You’ve probably heard of the Sundance Film Festival—seen the glossy photos of white-toothed movie stars wandering Park City each January. All that glitz and glam actually grew from the quiet, contemplative spaces making up a small mountain retreat just 33 miles from Park City, a place created for the sole purpose of looking inward amid one of the most striking corners of the Wasatch Mountain Range.
In 1969, actor and environmentalist Robert Redford purchased what was known as Timp Haven, a one-chairlift, one-rope-tow, one-burger-joint ski area owned by the Stewart family in the 1950s. Today, Redford’s rustically refined Sundance Mountain Resort (801.225.4107, sundanceresort.com) spans three restaurants and a general store; a series of elegant cabins housing overnight guests, a spa, and the Art Studio; an exercise yurt; and six miles of snowshoe trails, nine miles of cross-country skiing trails, and 42 intimate ski and snowboard runs. And though the resort’s snowy slopes offer a very classic, laid-back ski experience you won’t find elsewhere in the state, Sundance is much more than that. So much more, in fact, that one could argue that the skiing is mere frosting on the cake.
Discover your inner artist
With the creative vibe all around, it’s not a stretch to want to try something artistic yourself. The cozy Art Studio offers mini classes in silversmithing, beading, oil and watercolor painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, and pottery. My gentle teacher, Tim (who deftly crafts much of the ceramic work displayed around the resort), showed me how to center a hunk of clay on the wheel. Tim helped smooth out my mistakes, which he kindly called “happy accidents.” A two-hour pottery session was $95; completed masterpieces are shipped to you once they’ve been fired.
Feed the Soul
Stop into The Deli (open all day) for a cup of freshly made vegetable soup, a cheddar rosemary scone, or old-time candies on a snowy afternoon. Or nestle into the rustic loveliness of the Foundry Grill (serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner). The wood-planked walls showcase relics from the area’s agricultural and mining past. The culinary bent is American comfort food, offering delicacies such as truffle mac ’n’ cheese; local Utah trout with mushrooms, arugula, fingerling potatoes, and roasted lemon; and the ever-popular Sunday brunch. A menu standout at the renowned Tree Room—more on the fine-dining side, though still casual—is the Tree Room Pepper Steak with wilted spinach, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and mango chutney. A live tree growing through the roof creates a memorable centerpiece in the impressive room, decorated with Native American rugs from Redford’s personal collection. After dinner, stop into the Owl Bar for a cocktail and stay a while to listen to the soft crooning of a harmonizing guitar duo or a country band. (The actual bar itself is antique rosewood from Thermopolis, Wyoming, rumored to have been frequented by Butch Cassidy himself in the 1890s.)
Exercise Your Options
The resort’s Exercise Yurt houses treadmills and elliptical machines to work off that Sunday brunch. Better yet, partake in a yoga class, held here daily at 8 a.m. (The Wellness Menu also includes meditation, movement, nature walks, and aromatherapy yoga.) I got my zen on during shavasana as I watched clouds float across blue skies though the yurt’s skylight. The Sundance yogini carefully covered each student with cozy blankets. Ahhh.
Nourish the Body
Indulge in that noodly, I-forgot-my-name, post-rub-down feeling following a treatment at the Spa at Sundance. I chose a soothing hot stone massage to take the winter chill off that was just right. Like everything else here, the spa is elegant and simple, with pleasantly creaky, wide-plank-floored treatment rooms. Get there 15 minutes before a scheduled treatment, and you’ll receive a complimentary warm salt foot bath. You’ll also leave with a recycled tote bag and slippers as gifts.
Take a Little Sundance Gestalt Home
The general store offers the appealing artisan-made products that prompted the start of the Sundance Catalog (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year), a venture created originally to fund the Sundance Film Festival. Browsing will reveal handcrafted leather-bound journals, embroidered peasant blouses, hand-hooked pillows, silver-scrolled eyeglass cases, cowboy boots, and colorful handwoven belts.
Settle in for a private Redfordathon
In case you’ve forgotten how many gems Robert Redford has acted in, let alone the beauties he’s directed or produced, have no fear. The resort’s front desk stocks a full video library of the Sundance Kid’s films for in-room viewing marathons. Be reminded of Redford and Paul Newman’s smirky smiles in The Sting, young Scarlett Johansson’s amazing performance in The Horse Whisperer, Redford’s Academy Award–winning Ordinary People (which won for best director), and more.
The resort’s brochure reads, “At Sundance Resort, there’s no shortage of things to do; and it’s also a wonderful place to do nothing.” If you go, make sure to leave some time to just be. My room had rough-hewn walls and floors and a leather-backed bed with fluffy white comforters accented with Native American blankets. The fireplace is traditional, so you’ll enjoy the crackle of wood popping as it burns, rather than the hiss of a gas flame. Outside my window was the wandering creek; pine, willow, and scrub oak stands; and snow shimmering off the top of 12,000-foot Mt. Timpanogos, a local landscape icon. As I sipped my morning coffee, a young deer approached the cabin window, looking at its own reflection in the glass. Sundance is indeed a place for self-reflection, reinspiration, and renewal. Soak it in.