseback riding nearby, but the draw here is golf, golf and golf -- 36 holes worth. The Dinosaur Mountain course gets most of the buzz and rightly so: It's one of the best examples of varied-terrain Sonoran Desert golf. And Sidewinder remains an able sidekick with a good amount of play routed through mesquite woodland. Two-person golf packages start at a rock bottom $99 per night.

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The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa

3800 E. Sunrise Drive, Tucson, Ariz. (520) 742-6000, www.westinlapalomaresort.com

THE COIN*

From $119 (down from $275 to $429)

THE SEAR FACTOR * *

99

THE CHILL FACTOR

One of Tucson's signature resorts nestled within the foothills at the base of the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains, La Paloma is all about luxury. That it's also home to one of the West's best restaurants, Janos, doesn't hurt either. Kids' programs, a gnarly-tough 27-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course, pools and daily sessions on building the perfect margarita or perhaps a mojito will keep everyone busy. The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa is a big draw; one of the most popular hot-season packages is the Girls Retreat (from $339 per night per person, a rate that climbs to $579 in season), which features a treatment, shopping discounts at the Westin's shops and your choice of wine or margaritas, with snacks.

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JW Marriott Desert Springs

74855 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, Calif. (760) 341-2211, www.desertspringsresort.com

THE COIN*

From $119 (down from $229)

THE SEAR FACTOR * *

107

THE CHILL FACTOR

The now venerable -- resorts achieve the honor after 20 years -- Desert Springs might come across at times like Disney World-in-the-desert with the soaring atrium, swans paddling around, 36-hole golf complex and boats that move guests about, but continuing cachet marks the day. The signature atrium was just remodeled, and it was out with the faux tropics and in with earthy tones, stacked stone and a happening vibe. A similar redo of the spa is now on display for the pampering public. For the aesthetically inclined, an Art Walk throughout the property -- indoors and out -- showcases the talent of local sculptors and painters.

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Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort

101 Montelago Blvd., Henderson, Nev. (702) 567-6000, www.loewshotels.com

THE COIN*

From $119, and with various incentives (down from $279)

THE SEAR FACTOR * *

104

THE CHILL FACTOR

Loews has taken custody of the coolly Moroccan/Moorish resort at Lake Las Vegas, formerly under the aegis of Hyatt Regency. Because it's Vegas, there's a casino on site. And because it's not really Vegas at all -- in every way, shape and form that is a good thing -- the casino is away from the property on the far side of the same-named lake, ensuring that a vacation experience here is about pampering and ease. Guests have access to two of Sin City's best golf courses (with a third on the way), lakeside recreational play, spa, notable pan-Pacific/Asian fusion fare at Marssa and enough family stuff to keep even the Brady Bunch busy. Pool-hounds score with special amenities, with a choice of cabanas.

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Enchantment Resort

525 Boynton Canyon Road, Sedona, Ariz. (800) 826-4180 , www.enchantmentresort.com

THE COIN*

From $250 (down from $450)

THE SEAR FACTOR * *

97

THE CHILL FACTOR

Pack your chakras and the latest issue of Saveur because this New Age wonderland doesn't fret that patrons might like a little real-world sin with their holism and meditation. Chic, hip and ultra-comfy, Enchantment is tucked within the red-rock glory of Arizona's Boynton Canyon. Every aspect of resort life draws from the surroundings, including the instructional sessions on Native American ways, the adobe-and-red-rock look of the accommodations or the guided vortex walks where the mysteries of Sedona's purported special earthly powers are explored. Too pure? You can get a shot of rum in your smoothie at the spa. When you call, ask about the buy-three-nights-get-the-fourth-free offer.

* -- standard room rate per night through August and September

** -- average July daytime high in degrees Fahrenheit

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