The downshill skiing is uncrowded at the Sundance Ski Resort.
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Let's see now . . . for breakfast, to have the smoked trout hash with sweet corn, or the Santa Fe casserole with chorizo and jack cheese? This creaky-kneed city-dweller, who hasn't been on downhill skis more than twice in a decade, needs fortification for those slopes, gleaming like guillotines outside.
But hey, one couldn't pick a more elegant, thoroughly aesthetic resort than Sundance for a ski comeback, at least not this side of St. Moritz.
Everything about Sundance, tucked away in a side canyon off the Provo River in north central Utah, bears the touch of its resident founder/owner, Robert Redford. Sundance is like a gallery of Southwestern art and culture housed in the pages of Architectural Digest. The Tree House restaurant, at the bottom of the ski hill, displays Redford's priceless collection of western art and Native American weavings and ceramics—as well as stills from his films. On Saturday nights the films run in the Sundance screening room, or you get the videos free from the front desk and run them on your in-room VCR. And-I love this-the flower-and-vegetable garden is "fertilized with manure from the Robert Redford Ranch."
But the best part, as it turned out, is that Sundance is so skier-friendly. This is a small resort—41 runs, 450 acres, top elevation 8,250 feet, with a limit of 1,200 skiers a day. During a three-day sojourn I saw only one short lift line.
With its long cruiser trails and forgiving terrain, Sundance is ideal for someone warming up after a hiatus of several years. And although skiing's big boys will find more acreage, altitude, and challenge at Park City or Snowbird, Sundance does have a few drop-dead chutes and expert slopes. And shredders will have to go elsewhere, as snowboarding is not allowed.
At Sundance, in the Wasatch Range, the skiing is quintessential Rocky Mountains. Hanging over the runs and bowls are those distinctive layer-cake pyramidal peaks, including 12,000-foot Mt. Timpanogos. The trails wind through pale stands of leafless aspen and dark groves of spruce. At the top of the Arrowhead lift, near Bearclaw's Cabin and cafe, skiers take the sun in lawn chairs looking out toward the Utah Valley.
Sundance Film Festival: The annual Sundance Film Festival is internationally famed as a showcase for independent films. It attracts more than 10,000 movie-lovers, stars, writers, and other industry types. Some 70 films are shown, with multiple screenings. Most screenings are in Park City, with additional shows in Salt Lake City and Sundance. This year's dates are January 16-26. Series tickets are probably sold out by now. However, seats at individual screenings start selling January 10 and the day of the show. For information phone the Sundance Institute at (801) 328-3456 or visit their Website.
After a couple of days on the downhill runs, I hopped the free shuttlebus over to stride around Sundance Nordic Center. It's five minutes away, just over the shoulder of a low ridge. It's a gentle workout, following the 15k of trails meandering through the aspen and across sun-blasted meadows. I particularly enjoyed it one star-bright evening, with lanterns in the trees to guide the way.
Other pursuits: Out at the mouth of the canyon, there's a catch-and-release stretch of the Provo River. One young man told me he stood midstream, shivering in his hip boots, and in one hour caught 20 fine trout. Maybe the same trout 20 times. Nevertheless.
At night, when the day-skiers go home, Sundance gets really quiet. Entertainment is dinner, an occasional film in the screening room, poetry readings. (Bubba can drive over to howl in the saloons of Park City, 40 minutes away.)
The lodgings-mostly privately owned condos rented out as hotel rooms and suites-are scattered along the little creek that tumbles through the canyon. (Walking paths connect the rooms with the ski lifts, cafes, and shops.) Inside the rooms, everything is so tasteful: unfinished pine walls, hand-hewn furniture, stone fireplaces, thick comforters, the right art, the right CDs, arrangements of dried wildflowers and grasses, a bottle of spring water on the bedside table. Oh, and so p.c.; soaps are wrapped in recycled paper. Some rooms have steam vents in the showers, a nice touch for aging bones, shredded sinews, and lungs seared from gulping mountain air as dry as a fine chardonnay.
My main pain, though, was a sore neck from skiing swivel-headed, looking for Bob. The closest I got was spotting the long driveway curling across a distant snowy meadow to his secluded manse. On my last run on my last day, a pudgy clomp-booted pre-pubescent sharing my chairlift said, "Hey, did you see Redford? He's been skiing this run all afternoon."
This article was first published in January 1997. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
For reservations at Sundance, phone (800) 892-1600, or write RR3, Box A-1, Sundance, UT 84604. Rates are highest December 20 through March 31, lowest in fall.
Accommodations are in "cottages"-condominiums-within walking distance of the ski lifts, restaurants, and grocery/deli. Rates include American breakfast for two at the Foundry Grill.
Note: Sundance, like many ski resorts, has strict prepayment and cancellation policies.
Adult all-day lift tickets are $35; seniors over 65 ski free. You can buy tickets in advance by calling (801) 223-4TIX.
Ski school information is at (801) 225-4107. Sundance has a full program of short lessons, seminars, clinics, "Learn to Ski" and "Total Quality Skiing" packages, and a variety of kids' programs.
Sundance Nordic Center is open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with night skiing Wednesday-Sunday 5 to 9 p.m. Trail fee is $8, $5 after 2 p.m., free for seniors over 65. Rentals of Nordic and telemark skis, lessons. Phone (801) 223-4170.
AAA Travel can arrange for flights to Salt Lake City airport, a 50-minute drive away, and car rental.