review of sundance

September 17, 2008

Some friends of mine recently participated in the 12 Hours of Sundance, and they positively gushed about what a spectacular place it is. And some berated me for not participating in the event, or for not riding or skiing there more often. And because, like Agrippa with Paul, their prose was so purple, I was ALMOST convinced, I had to revisit my reasons for disliking Sundance.

They (my reasons) are legion. I am NOT capitulating.

For the last 25 years or so, I have lived within riding distance of Sundance Resort. Just go to their website—how can you not fall in love with this place? On the backside of Mt. Timpanogos in Provo, UT, Sundance looks like a postcard from the Alps. Remember Jeremiah Johnson? Of course you do, didn’t you watch it over and over and over as a kid? Um, neither did I.

But the buzz is that Robert Redford filmed the movie Jeremiah Johnson with Sydney Pollack way back in 1971, totally fell in love with the mountain, and bought the whole shebang, or at least as much as the Forest Service would let him. (If you don’t know where the actual resort name came from, well, all I can say is, you need to see more movies). Can’t say I blame Mr. Redford; if I could, I’d buy Mt. Timpanogos myself, lock, stock, and barrel.

And what has become of the beloved mountain? Let’s sit back and take stock. And by stock, I mean, let’s do some rippin’, cuz I’m really not very happy.


If, by access, one means easy or hard to get to, Sundance would get an easy 10 out of 10. From Provo, you just drive 15 minutes up Provo Canyon, and you’re suddenly at Sundance Resort. I’m not sure what your access to cool stuff is, but by most any standard that doesn’t involve “how quick can I get to the nearest toilet,” 15 minutes is pretty good.

However, that’s not what I mean by access. By access, I mean, can I get on the mountain to use it as God intended (and by “as God intended,” I mean, of course, however I want. Me.).

The answer? No. No I can’t. Let’s review:

About 15 years ago, Kim and I heard about a free jazz concert series to be held at Sundance, out on the lawn at the base. So we figured we had our next 10 Sunday afternoons booked. We head up, throw out a blanket next to everybody else, and start grooving. No more than two minutes passed, and a guy ambles over to tell us that only people buying the food at the BBQ pit get to sit on the lawn.

Well, we brought our own lunch. “Then you can’t sit on the lawn,” says the guy. Where can we sit? “You can’t,” says the guy. But the concert is FREE, we say. “Yes,” says the guy, “but the lawn isn’t.”

I admit it, the well has been poisoned ever since. I hate Sundance.

Maybe 12 years ago, Jeremy Smith and I drove up to Sundance to do some mountain biking on their brand new trails. We pulled into the parking lot, and some guy (in fact, I’m pretty sure it was the same guy) ambles over and asks for money to park.

“We’re just here to bike,” we say. Yeah, well, then it will be more, he says. “We have no money, we are but humble mountain bikers,” we say. Yeah, well, then we really don’t want you here, he says.

Seriously, you can’t make this kind of stuff up.

At Deer Valley, by most any account a much swankier place to ride, ski, and eat, they build more and better trails than at Sundance. They have better skiing, better food, host Norba National events, and the occasional World Cup event. And, they don’t charge me to park or ride, unless I’m riding the lift.

But at Sundance, they have a guy (almost certainly the SAME guy) who rides the trails, checking to see if you have your little wrist band that means you paid their tax. Like a sondercommando. You see how angry I am about this? I just used the Holocaust to make a joke.

One final thing about access (although, really, I could go on all day. But you already knew that.): In winter, Sundance grooms a bunch of trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, including a route to Stewart Falls, a large, beautiful waterfall on Forest Service land. In winter, I go night snowshoeing a fair amount, and we like to start at the Aspen Grove trailhead, about 2 miles farther up the canyon from Sundance, where there’s another trail that takes you to Stewart Falls. Just over halfway to the falls, the trail from Aspen Grove hits the groomed trail from Sundance. No big deal, right? Except, they post signs that say, unless you have PAID Sundance resort for the right, you risk PROSECUTION if you walk on this packed down section of trail to the falls. They want me to step into the brush, and avoid their little section of groomed trail.  

To this day, I have never seen an actual Sundance resident or paying guest on this trail. They just like the idea of empty trails. Okay, I’m taking my crazy pills, let’s move on.


I’ve only stayed at Sundance once. Can you feel it coming? I’m off on a wild-eyed rant here, can’t stop myself. I booked a suite for our anniversary. We had a kitchen, two bathrooms, balcony looking at the mountain, little creek running by, the works. When we finally got to bed, the first thing we noticed was the uncomfortable sensation of falling into the crack IN BETWEEN THE TWO DOUBLE BEDS PUSHED TOGETHER WITH A KING SIZED SHEET HOLDING THEM IN PLACE!

But that’s okay, right? I mean, the room only cost about $300 a night.

I’ve had trouble watching The Sting ever since. I just want to reach into the screen and rip Bobby Redford’s heart out. I cheer the ending scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid every time now. Die, Sundance Die!


Sundance has two restaurants, the Tree Room, and The Foundry Grill. Both have financing available, although, you may need the lease with an option to buy at the Tree Room (so named, because there’s a huge dead tree trunk poking up the middle of the Room. So, Tree, aaaand, it’s in a Room. Get it?).

The food is fine. Really, I’ve never gotten sick from eating at Sundance.

But once, a loonnng time ago, I took a date to the Tree Room, a girl who wanted to be the next Meryl Streep (but, sadly, was destined to be the next wannabe Kathy Bates). We were seated right next to the tree, which is quite an honor.

Over in the corner, seated with a largish posse, was none other than Bobby Redford himself. My date was smitten, but I was already jaded, and determined not to be a dweeb. We sat and ate and talked, they sat and ate and talked, and gradually his posse was whittled down to him and a woman. We outlasted them, though, and eventually he made his way past us to the exit.  

He stopped right at our table, since we were the only ones left in the restaurant, and stood there, presumably waiting for me to look up and say something adulatory. My will is strong, though, and I continued poking at crumbs on my dessert plate. And finally, he gave up and walked off.

Yeah! Take that you elitist, faux environmentalist poser. You and your Sundance Film Festival (which, by the way, takes place pretty much all in Park City, NOT at Sundance), your stupid groomed snowshoeing trails, and your nice lawn I can’t sit on.  

Like K,k,ken, in A Fish Called Wanda, I want REVENGE! Well, here it is, from Hell’s heart, I stab at theeSundance gets a 1. I have no idea what the scale is, but unless it’s 1 out of 1 (it isn’t), 1 sucks.

17 Responses to “review of sundance”

  1. b_banks Says:

    Now I get it. When I asked you why you didn’t come join in the fun you looked at me like you were going to say something and then simply said “uhhhhh no” and walked away. Now I know why, and can’t say I blame you. Hell I might even join you in your boycott. I took Karee to the Tree Room once a long time ago and I can remember thinking to myself “what the hell is so great about this?” That being said, the singletrack was still bitchin’.

  2. KanyonKris Says:

    I, too, have a bile duct reserved for Sundance. I don’t know why they even bother trying to attract the locals – it’s obvious to me Sundance wants to be exclusive and cater to the wealthy – an Aspen wannabe.

    Yet they still have some mountain bike races and concerts, but as you noted there are always strings attached. With the ICup race Sundance gets snippy about racers pre-riding the course – they relented, but the initial line was “you have to pay to get on the trails, we don’t care if you’re registered for the race”. What the ?!?!

    Sundance should just drop the community friendly pretense and put up a big (bigger) fence around the whole place to keep us unwashed masses out so the well-heeled (why does that mean wealthy?) can frolic with only their own kind, except when they call for the servants.

    A short story: On a road bike ride over the Alpine loop we (Mark A. and his brother) stopped at Sundance to get some drinks (sticker shock!). It was a warm summer day and I was sweaty so I took off my helmet and dunked my head in the stream that flows near the little general store. Mark observed some guest watching me in absolute horror. We weren’t sure if she was offended that I’d polluted the pristine stream with my dirty head or that I might get sick (giardia, etc.) from the raw, untreated water. My bet’s on the former. We laughed about the skewed reality of city folk and finished our ride. But it illustrates the clientele Sundance is catering to (and pays the bills).

  3. Rick S. Says:

    But when you can poach the trails and not get caught, it feels good. Really good. Sticking it to the Man.

    I agree. Sundance is lame but the trails are sooo good, I can’t ignore them.

  4. bikemike Says:

    money-greed (loads and loads of it) breeds insanity and stupidity, look at wall street.

    get off my lawn mr. redford.

  5. Woody Says:

    Come on, man – don’t hide how you really feel. Let it out!!

  6. Steve Says:

    AMEN!!! We were innocently tubing on one of their lower hills in the evening, no skiers around anymore and were told to vacate the place. Bob has no place in my heart.

  7. KanyonKris Says:

    Rick – Stickin’ it to The Man by poaching, I feel a warmth in my heart, like the Grinch when he gets the idea of how to ruin Christmas for Whoville.

    And the trail dug snowshoed is a good bike ride – I used to ride it before Sundance posted all their nasty no trespassing signs. Hmmm.

  8. jot Says:

    Sounds to me like someone needs to start collecting no trespassing signs.

  9. BotchedExperiment Says:

    What’s wrong with keeping out the riff-raf?

    If I were a multi-millionair quasi-playboy environmentalist and owned a mountain (well, at least the back-side of a mountain) I wouldn’t want anyone on my lawn either. The only difference, is that I wouldn’t pretend that I wanted people there.

  10. Eber Says:

    Wow Dug – the bile is oozing out of my phone!

    I raced (I use that term lightly, we damn near finished DFL) up at Sundance Saturday and really loved the course and the trails were great.

    But I too have angst against ol’ Bobby R. Very similar to your evening at the Tree Room – we had the “pleasure” of dining in the ame room as Sundance himself. There were only two tables occupied by the end of the night – Robert and is guest and our table including myself and three ladies (my wife and two ladies in their 50s who couldn’t stop gushing at the thought of actually sitting mere feet from Bob).

    So everything is all fine and good until my wife excuses herself to use the ladies room. I happened to glance over and Mr Redford just in time to see him give my wife not just a once over, but a full scale visual undressing. I fully expected him to saunter across the room and offer me a million bucks!

    Needless to say – as much as I enjoyed the race..I am out on Sundance.

  11. Fish Says:

    Well-said. I too hate the psuedo-environmentalist that is Robber Redford. Unfortunately, I’m dawn like a moth to the flame to that damn Sunday Brunch.

  12. KanyonKris Says:

    Botched – My point exactly. I don’t care if they have a fancy resort there, but if they invite the locals up for events they should back off on the rules and let people enjoy themselves.

    Eber – You should take that as a compliment / bragging point: “My wife is so hot Robert Redford couldn’t take his eyes off her”. Turn those lemons into lemonade. But if you want the lemons, it just means Redford is a dirty old man.

    Fish – What’s the carbon footprint of the Sundance resort? Or just Redford himself? And you’re right, even flawed it’s a nice place to hang out, for a while.

  13. bikemike Says:

    right now, dug has more comments than elden…
    …van halen

  14. Flyin' Ute Says:


    I grew up skiing Sundance and have a soft place in my heart for it. They are a little silly with their rules.

    I really like kicking back on the grass and drinking a Diet Coke. If you know what I mean.

  15. The Blogtrix Says:

    dug, go here: 40.482952, -111.847160

  16. Fish Says:

    Flying Ute – A brilliant follow up to the ride29er discussion with that weirdo anonymous guy.

  17. Flyin' Ute Says:


    I’m glad you noticed. Thanks man.

    By the way I proposed to my wife at Sundance. Also, spent my Honeymoon night up at a cabin there. 1 year anniversary and pretty much want to buy the place if I ever run into some real cash.

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