Summer Bargains at Tucson's Desert-Foothill Resorts

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Summer bargains at Tucson's desert-foothill resorts

Arizona's resort capital was once, undisputedly,the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, which still has the largest number of resorts. But recently Tucson has also become a leisure-activity center, with six resorts and a health ranch all new, expanded, or updated since 1980.

Each of these operations is in a SonoranDesert setting, rimmed by the 9,000-foot Santa Catalinas. And this summer, each is competing with off-season bargains-- up to 80 percent reductions on winter rates--to help fill rooms, swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses.

Children are often offered free lodging; atone resort, those six and younger even get free food. Various perks are thrown in-- everything from free facials, tennis instruction, or golf play to special weekend theme parties. We detail some of the offerings; write or call individual resorts for more information.

Getting there--by train, plane, car

Amtrak offers round trips from both LosAngeles and San Francisco for $118. Air fares, while not dropped specifically for summer, are appealing: at our press time, one-way unrestricted fares ranged from $59 to $74 from Los Angeles, $79 to $125 from the Bay Area, $99 from Seattle. Most carriers didn't anticipate fare increases before Labor Day. Tucson car rental firms chime in with their deals: about $20 a day on weekends (100 free miles), $89 a week (700 free miles).

Any drawbacks? Other lodging bargains

This is desert, and summer is hot--butnot as uncomfortable as you might think. Tucson, at about 2,400 feet above sea level, has average July and August highs around 100| and lows from 65| to 74|. Monsoons may interrupt your activities, but usually they're brief, and they cool and clean the air. Plan to hike or play tennis or golf early and late in the day; spend midday hours in the pool, sightseeing, or learning the pleasures of a siesta.

Here we focus on the foothill resorts withnews. But summer bargains are also available at Tucson's pink adobe 1930 Arizona Inn and at a host of new or not-so-new hotels closer to town, many of which offer tennis and golf on site or nearby. Tucson's largest dude ranch open in summer, Tanque Verde, also reduces costs somewhat.

For free listings of all accommodationsand their prices year-round, ask for Official Visitors Guide to Metropolitan Tucson from Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, 450 W. Paseo Redondo, Suite 110, Tucson 85701; (602) 624-1817.

The choices: six resorts, a health ranch

Whether you want to stay a night or two,or just come and try a resort's dining or other attractions (La Paloma, Westward Look, and Loews Ventana have restaurants with handsome night views of Tucson), here are your choices. Be sure to make reservations, as some resorts only offer their specials if you book in advance.

Unless noted, bargain rates apply at leastthrough Labor Day. Area codes are 602, unless a toll-free 800 prefix is used. All these resorts have golf (some courses of tournament quality), night tennis, and at least one pool and spa.

Canyon Ranch, 8600 E. Rockcliff Rd.,85715; (800) 742-9000; in Arizona, call 749-9000 collect.

This duderanch-turned-coed fitness center opened in 1979 and since 1982 has expanded by some 30 percent. It offers fitness classes, consultations, massages, wraps, guided hikes or bicycle rides into the desert.

Prices include all meals; food is tasty butappropriate for healthful dieting (no alcohol, no smoking).

Through September 15, a four-night specialruns $650 per person, double occupancy; in high season, the same package is $980.

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N.Resort Dr., 85715; 299-2020 or (800) 424-2929.

Opened inDecember 1984, its 398 rooms offer views of Tucson or Coronado National Forest. Amenities include a 1.4-mile, 18-station fitness course and a croquet lawn. …