In this season of more accessible travel (with precautions) and more chance of getting back on the snow, I adopted the theme “Return to where you like to ski, but find the spots you forgot”.
With that in mind, on my first trip back to Utah to ski since pre-pandemic, rather than spending all my time on my classic favorites, I carved out a day and headed to somewhere that had somehow – despite a near lifetime of curiosity – escaped me.
Sundance Mountain Resort, the place my friend Dina and I dreamed of finding our way and — because only teenagers can dream that way — we find ourselves on an elevator with our idol, then resort owner Robert Redford.
The resort where I almost skied with the legend in the 90s but my boss (who was right) chose to do it instead.
The resort that – I was told – personified Redford’s commitment to the perfect blend of nature, conservation, outdoor pursuits, food, art and relaxation.
Would it live up to my dream?
Yes indeed. I’m here to say that my day at Sundance showed me views as perfect as Redford’s face, gave me up-close experiences with the local art he loves so much, and even put me to a place where the Sundance Kid himself – the one Redford played – frequented.
First up: There wasn’t much chance I would end up on a lift with Redford. First, the Sundance Film Festival (my original reason for coming) has been moved remotely this year. Second: Redford sold the area a year ago to a private equity group committed to continuing its stewardship of the land and culture.
It was okay. Because even without him, I can tell. Freshness factor: It increases to 11.
Sundance is not a mega-resort. Nestled in the Wasatch Range about 30 minutes south of Park City, it’s smaller in total area, but it packs just the right amount of ski culture in that space.
I arrived at Sundance on a sunny weekday morning. The field was quite empty: we put our boots on in the field and I, not liking the rentals I had registered the day before, ran into the basic store and, in five minutes, I was installed on the perfect skis for that day of mostly packed powder races.
The resort spans over 500 acres with 50 official trails; lots of hiking lines and trees make this bigger.
It’s a steep and impressive mountain, with 2,150 vertical drops, but feels tucked away by the (and lovely) summit of Mount Timpanogos, a towering 12,000 vertical drop peak that you’ll never tire of gazing at.
Sundance has three distinct zones, but it merges into one. On the lower front side you will find the Learner Zone, large enough to help a learner experience what it is like to ski an entire mountain. It now has – thanks to this new owner’s investment – three ski lifts and is also accessible via an intermediate station of the resort’s shiny new base quad, the Outlaw Express.
Intermediate skiers – and anyone who likes to cruise – will be in heaven here. I found my joy this perfect google-tan day cruise – fast! – down the many choices. The super-fast lifts mean you can get a great ride – and although the trail map is simple, you can twist and turn to make each cruiser run unique.
Advanced skiers will find plenty to do: Bishop’s Bowl (said to be named after a local pastor who loved to ski) is just steep enough to give you pause; but accessible enough for any less advanced skier to earn their chops.
Then there are the top 10 falls – seven just past Bishops where you can find your all day challenge.
My ski buddies and I had arrived early and planned to break for lunch at noon. Noticing that the pop-up roof clock was close to 12, I asked my friends what they thought.
“Damn, let’s keep skiing!” one said, and we all agreed. Nary an elevator waited all day clocking in double digits for vertical before noon and we still weren’t bored.
We took a break later – an amazing Texas style BBQ at the base lodge (they brought the chef over from Austin, TX) hit right after all that quick carving.
The base area is its own destination. As Redford dreamed, it houses a sort of art/history/culture village. In the summer, they host amazing outdoor concerts.
On this winter’s day, I can pop in to watch and learn about glassblowing (artists use 100% recycled glass), browse an art gift shop where – if I choose – I can make my own candles or beads to take home, and a super cool general store where I score the perfect leather gloves for my wife and yes, relish the requisite Sundance Sucker.
These homemade lollipops are a staple, and although I haven’t had a loli in years, they taste perfect today.
Then there’s the Owl Bar, possibly my favorite spot in all of Sundance (excluding skis, of course). The bar is nestled along a river bed at the base, somewhat hidden by trees.
If it looks authentic, that’s because it is. It was actually once the Rosewood Bar in Thermopolis, Wyoming, and it was a place frequented by the real Hole in the Wall Gang.
Redford loved it and had it moved and restored there, piece by piece. It’s not a wild afternoon spot, but a place to relax, with live music, cold drinks and all that history to marinate it.
There’s more I didn’t get to visit: fine dining at the Foundry Grill (where Redford still has a table), Native American treatments at the spa, Nordic skiing, night skiing, and trailside lodging.
As I took off my boots to end this day trip, I realized that Sundance deserved more than just a drop.
I will be back to savor it for longer. Bob, if you’re reading this: I’m available when you are. Dinah too.