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 thee—Sundance gets a 1. I have no idea what the scale is, but unless it’s 1 out of 1 (it isn’t), 1 sucks.