Sundance is just as magnificent, dramatic, rustic, and friendly in the summer as it is in the winter. While my husband Charles and I love most of the resorts, Sundance has a special hold on us. We had business in Salt Lake City, and Sundance (like most of the resorts in Utah) can be reached in under two hours, in a car or bus ride from the Salt Lake City airport. We visited Sundance on July 29, 2008. Charles’ godson, Geoff Miller, was performing his jazz guitar at a Sundance dinner, and we went with him. The outdoor barbecue on the deck looked tasty, but some of us chose to eat at some of the fine restaurants or the pub in the resort. They are Western casual, and moderately priced.
The rushing creek runs outside, and the steep mountains and waterfalls can easily be seen and heard. The fresh mountain air filled our lungs. The altitude is not too high, and we were not exerting ourselves, so there was no danger of altitude sickness. The base elevation at Ray’s Lift is 6,100 feet, with the Arrowhead Summit at 8,000 feet. The breeze was refreshing, and it was slightly cooler than the 100-degree weather of Salt Lake. But the dry sun was strong, and sunblock was essential. Hats and sunglasses, along with bottles of water, were important at all times outside in the sun and heat.
We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, and the very friendly and efficient marketing and public relations manager, Lucy Ridolphi, was ready to greet us. We met in the lounge, which offers complimentary fruit, drinks, and comfort to visitors. No sign of founder Robert Redford, but his photo hangs on several walls. Lucy offered the three of us a ride up and down the chairlift. It feels just as steep in the summer as it did on our visit in March, and I had moments of panic when the lift went down the steep canyons. The mountains enveloped us from both sides. There were steep, narrow waterfalls, and tiny pockets of snow, which was quickly becoming mountain run offs in the heat.
The roundtrip lift ride takes about 45 minutes, which gives you an idea of the extensiveness of Sundance. The ride only costs $8 for one ride and $10 for two. You can get off, hike around the top, and get back on. Or you can walk down, which looked like much too much work for me. I will wait for snow season.
We were thrilled to look down at the dozens of mountain bikers under us, and I really believed I would enjoy doing that. Some of the 30 bike trails were not as steep, and I think I can control my speed and balance well enough to handle them. We did see at least one fall and a few flat tires, but nothing serious while we were there.
The Director of Village Sports, Czar Johnson (a great name) says Sundance hosts thousands of visits in the summer. Bike and helmet rental, and the ride up are about $50 for a half day. If you bring your own bike, the lift pass is about $14. You cannot cheat, and bring anything with a motor.
There is a full range of activities at Sundance. They include hikes, races, and horseback riding during the day. On select nights, there are full moon chairlift rides, from 9 p.m. on, from May until October. There is a complementary outdoor film and theater festival, and there are a series of concerts for $25.
If you want to go to the famed Sundance Film festival, the events are pricey and tickets hard to get. Most of the film showing and street parties take place in Park City, although Sundance is certainly an important part of the festival which was created by Robert Redford. It showcases new talent of all types. The Festival takes place in January, so make your arrangements now if interested. For people in Washington, D.C., it will mean missing the Inauguration activities, which may be a good or bad thing, depending upon the outcome of the election! By the way, the slopes are open during the festival, for skiing and snowboarding. They are not always crowded, because many visitors prefer to watch the movies and party.
If you have not skied or enjoyed snowboarding at Park City, or Sundance, it is a treat not to be missed. Skiers should also visit nearby Deer Valley. The three areas have some of the best trails and snow conditions, and finest amenities, of any areas in the world. I always feel like an expert when I dance down those mountains (except for my brief episode of sickness during my last visit in March!).
There is no doubt that winter is great, but I certainly enjoyed my summer visit to Sundance, and recommend it to anyone. Remember, Utah is a relatively short, inexpensive flight from the Washington airports, if you book your tickets wisely, or look for last minute flight bargains that come up. Enjoy the mountains!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.