Sundance Subdued
Behind all the glam of the famed film festival lies a resort that will entertain and relax you
Sundance is not just about film - it's also about snow; Suites at Sundance are tastefully rustic in their decor; The Sundance Spa

Sundance: The very name conjures up images of snow-capped mountains, pristine meadows and, for 10 days each January, a media feeding frenzy unlike any other.
Since its inception in 1985, the Sundance Film Festival has gone from being an obscure indie event drawing low-pro movie buffs to a see-and-be-seen free-for-all that reeks of Hollywood hype (hel-lo, Jen n' Ben!). Which is why, as much as I love Sundance at any other time of the year - it is, in fact, my hands-down favorite resort - the idea of visiting at the same time as E! TV always left me cold.
So imagine my surprise when a trip to Sundance during last year's festival proved all my assumptions wrong. Really, really wrong. Sure, Park City - the town where the Film Festival actually takes place - had swollen by nearly 40,000 people and was crawling with cigar chomping studio heads, fledgling filmmakers, celebs from Julia Roberts to Britney Spears and paparazzi galore, but the resort itself (about 45 minutes up the mountain pass), was as peaceful as ever.
The only difference: In addition to the usual alpine and spa offerings, guests also had the option of seeing up to three films each day in Sundance's state-of-the-art 150-seat screening room (38 films in all - features, shorts and documentaries - that had their world premiere one day earlier in Park City).

Downtown Park City

Located 51 miles South of Salt Lake City in Provo Canyon, nestled at the base of the 12,000-foot Mount Timpanogos (the highest point in the Wasatch Range), Sundance is a small, family-friendly retreat located in a truly specatular setting. The resort, which began as a single chairlift venture called Timphaven in the 1920s, was bought by actor Robert Redford in 1969 and renamed for the character he played opposite Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Since then, Sundance has undergone a major metamorphosis, slowly evolving into a world-class vacation destination. Thankfully, Redford eschewed all the typical trappings of Hollywood glamour (film festival not withstanding), and has worked hard to maintain the resort's charmingly rustic feel.
On the alpine front, Sundance features a slew of nice, wide cruising trails (Amy's Ridge and Bearclaw are great), but more challenging terrain is also plentiful, as my steeps-loving husband, Craig, can happily attest. Because Sundance is slightly off the beaten path, you never have to wait in lift lines and can often cruise down an entire run - there are 41 in all - without seeing another person, which makes skiing or snowboarding here a uniquely relaxing experience.
The resort itself is comprised of several beautifully understated log cabins, and all of the buildings - be they single-unit guest cottages or the main reception/restaurant/general store complex - blend invisibly into the surrounding landscape, allowing visitors to truly experience the majesty of the snow-covered countryside. Tucked into the woods and alongside frozen streams, the guest cottages are paneled in rough-hewn wood and feature floor-to-ceiling windows (the better to show off the million dollar views), Native American artwork, tasteful Southwestern furniture and oversized fieldstone fireplaces. Bathtubs conviently convert into Jacuzzis for après-ski soaks, and the stone-tiled showers are big enough for two.
The Spa at Sundance is a recent, and welcome, addition: a restful, restorative atmosphere with an emphasis on Native American-inspired therapies - such as the Sage and Sweetgrass Rub, Honey and Cornmeal Body Blanket and Four Winds Massage - designed to reconnect the body and mind with Ina Maka, otherwise known as our native spirit. My favorite was the Sundance Stone Massage, a treatment in which warm basalt stones - each representing a different color, animal and life cycle - are placed on the body in a pattern representing the Four Directions, for 90 minutes of muscle-melting, body balancing bliss. Just what the doctor ordered after a day on the slopes.
During our stay, we fell into a happy pattern: wake up early and head to the Foundry Grill for a hearty breakfast (homemade oatmeal and cranberry orange scones were big faves); hit the trails for a few hours of snowboarding; lunch at the Foundry Grill; spend the afternoon lounging at the spa, making jewelry at the Art Shack or cross-country skiing; have dinner in our cabin - the resort's general store sells great wine and take-out - or in the fabled, four-star Tree Room (so named for the massive pine that rises through the center of the restaurant); then see a movie and stop at the delightful Owl Bar for a nightcap - the bullet-pocked wooden bar was taken from an actual Hole in the Wall Gang out in Wyoming.
Although the resort was at 90 percent occupancy (as opposed to the usual 60 percent this time of year), it never felt crowded. In fact, the only sign that Hollywood had arrived was the abundance of leather pants, full make-up and aggressively fashionable skiers in attendance. And seeing a film was the perfect way to end each day, especially when the filmmakers and actors stuck around afterward to answer audience questions. During the Q&A for Soldier's Girl, for example, the woman on whom the story is based spoke very movingly about her lover's death, and the next night, the crew responsible for Dopamine - which began as a Sundance Film Lab project in 1998 - walked us through the entire script-to-screen process, which really enhanced the film-going experience. All told, it was the perfect getaway.
The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 15-25 2004; the Sundance Resort Epic Film Festival Package (which includes four nights lodging, daily breakfast, lift tickets, 10 screening passes, two spa treatments and entry to festival VIP events, starts at $965 per person); post festival, doubles from $255, junior suites start at $355. (800) 892-1600 or visit