Redford built a cabin for himself and his family and laid out 450 acres for skiing and outdoor recreation. This was at a time when there was a large number of ski resorts opening and expanding in the west and Sundance, based partly on Redford's celebrity and partly on the sheer grandeur of the surrounding mountains, came on the radar of developers.
Redford quickly bought up 5000 surrounding acres so that, to this day, you don't see any obtrusive outsize, purpose built hotels or condominiums.
At the Feet of a Giant
Sundance Resort is two miles up a tight, scenic two lane highway where I found it hard to concentrate on the road while greening my neck to take in the grandeur of 50 - 60 degree sidewalls and the occasional fist size rocks that found their way on the roadway.
In fact, a large boulder emblazoned across with 'SUNDANCE' marks the turn into the lower parking area. I say lower parking area because I was so puzzled by the small size of the lot that I asked the parking attendant if he was really going to turn people out when the lot was full.
Not to worry. If you get there later then my 8:30am arrival and the lot is full you'll be directed to a large upper lot and shuttled down to the Creekside ticketing/rental area. However, the attendant made sure I understood the upper lot was ski out as it was adjacent to a trail.
Sundance sits at the base of 12,000' Mount Timpanogos and the parking lot was where I got my first view of this giant in winter. I'd spent a summer day hiking around Sundance foothills and taking photos, but winter and snow covered rugged sheer sided mountains I find much more enticing.
Try Riding Ray's Lift without Staring at Mount Timpanogos
I mentioned I was early and one of the first up Ray's Lift - the main lift out of Creekside base area. Mount Timpanogos is off to the right where I don't think season pass holders or even Robert Redford himself can ride Ray's lift without feeling humbled by the solid mass of the mountain.
However, the first time on Ray's Lift is an eye opener as you can offload at mid-mountain, or at the top or go over the top and down to the base of Arrowhead.
Progression, for a beginner would be started by the very competent PSIA staffed Sundance Ski School, starts on the handle tow area at the base then to greens and/or blues at mid-mountain, then up to the top station for more blues then to Arrowhead - and this is where the fun starts.
Black and Blue and Double Black
Sundance, as noted, is 450 skiable acres. I don't know how that divides the top half off of the Arrowhead and Flathead lifts, but it's as much fun looping these chairs as at any other resort, no matter the size.
There is the big Bishop's Bowl and the Grizzly Bowl with a natural half-pipe, that, although not filled in with powder on my day, were a lot of fun. You can't ski these without dreaming about the day they are filled with pow.
Surprisingly, since it hadn't snowed in a bit the north side chutes off Amy's Ridge and off the lower Bear Claw still kept a good crispy snow for fun in the bumps.
I made another stop at the Bearclaw, this time for a quick rest and to take in the views out over the Utah Valley and the Unita Mountains. The very friendly staff were ready and willing to talk skiing. Up on each wall, mounted reverently, I have to believe, were two pair of 10th Mountain Division skis; snow-white with maybe the original bindings and tip hole and tail notches for skins.
As noted, from the top there are connecting blue trails that follow straight down to the base area. However, with all that good skiing there's no reason to come down for the whole day, other than the fact that I wanted to walk around the base area.
A Melting Pot
The base area at Sundance is a mix of several buildings with Creekside holding most of the skiing and riding related necessities - rentals, ski school, Ski Patrol, upper Creekside restaurant and administrative offices.
Spread around are the legendary Sundance General Store and Owl Bar, several other restaurants and facilities dedicated to the environmental, theater and arts interests that now make Sundance what it is.
At any ski resort you will find non-skiers, but usually they are skier-related family or friends While here at Sundance, you will very likely find people totally disconnected to skiing and involved in theater, cinema, arts or environmental preservation projects. But no matter their interest, you'll meet and greet friendly and outgoing folks, young and old, who are just as enamored with the beauty of the area as you are.
A Four Season Resort and More
Sundance Resort hosts a variety of lodging options from cottage suites to mountain homes and there is something going on year round. In fact, Sundance Resort was named one of the world's best hotels in the Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards in 2011, competing against vacation properties from around the world, was ranked #18 in Travel & Leisure's list of top 50 U.S. Resorts on the 2011 World's Best list and received Utah's 2011 Best of State award for Best Vacation Resort.
I've told you about the skiing which, when you come to Utah, you should come and experience, if only for a day. However, Sundance is much more than just skiing and they sum it up in a nutshell - "Sundance is an arts community, a recreational community, a community of people who appreciate the beauty of nature and feel the responsibility to preserve it."