Robert Redford’s Sundance: Where Skiing, Art and the Old West Ride
It was mid-February and we had just arrived at Sundance Mountain Resort, Robert Redford’s artsy ski retreat tucked in a narrow canyon in the Wasatch range just outside Provo, Utah. Settling into the woodsy Owl Bar for a meal prepared by the adjacent Foundry Kitchen, I sipped a local Elephino Double IPA craft brew and perused the movie posters and stills of Redford from his many films, including a promo poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As I looked at the eternally handsome dynamic duo of Newman and Redford from their 1969 film classic, my gaze strayed into the bar area, where, to my utter surprise, was Redford himself, older and wearing a winter beanie but still recognizable and exuding massive star power. He was tucking into a corner for a quiet conversation with a friend and everyone was leaving him alone. This is his home, after all, and he often dines and skis at the resort that he hand-built with far-reaching vision many years ago. Seeing Redford at Sundance made this special spot feel really special, and I felt lucky to be sequestered in this snowy, secluded ski resort that exudes a touch of Hollywood glamor.
Founded by the legendary actor and director in 1969, Sundance was a former sheep ranch owned by the Stewart family, who had homesteaded the land. The second generation of Stewarts developed a small ski area called Timp Haven, which, after being acquired by Redford, was transformed gradually over the years into a world-class hideaway featuring sensational Wasatch Mountain skiing, fine Western cuisine at the Foundry Grill and Tree Room, tasteful lodging, and studio art instruction.
Sundance is a small scale retreat skiers and snowboarders seeking legendary Utah snow while enjoying a true escape from the big ski resort scene. Despite its size (only 450 skiable acres) skiers still enjoy a first rate resort experience. Set against the magnificent 12,000 foot Mount Timpanogos resort feels a lot bigger than it is and offers 42 runs of beginner to expert terrain spread over a mountainside. Experts enjoy the steep and deep in wide-open bowls and narrow-gladed chutes, while all enjoy Sundance’s immaculately groomed slopes. Beginner runs are found on the lower mountain off Ray’s Lift while advanced and expert runs are found off the Arrowhead lift on the upper mountain. Winter season hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9 AM to 8 PM and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. Sundance is open for night skiing during winter on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays from 4 PM to 8 PM.
Apres ski is focused around the Owl Bar, whose ornate 1890s Irish oak bar with its massive mirrors is from the Rosewood Bar in Wyoming, one of the Butch Cassidy and his Hole-In-The-Wall gang’s haunts. The Owl hosts live music several times a month featuring local and national music talent. The adjacent Foundry Grill serves western-inspired cuisine prepared in a wood burning oven, rotisserie and grill. The grill offers unobstructed views of Mt. Timpanogos along the windows inside the restaurant. The Tree Room is Sundance’s signature restaurant and is Redford’s favorite dining spot. Known for its regional cuisine, the Tree Room has an intimate interior is decorated with Native American artwork and Western memorabilia from Redford’s personal collection (this room is also the first structure built for Sundance, constructed by Redford himself.)
The art studio know as the Art Shack is well worth checking out, and unique to Utah ski resorts. Skiers and non-skiers classes are welcome to enroll in classes offering instruction in silversmithing, pottery, beading, oil and watercolor painting, and many other media. Hidden in the hills near the main lodge, the Sundance spa offers treatments inspired by Native American healing methods, balancing body, mind and spirit with massages, body treatments, mani and pedicures, facials and wellness classes. Yoga and meditation classes are also offered regularly. This year a zipline that debuted last spring is running on select dates during the winter. The zipline is nearly two miles long (third longest in the US) and has four spans, each with two lines for riders who can ride side-by-side.
There are several restaurants and bars located at the resort, including the summit’s Bearclaw Cabin, as well as a grocery and general store. Literary, arts, music, and film are featured in Sundance’s ongoing entertainment weekend series.