Sundance ski resort was established by its famous movie star owner Robert Redford following his purchase of the land here in 1969, on the site of the area's original Timphaven ski hill.
Adhering to an original vision set out by Redford, and named for the character he played in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Sundance was created as a development-restricted protected mountain environment, where the beauty of the surroundings and the holistic personal experience that its visitors encounter here are viewed as having greater worth than the area's obvious potential for further expansion and development as a full-scale ski resort.
Conservation and environmental protection were cornerstones of the founding ethos at Sundance, those principles continue to guide its management today; for example, the resort offsets 100% of its electricity usage by purchasing credits for wind-generated power from the nearest wind farms in neighbouring states.
The ski area is limited, yet the compact collection of slopes here cover a respectable variety of terrain and are a pleasure to ride, not least because of the lack of crowds or lift queues.
Sundance ski area is tiny in comparison to most ski resorts, but what it lacks in scale it makes up for in ease of access, peacefulness and beauty of its surroundings. There are just four chairlifts serving the entire area: the principal Ray's Lift is a three-stage chairlift that rises directly from the resort village base area to the summit of the front mountain sector and up-and-over the top to access the Arrowhead and Flathead sectors of the uppermost back mountain areas.
The beginners' zone is located on the gentle snowfields directly in front of the resort village, at the base of the home-run slopes; a simple ski-tow serves the progression slope here and is free to use without a lift pass. Once novices are ready to move out on to the mountain, they can take Ray's Lift to its first mid-mountain dismount point to access the green-graded Magic Forest and Stampede trails which flow gently down to the base area; the next stage is then to go all the way to the first summit, where a choice of blue-graded trails circle the peak to reach the front mountain again.
Intermediates and advanced visitors also need to take Ray's Lift to access the more challenging back mountain areas, where the Arrowhead and Flathead chairlifts serve the two distinct ridges above the uppermost slopes. The Bear Claw blue run from the summit of Arrowhead is the choicest selection for leisurely intermediates; the best choice for advanced visitors is to traverse out to the looker's left to the Far East ridge to access the steep chutes into Bishop's Bowl.
NB: all areas beyond the ski area boundary are protected zones where off-piste skiing and riding is forbidden; there are however a few in-bounds areas where off-piste lines can be taken.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Sundance is as much a centre for the arts as it is a ski resort, best known for its annual Sundance Film Festival, with a thriving community of artists, makers and writers resident and active in the village and the surrounding area. The resort's Art Shack and Gallery hosts classes on pottery, glassblowing, sculpture, jewellery making, photography and painting throughout the year; the gallery also has regular exhibitions of works by local, national and international artists.
Alternative activities available out in the surrounding mountains include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails through this area's stunningly scenic and peaceful forests, as well as fly-fishing on the valley's pristine Provo River.
For pampered relaxation, the Spa at Sundance offers experiences and treatments inspired by Native American cultures, with the aim of restoration and healing for the body and spirit.
Apres ski and nightlife are convivial and casual rather than lively or sophisticated. The resort's quaint Owl Bar, directly in front of the base area, is the only pub, but it is a beauty - it's the original Rosewood Bar that was frequented by Butch Cassidy's infamous Hole-in-the-Wall Gang; restored and rebuilt here after being shipped in from its original home in Wyoming. It's a lovely place for apres-ski chilling and evening socialising, further animated by regular live music sessions.
Bars and clubs