Robert Redford shares his love for Utah’s top-notch slopes.
By John Arundel
The snow was starting to fall in mothball-sized clumps at the base of Sundance Mountain Resort, and Robert Redford looked as content as a young actor accepting his first Oscar.
“Wonderful, just wonderful,” Redford exclaims, as he eyes the crowds lining up for the chair lift, before entering the ski school yurt to check out new Rossignol demos which he’ll use to ski down the mountain later. “To me Sundance is and always will be a dream…The sights, the smells, the taste and feel of this place is a dream that we’ve carefully nurtured and worked hard to protect.”
Redford purchased the 5,000-acre property deep in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range in 1969, his breakout year as an actor when he starred with Paul Newman in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Money was tight back then for the Broadway actor just breaking onto the silver screen, so Redford had to get a loan from the local bank. He began upgrading the resort in the mid-80s, once he’d hit his stride as an iconic film legend.
“Our pledge to the area was really a pledge to the people,” he told Washington Life, as he sat in in the cramped office of Sundance Mountain Ski Director and longtime friend, Jerry Warren. “We decided to offer something really special and homegrown, in the form of art and culture, spirit and service.”
When he’s not making movies or promoting the spirit of independent film at the Sundance Film Festival, which he created, Redford can be found here, skiing the 450 acres of skiable terrain with Warren or other buddies. “Bob is now skiing better, more elegantly, more smoothly than he’s ever skied at any other time of his life,” Warren remarks, as the acclaimed actor rolls his rugged hands over the edges of his new skis.
Redford and his German-born wife Sibylle live in a rustic home alongside the slopes, so there’s little that happens here that doesn’t escape his eye.
The lodge, two small restaurants and general store have barely expanded since built, and Redford has vetoed any other progress along the way for his destination resort, such as brand hotels, chain restaurants or sky-rise condos at the mountain’s base. “I like it just the way it is,” he says softly.
Redford’s exacting standards and commitment to the environment is evident everywhere here, with 100 rustic cottages, cabins and homes discreetly tucked into the mountainside above Sundance Village. In many of the cabin and cottages, his uniquely appointed style and love for Native American art integrates seemlessly with the mountain environment.
Depending on price point and availability, at Sundance Mountain Resort you can expect large mountain-view rooms, cabins or cottages for your stay, with kitchens, washer/dryers, jetted tubs or outside hot tubs, walk-in showers, living areas with fireplaces, lofted ceilings and views of the surrounding natural landscape.
Some of the units have 52” Apple TVs, and if you need to check out a DVD, Redford’s entire filmography is available from Reception. Wifi is complimentary, and please don’t tip the bell staff; lodging gratuity is included.
If you crave both the quietude and adventure of nature, there is no shortage of either here, from Alpine skiing and snowboarding on 45 snow-drenched runs, to pottery and wellness classes, fly fishing and zip lining.
The resort’s new ZipTour boasts 2,100 feet of vertical drop – the most of any zip line tour in the United States. Thrillseekers can ride side-by-side on the zip line’s double cables and control their speed, cruising up to 65 miles per hour or stopping for breathtaking views of Mount Timpanogos.
A Nordic Center offers equipment for cross country skiing or snowshoeing, or rods for fly-fishing Provo River’s abundant supply of Rainbow, Cutthroat and German Brown Trout.
There are two exceptional restaurants on the property, The Tree Room and Foundry Grill, which feature sustainable dining with local organic produce, meats and fish, and both dining rooms are accented by Robert Redford’s private collection of Native American Art, with a roaring fireplace in winter.
Sundance’s mountaintop eatery, Bearclaw Lodge, features a special menu prepared by the resort’s executive chef, and can only be accessed by a lift ride to the top of the mountain, which affords stunning views of the Wasatch Range and nearly all of the 10 ski resorts that lie within an hour of the Salt Lake International Airport.
Utah’s resorts are famously known for their “perfect” skiing days. The air here is drier than the Colorado Rockies, so the snow tends to be fluffier and less prone to freezing into treacherous ice patches at Utah resorts.
Park City and Deer Valley are perhaps the best known, as they played host to the 2002 Winter Olympics and 31 consecutive Sundance Film Festivals, and boast some of the West’s best skiing, accommodations and nightlife.
In 2014, Vail Resorts, Inc. purchased Park City Mountain Resort for $182 million, making a big commitment towards upgrading facilities and improving the skier experience, including connecting Park City Mountain Resort with Canyons Resort by Gondola to create what is now America’s largest ski resort.
In addition, there’s a plethora of new hotels, restaurants and outdoor adventures here, giving Park City an energetic new vibe which Vail Resorts is betting will last well beyond the 10 days each January when the Hollywood set converges on the historic Western mining town to get their indie movie deals done.
Not to be outdone, Park City’s luxe Deer Valley Resort has expanded as well, acquiring Solitude, a once sleepy resort that lies a few canyons away.
Deer Valley places a bigger premium on luxury and one-on-one contact, with uniformed ski valets, on-site daycare, haute cuisine and what Deer Valley promotes as “groomed to perfection” slopes.
The readers of SKI magazine have consistently rated Deer Valley # 1 in North America for guest service, and that becomes quickly evident when you pull up to the curb and valets walk your skis and poles to the chairlift.
One of the better amenities we discovered was the luxury of ski gear, too cumbersome to travel with, delivered directly to our hotel room by a service called Ski Butlers. Currently serving 10 locations and 35 resorts, Ski Butlers come right to your living room and outfit you with the latest skiing gear, which we reserved online. Boots, poles and skis are all measured perfectly, so there’s little chance that you’ve outgrown them, and the service invalidates the need to lug heavy, clunky gear to the airport and back.
While Park City and Deer Valley now have some of the most luxe accommodations imaginable with the opening of Montage and The St. Regis, if you’re traveling with a group or family for a week or more, the accommodations afforded by The Lodges at Deer Valley and the condos in Deer Valley cannot be matched for modern amenities and conveniences such as large living rooms, lofts, kitchens and washer/dryer units.
Dining is also top-notch. Downtown Park City features scores of great restaurants and nightlife, with Robert Redford’s Zoom! on Main Street drawing perhaps the longest waiting list in town; it’s well worth the wait.
In Deer Valley, check out the Seafood Buffet in Snow Park Village serving an array of fresh seafood including poke and chilled shellfish. Also in Deer Valley be sure to reserve a table at Fireside Dining at the Empire Canyon Lodge featuring four courses of warm Raclette cheese, cured meats and fire-roasted lamb served from stone fireplaces.
Tall windows overlook a Currier & Ives snowscape. The snow is plentiful here, with an average 300 inches blanketing Deer Valley’s six mountains from early December to Easter.