Sometimes traveling for family business has its benefits, as I learned when I had a chance to spend a short few nights at the beautiful Sundance Mountain Resort. You know the place, it’s where the Sundance Film Festival takes place, it’s owned by actor/director Robert Redford and his family trust, and it’s one of the most beautiful spots in Utah.
There was a lot about my visit that was a surprise, however, not the least of which is its easy proximity to sprawling, urban Salt Lake City, Utah. If you haven’t been to SLC, the geography is interesting because the Wasatch mountains very much define the eastern edge of town, a series of tall, rugged, young mountains that range thousands of feet above the city. Driving to Sundance is therefore a drive through the burbs, the flats, until you take a sharp left turn and head into a deep canyon, quickly rising in elevation. No more than 8 miles from strip malls and every franchise restaurant in the business, you’re in a secluded wilderness surrounded by forest.
The Resort itself is comprised of about 450 acres, though the vast majority of that is hiking and skiing trails (though Sundance is busier in the summer than the winter, surprisingly enough), and has a modest 92 accommodations, sprawled across the edge of the mountain. I was tucked into a very nice room in the “Mandan” area, a studio suite. Here’s my room:
Very comfortable, very quiet and very private. And yet, solid, fast wi-fi and the full DirecTV line-up of channels including – no surprise – the Sundance Channel.
The resort is tucked at the base of Mount Timpanogos and there’s a rather old school chairlift that takes skiiers up in the winter and hikers / mountain bikers up in the summer:
You can see, it’s just gorgeous.
I grew up outside of Los Angeles, very close to the famous Paramount Ranch where lots of TV shows and movies were made. Remember the mountains in the opening shot of the TV series M.A.S.H.? That’s my old neighborhood. And I was really struck by how much the mountain forest at Sundance had a similar feel to it and a similar mix of trees and scrub, as you can see in this photo of the trail up to my Mandan studio:
There’s also a stream that runs directly through the property, bringing a lovely sound of constantly moving water and some scenic and meditative views:
If you know Sundance, you might also know that the company has a very successful mail-order business. The business grew out of the popular General Store that’s on property and apparently people kept calling after they left, asking to buy things and have them shipped home.
Sometimes business opportunity really does stare you in the face:
I had the luxury of a tour by part of the Sundance team, so I got lots of great backstory including the surprising link with Boulder, Colorado, my home town: When Robert Redford was attending University of Colorado, Boulder, he’d drive back and forth frequently to Los Angeles, where his family lived. One day driving back to Boulder from LA, he turned up the canyon towards Mount Timpanogos and absolutely fell in love with the area.
So much so that he bought two acres of land in the canyon.
Later on when he learned that developers were aggressively eyeing the area for development he came back to Utah, bought up a few hundred additional acres and began the development of Sundance Mountain Resort.
Resort hotels do things differently than regular hotels, and one challenge they wrestle with is little touches that are memorable to their worldly guests. At Sundance Resort, one of their touches is soap. Yes, soap. Why? Because they make it themselves:
And indeed, I must admit, the soap is really lovely and I swiped a few mini-bars from my room for my daughters to enjoy. 🙂
The event I was attending included most meals, but I did have a chance to enjoy a dinner at The Foundry Grill, a bowl of rich chicken tortilla soup and a lightly grilled wild salmon fillet served on a bed of wax beans, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and fingerling potatoes in a cucumber cream sauce. Yum. Oh, and dessert was a delightful blueberry tart a la mode and a cup of coffee. Decadent!
All too soon, it was time to check out and head down the mountain back into Salt Lake. A brief visit, but a chance to get a sample of the beautiful, relaxing Sundance Mountain Resort. If you’re in the area and need a respite from the chaos, definitely check it out, even if just for a quick bite and a spin on the brand new Sundance ZipTour, the third longest zipline in the United States.
Disclaimer: Sundance Resort comp’d my meal at the Foundry Grill and offered me access to various activities as a travel writer. I just never had a chance to try ’em, unfortunately.