Imitation of life

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Los Angelenos long have boasted about Southern California's easy accessibility to the various wonders of nature. An hour's drive in one direction, they can be heard intoning, and you can be ogling the denizens of Venice beach, an hour the other way and you can be skiing the San Gabriels.

This, of course, is not true. The only distance you can travel in an L.A. hour is the stretch of the 405 that runs from Sunset Boulevard to LAX, which, frankly, has always been my favorite L.A. drive.

Soon, though, the glories of nature -- or pretty good imitations of them, which, in L.A., is even better than the real thing -- will be close by and under one roof. The Gotcha Glacier, 435,000-square feet of glassed in thrills, chills and spills is set to open in 2001.

The Orange County complex will feature the country's first indoor artificial ski slope, an ice-skating rink, six surfing pools, snowboarding and, of course, skateboarding parks -- this is, after all, SoCal.

I must admit, it sounds like fun. And anyway, we have a pretty similar deal here in New York with Chelsea Piers, a humongous entertainment complex built on the Hudson river. But then, we live in a concrete maze. Southern California, while few people go there for the museums, is lousy with natural beauty. Why bottle it up?

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