Say “Sundance” and most people think celebrity spottings and movie buffs bustling down Main street at the film festival which actually takes place in Park City, Utah. Few people know Sundance itself is a hidden gem of a resort located about an hour’s drive from Park City, nestled just beneath Mount Timpanogos near Provo, Utah.
In fact, cliché as they may be, the words “nestled” and “hidden gem” are more deserving to Sundance than any ski resort I can think of. In winter, it’s more than a place to avoid the crowds and long lines found at many other ski resorts. You won’t boast the most vertical feet skied in a day or find umpteen speed quads or gondolas. What you will find, among other unique offerings, is peace and quietude in a gorgeous setting.
If Goldilocks were going skiing (or snowboarding for that matter) she’d want to stay in Sundance’s cabin lodges. The western and Native American influenced décor with a flavor of “the three bears will be coming home any minute” is just right. You can choose from a small studio cottage, or if you’re bringing the whole family, one of the larger mountain homes for let. The layout of the resort is unlike anything normally bearing the name resort. It blends in with the aspen groves and spectacular postcard-esque mountain scenery.
Named after the movie that put Robert Redford on the map, Sundance was built in keeping with environmental conservation and artistic experimentation. Après ski activities include spinning a pottery bowl, glass blowing, or making jewelry. I opted for the latter and hammered out a silver ring with a purple amethyst semi precious stone under the direction of one of the resident jewelry artisans. Just as much fun as making snow angels and it lasts longer.
And the spa at Sundance? I can still hear the Indian flutes, babbling brook meditation fountain, and smell the aroma of burning sage. I tried not to break wind during my four-winds massage (something about altitude and someone kneading my buttocks does that to me). Spa treatments are American Indian themed with names like the Sage and Sweetgrass rub or the Turtle Balancing treatment based on a Navajo legend.
I lived in Salt Lake City a decade ago and used to make the Foundry Grill buffet a destination on Sundays for brunch. Buffets typically make me cringe (tasting more like sterno fluid than anything else) but Sundance’s is not to be missed. The award winning Tree Room (named for the tree growing up through the center of the restaurant) serves exceptional mountain cuisine and showcases Redford’s private Native American Art collection. With dishes like buffalo pot au feu and grilled elk for a beginning, or American pancetta-wrapped trout for an entrée, topped off with pluot crisp with homemade roasted almond ice cream, you won’t be getting cabin fever anytime soon.
Sundance offers some of the best women’s specialty clinics for skiing and boarding. I went to finesse both my skiing and boarding form. I’ve skied since I was a kid and boarded for the past ten years, but had heard great things about the alpine instruction program. I skied one day and boarded the next. Workshops will even videotape you to fine tune your form. There was marked improvement on my technique from both lessons, proving you can teach an old ski dog some new tricks. Just to round out the weekend, I also added in a day of cross-country skiing in Sundance’s twenty-six kilometers of pristine backcountry trails. There are also ten kilometers of dedicated snowshoeing trails.
If the name Sundance conjures up the famous Sundance catalog, you’ll appreciate the General Store on the resort property with handcrafted Native American and western-style jewelry, home décor, and casual apparel. I scored some hand-spun coffee mugs to bring a little bit of Sundance to my java back home.
Nightlife at Sundance is pretty atypical as well. Sure, you can grab a drink in the Owl Bar, but for something more unusual, don’t miss winter star gazing or birding in search of night owls. And Friday is film night in the Nature Center where you’re sure to catch an award-winning flick from the namesake film festival.
Combine art and snow during the Women’s Nature Journaling Workshop February 17, 2007. See the Sundance Web site for other calendar events for everything from photography lessons to more writing workshops.
For a sleepy resort not on most people’s radar, Sundance has lots to shout about.
IF YOU GO: