Sundance dreams

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img_8446Almost everyone’s heard of Robert Redford’s Sundance film festival, but mention the ski resort of the same name, and the response is often a quizzical one eye raised, huh? If you’re a skier or snowboarder, put this Utah gem on your must-visit list. It is the yin to Park City’s yang, the antidote to overdevelopment and mine’s-bigger luxury.

Not that Sundance isn’t luxurious. It’s just subtle, wrapping guests in the warmth of a cozy cabin, with wood-burning fireplace; catering to their needs with an intimate, few frills spa, arts studio, and theater; serenading them with the gurgle of the Provo River, which runs through it; and feeding them at one of the state’s best restaurants, The Tree Room, decorated with Native American art and artifacts from Redford’s private collection.

Now add the Owl Room, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s original bar, transported here by Redford and again serving drinks, wines (some with the Sundance label), and brews; and Bearclaw, Jeremiah Johnson’s cabin at the mountain’s summit, a spot to grab a snack or relax on the deck soaking up the sun and the views.

img_8443_2In a way, Sundance is the ultimate Hollywood set, the perfect backdrop for one of Redford’s movies. It also reflects his environmental sensitivities; this place was green long before green became a household word.

If I had to choose only one or two words to describe this place, it would be easy-going. Yes, its a ski area; yes, it’s a resort, but at its heart, it’s an arts colony, with a creative mindset and relaxed attitude. No one’s in a hurry; those powder lines will still be there hours, if not days, after a storm.

With only three lifts, and none of those high speed, it’s easy to overlook Sundance in favor of its bigger neighbors, but don’t be fooled, Sundance skis much larger than its stats indicate. Not that those stats aren’t impressive enought: 2,150-foot vertical drop from its 8,240-foot summit, 450 skiable acres. Most of it is sustained vert, too. Unless you’re moving across the mountain on a cattrack, you’re making turns.

img_8449From the base, you can’t even see the main mountain, with its treeless summit bowls, steep ridge lines, and, yes, swaths of groomers. And from the summit, on a clear days the views are the best in Utah: to one side, they extend over Salt Lake City, far, far below. On the other, sigh-producing wilderness, all of it overlorded by Mt. Timpanogos, the state’s highest peak (or second-highest, depending upon who you talk with). And except on a Saturday (or school holidays), when Provo-area families arrive en masse, lines are few.

And Sundance is a bargain-hunter’s friend: Lift tickets are only $40, about half the price of tickets at other resorts. But it gets even better: Become a Facebook friend, and ski Sunday through Thursday for $2o (subject to change, although plans were to continue it for a while). Better yet, visit between March 23 and April 5, book three nights, and stay for $189 per room, including a full breakfast at the Foundry Grill and daily lift ticket (based on double occupancy, tax extra, blackout dates may apply).

And if you crave a day at a bigger area, the Park City area resorts (Park City, the Canyons, and Deer Valley), are only about 45 minutes away.