By David Latt
The ground was wet from snowmelt. Under a bright blue sky I walked to Stewart Falls above the Sundance Mountain Resort, an hour southeast of Salt Lake City. Wildflowers were in bloom. Delicate bluebells, multicolored asters, prickly pink bull thistles and dark purple Rocky Mountain Penstemon were mixed in with tall grasses. A cooling breeze came off majestic Mount Timpanogos.
At the waterfall torrents of water plunged from a cliff face hundreds of feet above. On hot days fully clothed hikers duck into the torrent and come out shrieking and shivering from the icy cold water.
Built by Robert Redford, the resort was part of his larger vision to preserve and share the landscape he came to love when he filmed the film classic "Jeremiah Johnson." In this magnificent natural setting, he created a safe community to mentor emerging artists. Our boys grew up on the mountain. They loved riding mountain bikes down the gravel-strewn switchback trails. The smiles on their faces and scrapes on their knees told us when they'd had a good run.
Complementing the activities of hiking, alpine zip-lining, mountain-biking, fly-fishing and horseback-riding, Sundance has all the pleasures of an upscale resort. The Spa at Sundance has a menu of wellness and beauty treatments. The Art Studio offers classes in pottery, jewelry, painting and printmaking.
One of my favorite activities is to have no activity at all. Rough-hewn benches placed next to streams are perfect places to sunbathe, read, sit and hold hands with someone you love, or just daydream, soothed by the music of the rushing waters.
You won't be hungry on the mountain. The Tree Room is famous for its fine-dining menu with casual dining in the Foundry, drinks at the Owl Bar, made-to-order sandwiches at the Deli and hearty soups at 8,200 feet at Bearclaw Cabin. If you like to cook when you are on vacation, many of the units have stovetops and kitchens with a view of the woods.
With Utah's big sky overhead and Mount Timpanogos as a backdrop, at the outdoor amphitheater guests enjoy theatrical productions and musical performances as intimate as an evening with a country music duo or as rousing as a big production of "Oklahoma!"
With 100-plus units, the resort has many housing options. Couples on a weekend getaway can snuggle up in one of the cozy studios. Spacious one-bedrooms, suites and mountain homes with full kitchens are ideal for families or friends on a getaway. The resort is popular for corporate retreats and weddings.
With the cabins surrounded by pine trees, in the morning, coffee in hand, I begin the day looking out the window. More often than not a deer will be looking back at me.
As the days shorten and temperatures drop, the resort prepares for winter. The Sundance Zip Tour runs across the tree line, now dusted with freshly fallen snow. Now the resort refocuses on snowboarding and downhill and cross-country skiing with runs for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers. Skiers from 3 to 90 are welcome. Instructors offer private, semiprivate and group lessons.
When our sons were young, we enrolled them in ski school to learn the basics. The supportive instructors made certain that they learned about safety. In no time at all, they took to the slopes with daredevil abandon, too fast for my wife and me to keep up.
The world's pre-eminent festival for independent feature films, the Sundance Film Festival screens nearly 200 films, shorts, feature-length films and television shows by U.S. and international filmmakers. For 10 days in January, audiences flock to see the best of the best.
The festival has been the jumping-off point for hundreds of artists whose films have made them household names such as Quentin Tarantino ("Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction"), Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station," "Black Panther"), Ava DuVernay ("Middle of Nowhere," "Selma," "A Wrinkle in Time"), Steven Soderbergh ("Sex, Lies and Videotape," "Ocean's Eleven") and Dee Rees ("Pariah," "Mudbound").
Most of the festival's theaters are in Park City with some in Salt Lake City, but none of those venues is as intimate and unique as the resort's Screening Room.
Last January, I walked on a path that had been cleared of snow. A skier walked by, skis resting on his shoulders, goggles and gloves on. A nod between us. But I was not headed to the ski lift.
I pushed open the double doors and walked into the Screening Room lobby, where a wood fire crackled brightly in the stone fireplace. The popcorn machine was popping. I filled a bag and found a seat in the cozy theater. The lights dimmed. The film began and I lost myself in a wonderful story told by a talented independent filmmaker.
WHEN YOU GO
For more information: Sundance Mountain Resort: www.sundanceresort.com
This year's film festival will be held Jan. 24 to Feb. 3. Tickets for the Screening Room can be purchased for individual films. Packages are also available that include a stay at the resort, meals and a ticket package.
Air travel to Sundance is through Salt Lake International Airport with easy access by car or shuttle to travel the approximately one hour to the resort.
David Latt is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
The activities at Utah's Sundance Mountain Resort change with the seasons. Photo courtesy of David Latt.