Sundance Mountain Resort
Western wilderness, $$ ($300)
In 1969, Robert Redford bought a swath of land at the base of 12,000-foot Mt. Timpanogos, an hour from Salt Lake City in Utah. Interested in both land conservation and artistic experimentation, he established an institute to reinforce independent storytelling and support its burgeoning artists and filmmakers.
Over the next several decades, an ecosystem balancing art and community, nature and adventure, and rusticity and sophistication developed in the area known as Sundance. Today, guests of the Sundance Mountain Resort can take advantage of the many gifts the wilderness offers (on many thousands of acres of protected land), including respite, relaxation, rehabilitation, and inspiration — in many forms, including, but not limited to, skiing and snowboarding, hiking, trekking, scenic zip-lining, fly-fishing, horseback riding, riding chair lifts during a full moon, stretching out during mountaintop yoga, and breathing in fresh air in silence.
As any filmmaker (or hospitality professional) will tell you, it's all about setting a scene and filling it with good characters. There's plenty to mine here. Ride a scenic lift to the only mountaintop lodge in Utah. Have a drink in a 1890s-era bar restored and moved from Wyoming, where it was once a hangout for Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang. Catch an outdoor theater performance on a blanket of grass in the middle of summer. Hook and zip with a 2,100-foot vertical drop (the most of any zipline in the U.S.A.) for breathtaking views and a hit of adrenaline.
Then retreat to a cozy leather chair in front of the stone fireplace of your rustic mountain cabin — and call it a very good day.
At a Glance
The Vibe: Rocky Mountain Highs — cozy indoor atmosphere, tons of natural sunlight, plenty of space to roam.
Standout Detail: Rustic simplicity paired with artsy attitude that will leave you feeling recharged and refreshed.
This Place Is Perfect For: Devoted outdoor enthusiasts making their pilgrimage to the wilderness mecca.
Rooms: There are 95 hotel-style guest rooms (a combination of standard rooms, studios, suites, and lofts) and a dozen mountain homes (two-six bedrooms) with lots of knotty pine, antler chandeliers, and other rustic Western decor touches, some with full kitchens, stone fireplaces, and separate living spaces.
On Site: Complimentary daily guided hike and wellness classes, a spa, a gym, and an art studio offering painting and pottery classes. Summer Theater productions (happening since the '70s) take place in an outdoor, family-friendly amphitheater experience nestled between the pine trees. Some events are ticketed and some are free, and they range from intimate music performances to author readings to festivals. Of course, hosting a film festival means offering screening rooms and conference rooms, as well as venues for celebration. Resort-wide recycling and other green initiatives have been in effect since its founding. You can find responsibly made, fair trade, and organic products at the adorable General Store.
Food + Drink: Try them all: Sundance Deli (sandwiches, soups, snacks), Owl Bar (dinner and drinks), Foundry Grill (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Creekside Cafe (open in winter at the base of the slope, with cool views of Mt. Timpanogos), Tree Room (fine dining), Food Truck (weekend bites), and mountain-top lodge Bearclaw Cabin (tacos and drinks) — which guests access by riding the chair lifts.
What to Do Nearby
Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing, fly-fishing, biking, stargazing, breathing in deeply, and ZipTouring through the mountain air waaaaaay above the treetops — outdoor adventures abound year-round. Then, of course, there are the arts: live music and performances, theater, cinema, and arts studio (where you can also try your hand at creative pursuits). The name "Sundance" is a reference to a Native American ceremony celebrated in the region, and you can drive farther afield (and look up the pow-wow calendar) to discover (and pay your respects to) living indigenous art.