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Looking to buy a vacation home in a place that has plenty of recreational opportunities?

Well, put away those brochures for condos on the beach in San Diego or mountain cabins on the slopes at Aspen. According to Century 21 Real Estate Corp., one of the 21 best second-home markets in the United States is right here in Utah - in Ogden, actually.Surprised? So were several other Ogden residents who, when asked to comment on their city's selection, replied "Ogden!!??"

It seems that even people who live there have never thought of their hometown as a mecca for fun seekers. Park City? Sure. St. George? No doubt about it. Ogden? Get real.

Better look again, says Century 21, based in Irvine, Calif. The company contends it is the world's largest real estate organization with operations in 15 countries and territories and some 6,000 independently owned and operated franchise broker offices everywhere from New York to New Guinea.

Each year, Century 21 analyzes 140 second-home markets around the country in a survey of the brokers in its system. This year, in the West, Ogden was picked along with Sedona, Ariz.; Vail, Colo.; McCall, Idaho; Kalispell, Mont.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Bend, Ore., as the seven best vacation home markets in the West. Fourteen other locales also were selected for the Midwest, South and Northeast.

"These top markets are representative of the types of communities that weekend vacationers, retirees and investors look for when considering the purchase of a second home," said Century 21 president Richard J. Loughlin.

"Today's second-home buyer wants a place to get away that is not too far from home and offers year-round access to recreational activities."

Criteria for making the list included home appreciation from 1992 to '93, proximity to population centers and availability of a wide range of recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing, snow skiing, golfing, hiking, camping and beach access.

Scott Parkinson, president of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce, was not among those shocked by Ogden's selection.

"We've know for years that everything you could want is right here in Weber County and the surrounding area," said Parkinson. "We've got Pineview (Reservoir), the Ogden River is a blue-ribbon trout stream, and Snow Basin ski area has marketed itself as one of the best-kept secrets in the country. And my real estate friends tell me that the single-story, garden condominium is the hottest item on the local market right now."

Part of Ogden's selection was based on the affordability of its residential real estate, with the average price of a condominium at $98,000, compared with $350,000 for a Vail getaway and $250,000 at Jackson Hole. On the other hand, Ogden came in first nationally for price appreciation during the 1992-93 survey period during which the average price of a condo soared 44 percent from $68,000 to $98,000.

Tom Welch, president of the Greater Ogden Association of Realtors and an Ogden real estate broker, said part of that huge increase stems from the fact that condo prices had been relatively flat for years prior to the 1992-93 survey period. "Condos have now gained new respectability so their price has inflated much faster than the rest of the market, which has been hot itself," he said.

Welch said Ogden's "bargain" real estate prices were probably the clincher in the city's ranking. "Park City is wonderful if you can afford it, and St. George has a nice climate for golfing, but we have it all here - golf, skiing, fishing . . . a lot of positive things and at prices people can afford."

Both Welch and Parkinson agree that the new Trapper's Loop road, which has opened easy access between I-84 and the upper Ogden Valley and such facilities as the Wolf Creek resort, has been a boon. Also, the potential of the Winter Olympics, if the Salt Lake bid is successful, would open the door for Powder Mountain and Snow Basin ski resorts.

"These are sleeping giants for northern Utah," said Welch. "They are as good as Alta or Snowbird but have been used only by the locals. Now they are being discovered."

Even without the Olympics, Parkinson noted that Ogden will host the downhill and super G skiing events next March for the U.S. Ski Association's National Alpine Finals.

"We've known for years that it is just a matter of time before the north end of the Wasatch Front was discovered," said Parkinson. "Now I guess it's happening."