Sundance Mountain Resort is a ski resort that inspires stories — of wilderness, and snow, and the Wild West, and all the ways this secluded Utah ski area has left indelible impressions on our hearts.
There’s the story told by Robert Redford — actor, director, skier, and Sundance owner — of laying eyes on Sundance for the first time. It was the 1960s, Redford was exploring the Wasatch on a ride between his home in California and Colorado where he was going to school. He crested a hill and spotted Mount Timpanogos, he said, simply, “This is the place where I want to put a stake in the ground.”
There are the stories told by Sundance Mountain Resort General Manager Chad Linebaugh, of skiing his favorite runs. They include Bishop’s Bowl, which Linebaugh describes as “wide open and beautiful,” especially on big powder days when the bowl first opens and skiers drop into a long and snow-filled vertical of more than 2,000 feet.
Redford borrowed the moniker from one of his most iconic roles, playing a maverick and a gunslinger alongside a blue-eyed Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
And there are the stories told by Steven Nyman, U.S. Ski Team member, who was raised on the slopes of Sundance, racing to beat the wind with his brothers in tow, hucking cliffs, skiing trees, learning to give the mountains respect. The experience, Nyman says, “allowed me to fall in love with skiing.” He adds: “It shaped my entire life.”
It’s little wonder lifetime skiers like Nyman and Linebaugh and Redford pay Sundance such homage. It’s a place people cherish —it’s difficult to forget. Wedged into a snow-swept canyon, craggy cliffs all around, it’s Utah’s Wasatch at its very best. Redford purchased 5,000 acres of this high alpine wilderness in 1969 and developed part for skiing and put 3,500 hundred of those acres in a land trust for preservation.
Tucked in the shadow of Mount Timpanogos, the Wasatch Range’s second highest peak, the skiing at Sundance is secluded and diverse. There are steep chutes like The Sting, as well as long, broad groomers, gullies, groves of aspens, powdered bowls, and easy, meandering pistes.
For those who want to take in the spectacular views from the summit, Bear Claw is Sundance’s signature blue run that’s groomed into a corduroy carpet every single night. Some evenings a selection of Sundance runs are lit for nightskiing. Skiers and snowboarders head out under the stars to ski Top Gun, Montoya, Stampede or Maverick, skies clear, the moon gleaming above the peaks. Nordic skiers have access to 15 kilometers (9 miles) of groomed trails for skating and classic cross-country skiing; snowshoers can explore six miles of wide groomed trails that wind through the woods.
In those woods lie the majority of Sundance lodging — individual suites, lofts and homes hidden by forest, sumptuously decorated with wood fires and warm blankets and an abundance of rustic luxury. Lodging guests of Sundance receive complimentary ski passes so they can create their own stories both inside by the fire, and outside on the piste.
Back to Sundance stories, there’s another Robert likes to tell, of The Owl Bar – not the local establishment, but the bar itself. Redford purchased the long wooden bar long ago, sight-unseen, from a Wyoming pub. It’s the same bar the Hole in the Wall Gang would belly-up to in the 1800s between train robberies… yes, the same Hole in the Wall Gang whose members included Butch Cassidy and his mustachioed sidekick, The Sundance Kid.
Which leads us to the most mysterious Sundance story of all, the one explaining how Robert Redford named Sundance Mountain Resort. The most popular is the tale told by star-struck skiers — how Redford borrowed the moniker from one of his most iconic roles, playing a maverick and a gunslinger alongside a blue-eyed Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.
But who knows if this is the true story? There are many more out there explaining the name Sundance — Redford’s own explanations are elusive. Perhaps it’s named Sundance simply for the magical way the sun dances on the surrounding Wasatch peaks.
As we said, this ski resort inspires stories. Do you have a Sundance story to tell?