Sundance has mountain terrain that is unmatched in its natural beauty. The spectacular scenery is alp-like, with the towering peaks of 12,000-foot (3,600-m) Mount Timpanagos.
The resort is the result of actor Robert Redford’s vision to protect thousands of acres of wilderness and offer a peaceful ski sanctuary with unhurried skiing and unspoiled solitude. Sundance is for those seeking a peaceful, low-key village community. It offers a nostalgic step back in time to the way ski areas once were.
Sundance exists in harmony with the surrounding natural environment and is tiny compared with other U.S. ski resorts. There are just three lifts serving 41 trails, a fraction of the numbers found elsewhere. Robert Redford founded the resort in 1969 to rescue the area from over-development; it takes its name from his famed role in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The season runs from December 10 to the first Saturday in April or Easter (weather permitting). Peak season is December 20 to January 2, and January 15 to March 15. Since the installation of snowmaking facilities there is seamless coverage from the bottom of the front mountain to the top of the back mountain.
Updated Winter 2015-16 – David B. Cronheim
At Sundance you'll find just 450 acres (182 ha) of alpine skiing and snowboarding, 14 miles (22 km) of cross-country trails and six miles (10 km) of dedicated snowshoeing trails. If you're looking for tons of variety this might not be the best place to come, as the skiing acreage is far smaller than many U.S. ski resorts, a number of which have over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. Sundance does cater to skiers and snowboarders of all levels, however, and it is particularly good for familes, as one lift accesses beginner, intermediate and advanced/expert terrain. Intermediate and advanced skiers could probably satisfy themselves in one day, so Sundance is not ideal for mileage-hungry intermediates or advanced skiers.
Notable resorts nearby are those forming the Park City Resorts: Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and The Canyons, about 40 minutes' scenic drive from Sundance through the Heber Valley.
There are only four lifts to choose from here, so you probably won't get lost. The quad lift takes visitors from the village to access the other lifts and all the terrain. Also down near the village is the handle tow lift for beginners. Two triple chairs serve the back mountain, which is where the highest terrain can be found. The lifts are open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Waiting lines are rarely a problem anywhere on the mountain.
There are lift passes for all abilities, ages and times of day. As you might expect, the passes are much cheaper than at other resorts as there are fewer trails and lifts. A full-day pass costs US$29 for adults Monday to Friday (US$36 on weekends), US$16 for children (aged 6-12), US$10 for seniors (aged 65 ), and children aged under six ski for free. Half-day passes run from 12:30 pm and cost US$22 for adults Monday through Friday and US$29 on weekends. No photo ID is required for passes. You can buy passes at the resort as part of the Ski Utah Passport multi-area lift program. The handle tow is complimentary for beginners.
Beginners have around 20 percent of the mountain to cut their teeth on. The best area for beginners is to take the Theater handle tow near the village, then Center Aisle, a green trail. Once you've mastered this, take Stampede from midway up Ray's Lift-another green trail-and then venture onto some of the blue trails from the summit of Ray's Lift, such as Long Nose running into Flatnose, which then joins up with Center Aisle again.
For a good day out, take Ray's Lift to the summit and ski Ray's Ridge to Lone Pine and the base of Flathead lift. Get off Flathead and take Cassidy to Bear Claw and ski to the base of Arrowhead lift. Ride Arrowhead lift, get a warm drink or snack at Bear Claw's Cabin at its summit, and take blue and black trails from the summit down to the base.
The best skiing for advanced and expert skiers is on the back mountain. Forty percent of the trails are for advanced and expert skiers. Take Arrowhead and Flathead lifts to Bishop's Bowl and the Far East (which has limited access). The best terrain for moguls is Jamie's, for steep trails it's Red Finger and Far East, for deep snow it's Far East, Bishop's Bowl and Drop Out, and for powder it's Far East. For a classic day, warm up on Bear Claw, then head for Bishop's Bowl and Grizzly Bowl.
The best trails for experts are Far East, Red Finger, Drop Out, Upper Grizzly Bowl and Snow Stake. You don't have to traverse all day to get to any of these trails, the powder lasts a long time and the gradient causes even the best to take a deep breath. Skiing outside the ski area boundaries is not permitted, but there are some areas that you can hike to within the area boundaries that offer challenging terrain for the expert skier.
There are no dedicated areas for boarders in Sundance. The terrain makes it easy for boarders to access the whole mountain and only very few areas require a cat track for access.
There are four lunch and snack restaurants in Sundance: one at the top, Bear Claw's Cabin, and three in the village, plus two proper restaurants (see ). Bear Claw's Cabin offers a rustic and comfortable mountaintop experience with soup, sandwiches and hot drinks, and-from the sundeck-fantastic views of the Utah Valley, Wasatch Peaks and the Uinta Mountains.
Creekside has soups, sandwiches, snacks and drinks, and an outdoor barbecue (weather permitting) plus a great deck for soaking up the rays. The Owl Bar is a great après-ski meeting place with a bar menu and full bar. The Sundance Deli, for those in a rush, dishes out sandwiches, soup, coffee, smoothies, ice-cream, gourmet packaged goods, room delivery, and organic products from Sundance's farms.
Robert Redford's vision was to create a village where recreation, the arts and the environment could all live happily alongside one another. He has succeeded with this intimate, western-style village, set in 6,000 acres (2,400 ha), with old-fashioned boardwalks that retain the friendly atmosphere of a past age.
Within the village are accommodations, restaurants, bars, a general store, an artisan center, a 150-seat private movie theater and the recently added Native American Spa.
There are two sit-down restaurants in Sundance village. The Foundry Grill offers a casual, western-style atmosphere with waiter service, full menu and wine list. The Tree Room is an award-winning fine dining restaurant open nightly for dinner. It features an extensive wine selection, preserving some of the finest wines available, and is decorated with Robert Redford's personal collection of Native American crafts and artifacts. It also has a tree growing in the middle of it!
The Library next to The Tree Room offers fireside cocktails. The minimum age for consuming alcohol in Utah is 21. Children can accompany parents in all restaurants. Bars close at 1:00 am Monday to Saturday, and at midnight on Sunday.
Apres-ski goes back a long way in Sundance: Butch Cassidy already was a regular in The Owl Bar over a century ago.
Sundance is inevitably quieter than some other ski resorts when it comes to après-ski. The Owl Bar is the perfect spot, featuring the original rosewood bar, complete with bullet holes, which was frequented by Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall gang in the 1890s. Great drinks, full grill menu and live weekend entertainment. Children can accompany parents in The Owl Bar until 9:00 pm.
A recent addition to Sundance is the Native American-inspired Spa-a sacred environment where the restorative powers of nature are summoned for healing the body and restoring the spirit. It's a peaceful space with six quiet treatment rooms: five dedicated to massage and bodywork and one for esthetics. Therapies inspired by Native American ceremony, culture and ritual are designed to reconnect the body and the mind. In addition, there are yoga classes to strengthen overworked muscles.
Cross-country enthusiasts will discover 14 miles (22 km) of daily groomed, scenic trails for skating and traditional cross-country skiing, plus six miles (10 km) of separate snowshoe trails. There are lantern-lit trails for cross-country skiing at night. Snowmobile tours are available daily.
The Artisan Center is committed to developing the creative potential in everyone, and features pottery, jewelry-making, photography, glassblowing, sculpture and painting-for all ages-with a backdrop of unparalleled views of the surrounding mountain ranges. The General Store (home of the Sundance catalogue) offers clothing, jewelry, handcrafted items, artwork and signature Sundance merchandise.