While Utah‘s Sundance Resort is an enchanting ski area, it’s also a western-style four season destination that peaks in summer with concerts, plays, film screenings, hiking and other activities. And, of course, it’s the site of the annual Sundance Film Festival in January.
A few friends and I arrived in late February along with the season’s biggest snowfall, which dumped a foot of snow overnight and more during the day, blanketing the mountain with deep powder.
Although this is a snow sport lover’s haven, you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy Sundance, which is owned by Robert Redford (who also has a home on the property). He bought the resort in 1969 and shaped it into an intimate, sustainable mountain arts community with plenty of outdoor and indoor activities to be enjoyed year-round.
Nestled at the base of 12,000-foot Mount Timpanogos, the property has a gurgling river running through it and is decked out with hillside lodging, spa facility, gourmet restaurants, art shack, screening room, general store and market with deli.
Locals refer to Redford as “Bob” and say he is very involved, from hand building two fireplaces in the signature Tree Room restaurant and naming ski trails to overseeing restaurant and spa menu items. Unfortunately, we never did see him but we fell in love with his resort, where “Jeremiah Johnson” was filmed (inspired, I watched this movie again after I got home).
Cottages are situated throughout the mountain. Mine was in the Mandan development, a cluster of rustic yet luxurious cottages sporting Native American arts and crafts, stone fireplaces, and plush furnishings (the bed will seduce even the worst insomniac). My favorite spot to enjoy the expansive mountain views was from the private wooden deck. My cottage was near The Spa at Sundance, where I indulged in a lovely stone massage, which began with a foot soak in front of a crackling fire.
To meet my group for dinner in the Sundance Village, I walked along a paved nature trail that meandered among trees and along the river cradled by snowy banks. A big part of Sundance’s charm is the focus on nature and the arts, so it was only fitting that we were introduced to Jerry Hill, a longtime employee and storyteller. We gathered at the Tree Room (so named for the actual blue spruce tree inside), popular for regional cuisine paired with wine including Sundance Label Wines.
“He (Redford) is the nicest guy and he’s more involved in the mountain than people think. He’s very involved artistically,” said Hill, pointing out western memorabilia from Redford’s personal collection.
For a nightcap, we walked to the Owl Bar, which houses the original 1890’s rosewood bar favored by Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.
A foot of snow fell overnight, blanketing the mountain with deep powder. Sundance’s 45 ski runs are accessible via an old school quad and two triple chairs. I skied with a mountain host, Sharlyn, who pointed out that beginners can use a free rope tow while learning to ski. It’s where her four kids learned to ski. The mountain offers enough challenging terrain for intermediate and expert skiers yet is contained in size, making it easy to rendezvous with family members and friends.
We regrouped for lunch at the Foundry Grill, which serves western cuisine prepared over a wood-burning oven, rotisserie and grill for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This became our go-to restaurant for hearty sandwiches, pizza, mac n’ cheese with bacon and tender steaks.
Honoring Redford’s desire that guests experience an art class, we signed up for printmaking. The Art Studio also offers jewelry, pottery, drawing and photography workshops daily by appointment. I felt like a kid again as I dabbed paint on paper and made designs with pieces of netting, buttons, and other small objects.
Our instructor carefully wrapped each print, encouraging us to frame them once we got home for a memory of Sundance. As if I could forget.
Los Angeles-based family travel writer Mimi Slawoff has monthly columns in L.A. Parent magazine and Santa Clarita Living magazine. She also writes for the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Trip Advisor. Follow Mimi on Twitter @mimitravelz.