Review: Mountain Shadows, Scottsdale, Arizona
Updated: May 25, 2019
A 4-star resort located in the Paradise Valley area of Scottsdale with 1-star service. With a historic background that dates back to 1959, the Mountain Shadows resort has changed hands multiple times, but was recently renovated in 2017 to what it is today.
Being a frequent visitor to Scottsdale, Arizona and having stayed at the W Scottsdale and The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort previously, both of which are Marriott properties, I was pretty excited to see what Mountain Shadows had to offer. The hotel is not part of any large chain loyalty program, so you can expect to pay out of pocket when staying here. I had the luxury of being able to enjoy the resort over a 4 night stay with my significant other.
Before arriving to the hotel, the hotel had reached out to ask me when I would be arriving, leaving, who my guest would be, and if there were any food restrictions. As most 4+ star hotels go, this is a normal occurrence, especially with the big chain hotels. None the less, it was nice to have them reach out in preparation for our arrival. I used my Citi Prestige card for the stay which gave me a 4th night free. While this benefit is changing later this year, any bookings made prior to September 1st, 2019 do not count toward the 2-time use limit which will be implemented at that time.
When arriving late in the evening we were greeted by the front desk who asked who I was and then looked to my +1 and stated "You must be Susan". The only issue here was that her name is not Susan and made for a bit of an awkward situation, which left us confused. I didn't think too much of it, and we were also tired and ready to get to our room. It was clear the gentleman behind the desk seemed confused while looking at his screen, but got us our keys none the less.
When getting to the room we began unpacking our things and putting them away. While my +1 was changing and getting ready for bed, I had realized I had left my toothbrush at home (rookie move!). I grabbed my room key to head to the front desk to get one, walked out of the door, only to find a man and woman standing 12 inches in front of me. It jolted me a bit and we all looked at each other a bit perplexed. The man's wife standing next to him looked at her key card pamphlet and confirmed they were given the same exact room. While they were stopped from going in, this was clearly a big mistake made by the hotel, not only from a security standpoint, but also in regard to guest privacy. The couple stood in the doorway, noticed my +1 changing in the room and backed away. I couldn't help but think if I had not forgotten my toothbrush and caught them in the doorway that they would have walked right in. While on my way to the front desk, to not only get a toothbrush but now to also explain the situation, the other couple also headed back to the front desk.
The gentleman at the front desk simply said they would leave me in the room and relocated the other couple. Oddly enough I didn't receive an apology or anything else for that matter. It was as if he didn't feel it was a big deal and just wanted us to move along. If you think things could not have gotten any worse, I soon realized that we were in fact not in the correct room booked when I returned to my room. At this point it was late into the evening, we had just unpacked and things were clearly not going well. I again walked to the front desk to let them know we had been given the wrong room (not an upgrade). I explained we were not looking to move as we were exhausted and would move tomorrow. I was told by the front desk they would move us tomorrow and it would be taken care of. Again, no apology and nothing had been done to "make it right." The following morning no one called to apologize or let us know when they would be moving us to the new room. It wasn't until I made another trip to the front desk to ask that they acknowledged this problem that they began getting the correct room ready. Needless to say the check-in was a nightmare and poorly handled at every step of the way. Not something you'd expect when staying at an acclaimed 4-star property, whom had great reviews and ratings from other reviewers.
Once we arrived to the correct room (which was very similar) with the better view, we quickly unpacked. The room was a Premier Mountain King and had a modern and clean look. An all glass shower in the middle of the room was a nice touch, although the water pressure was average at best. This room sported a single sink with a well lit mirror. Directly behind was a powdering counter with another well lit mirror. With concrete floors and high ceilings, the room felt clean and spacious.
The lotions, soaps and conditioners were all a brand called red flower, which the hotel is clearly promoting as you can either take the bottles home with you from the room for a charge, or buy them in the hotels gift shop. The toiletries I found to be of good quality and used them throughout the stay. The bed itself was comfy, but the pillows were a bit scratchy and caused some restless sleep. I enjoyed the fact that you could have the patio door open while leaving the air conditioning on. Some hotels/resorts have a mechanism where the AC will only kick on if the patio door is locked.
There were a good number of outlets next to both sides of the bed. 2 power outlets and 2 USB power outlets on each side. That is always a plus! There is nothing worse than having to unplug a lamp, or move a side table to get your phone charged. There is also a pop up power on the desk in the room for those looking to hook up a laptop or accessories. A portable Bose speaker was available on one of the night stands which you could connect your phone to via Bluetooth, and something I definitely used. Each side of the bed had 2 dimmable lamps, both of which however had broken knobs. A large sized TV was mounted in the corner and could swivel just enough to get a good angle. This came in handy to watch a favorite show Sunday night.
The room had a Keurig machine for those looking to make coffee, along with a cocktail mixing set if you happen to be in the mood to craft up a drink. There was an extensive liquor and non-alcoholic selection in the room ,which I would easily say was above average. A snack try full of items such as nuts, chips, candy and Advil sat visible next to the coffee machine. The room came stocked with enough quality drinks and snacks to make an evening out of it if you so desired.
The room layout included a descent sized closet that included 2 robes, 2 pairs of slippers, an iron, ironing board, and safe. I always appreciated properties who have safes for their guests, but always remember to check and see if the property changed the default code of all 1's or 0,1,2,3,4,5 etc. You'd be surprised to know quite a few properties never change the default code, which essentially makes the safe worthless. That was not the case here at Mountain Shadows, but folks simply need to be aware!
Overall, the room while not being very large, did feel very spacious. The concrete floors, high ceilings, open layout and glass shower made the room feel clean and comfortable. The AC kicked in quick and was especially enjoyable after spending a few hours in the sun. The powder counter was a nice touch for those who would benefit from such, and the modern fixtures are a style I enjoy. In this specific room, we faced one of the greens of Mountain Shadows Golf course called The Short Course, so it meant having people regularly right outside our window/patio. While not a deal breaker, some may prefer a room with a bit less foot traffic.
One thing every Arizona hotel/resort needs is a good pool, right? With the desert heat bearing down on you, especially in the summer months, having a place to relax and cool down is a must. The Mountain Shadows pool grounds consisted of one large rectangular pool and a large circular hot tub just at the end of it. Cabanas and sun chairs lined one side of the pool w sun chairs solely on the other. One thing stood out immediately when arriving, the relaxing atmosphere. Unlike other pools in the Scottsdale area which sport loud music, DJ's, and more party-like scenes, the pool at Mountain Shadows was calm and collected, and that was perfectly OK. Mountain Shadows provides a good option for visitors who are heading to Scottsdale and not looking for blaring music or a packed pool full of rowdy partygoers.
The cabanas were done just right for those looking to splurge. Each cabana was outfitted with a fan mounted to the top, along with an "L" shaped couch, table, television and fridge stock with water. They had curtains which you had the option to close if you wanted a bit more privacy or to isolate yourself from the sun entirely. Comparatively speaking, I'd say they are some of the best cabanas in the entire Scottsdale area. The cabanas also include a bed out front to lay out on.
The service at the pool was below average as it took me almost 35 minutes to get a glass of water. I had a server come by whom asked what I wanted, only to have her come back 15 minutes later and ask the same exact question. After 2 requests for water, it sadly never came. Only when another gentleman saw me sweating in the sun did he stroll over to ask if I needed anything. Unfortunately it took another 15 minutes after he had asked, but the water finally came! I found the food at the pool to be average and the usual items you could expect in that setting... salads, wraps, etc.
Overall, while the service at the pool was pretty poor, the pool itself was clean and comfortable. The sun chairs were cozy, and I spent a good amount of time simply laying down and soaking in the Arizona sun. I found the pool area to be a spot open to solo travelers, families, groups, and events. It had a comfortable setting suitable for almost anyone.
Restaurants & Bars
Mountain Shadows has 2 restaurants on property, Hearth '61 and Rusty's at The Short Course. Having only eaten at Hearth '61, I can only speak to my experience there, though I hope one day to go back and try Rusty's.
Hearth '61 is clearly the main restaurant on the property, with a large dining area that extends to an outside patio next to the pool. It has a large, well designed, and inviting bar that is located inside. The bar is perfectly located next to a set of floor to ceiling glass sliding doors which give it an airy, open feeling when the doors are open - a great touch. The bar, in my opinion, was one of the highlights of the property. Serving the same menu from the restaurant and having great service from bar tender, Amadeo, it clearly shined and was a focal point at Mountain Shadows.
I did find it a bit odd that the resort offers free coffee (local coffee, which is a big plus in my book) in the morning, but only if you head over to Rusty's. Having it also available at Hearth '61's bar just seems to make sense as most walk through this area of the property more regularly. For those looking for coffee in the morning, just know it is in fact free, but you need to head to Rusty's, otherwise expect a bill at Hearth '61's bar. The food at Hearth '61 was fantastic. Having had the avocado toast 2 mornings in a row, it was clearly my go-to in the morning and did not disappoint. For lunch I went with the Niman Ranch flat iron steak frites, which was served with a bleu cheese fondue. This my friends was excellent, and I'd easily get this again in the future. Living in Chicago I am spoiled when it comes to good steaks, so I'm generally a pretty tough critic. Great meal in my book. I did attempt to get the seared Hawaiian tuna salad for an early lunch; however, I was told they were out of tuna. I was a bit surprised as I was there early, but I was told they get their tuna flown in fresh daily so when it's out, it's out. This, while a bummer, was also a good sign as I can only assume it would have been fresh.
Overall, for an on property meal, this will be your spot. Coupled with the excellent service received from Amadeo, it made eating here enjoyable. I will say on another occasion, I witnessed another bartender serving a local Scottsdale couple and providing them insight into how to sneak into the pool saying how security isn't strict. A bit taken back by that, and I am sure that's something management wouldn't be pleased about in addition to the residents who live at the property.
Rusty's at The Short Course
While I did not have the opportunity to eat at this location, it sported a much different atmosphere. With an open outside seating area and small bar, it was clear it catered mainly to the golfing crowd, but makes an attempt to be a 2nd option to visit on property for a meal. I sat with some friends who came for breakfast, and although it has a much different menu than Hearth '61, it also seemed to be a bit more of a simpler menu. That being said, the croissant sandwich that came out looked great.
Rusty's does provide a nice place to sit in the morning as it faces a practice putting green. When it comes to Arizona, green isn't exactly what comes natural, so being surrounded by it here is a nice touch. As mentioned previously, this is also where you can pick up free coffee in the morning.
There are 2 different shops on the property, with 1 being more of a golf pro shop. You will find the shop near the Hearth '61 bar where you'll be able to find items like t-shirts, sun screen, sun bags, and other small items. I found the woman working this shop to be outgoing and willing to help immediately upon entering. It's a small shop but worth a stop because it most likely contains the items either you forgot to bring, or need to pick up.....like sun screen.
The second shop which is right next to Rusty's is the golf pro shop. Walking in you'll notice a large pool table with some chairs, which I can only assume means some of the folks from Rusty's head into if they don't feel like eating outside. Further in you'll find the shop with golf focused attire and accessories. While I didn't do much browsing here, it's always good to know a resort with a golf course has one of these onsite.
One of the big things I look for when deciding where to stay on the road is often the gym. The fitness center here did not disappoint. Located right next to the pool, specifically the pool's "juice bar" (which I found to be a bit hidden), the workout facilities were well above average with quality equipment and even contained a small dance/yoga studio. The free weights went up to 75lbs (which is rare) and something you don't see everywhere. With multiple tread mills, ellipticals, a smith machine and multi-use cable machine, it had all the right things to get a descent workout in. Stocked with towels and water, it's safe to say it was much better than your average hotel gym.
While I did not take advantage of any of the classes and group activities, Mountain Shadows website lists various classes you can partake in such as yoga, aerial yoga and pilates. Their site also allows in guests from outside the property to use the facilities for a $25 fee. Overall a good gym and something to consider if this is important to you during your stay.
The service is where this property takes a huge hit and a reason I could see visitors shying away from booking a stay. While other reviews of this property seem to mention a great stay, I unfortunately was not one of them. Between the terrible check-in experience, lack of service at the pool, stolen tank tops (who take someones tank tops?!), and poor follow up during my stay, it's safe to say I was surprised. I gave the property a chance time and time again to make things right, come with a genuine apology and ensure things were taken care of; however, it failed over and over. The standout service was that of the bartender, Amadeo, as I mentioned previously, not in the sense that he went above and beyond but that he did his job and he did it well with a great attitude. Weeks later following my stay, I was contacted by the property to speak with the Director of Operations, who took time to hear what had happened and whom in fact made things right. Had someone done the same during the stay, it would have made for a better overall impression.
While it was clear Mountain Shadows failed when it came to service, the property itself is beautiful and the food from Hearth '61 stood out. The golf course, while I did not use it, looked to be very well maintained. The room itself was clean and spacious, something most hope for when staying at a resort.
There are many options when it comes to places to stay in the Scottsdale area and at the end of the day it really depends on what type of trip you are looking for. If partying is your thing, there are other properties in the area that can deliver that, such as the W Hotel. However, if you are looking for a clean, well maintained property that has a nice relaxing atmosphere, Mountain Shadows might be for you. I truly hope my experience was a 1-off and that my next stay is drastically different, at least when it comes to the service. For a 4-star property, it fell well below standards in that department and was unacceptable. Great grounds and good food stood out and will be the reason I come back to give them another shot.