SUNDANCE - THE ALTERNATIVE SKIING GUIDE

It was one of those gags that reporters like to pull on one another. "You mean, you didn't see him? No, really, he was there. Why shouldn't he have been? He owns the place." So may be that was Robert Redford coming into the restaurant. But I don't think so.

Hidden deep in the Rocky Mountains of northern Utah, this is Sundance and whether or not Redford is actually here hardly matters. The entire place is, after all, a virtual shrine to the actor and to his 1969 role with Paul Newman in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

If you are an avid skier with only a few mountain-hours at your disposal, you would probably approach a weekend at Sundance with suspicion. Built by Redford primarily as a retreat for film-types to explore their creative urges, it is not somewhere that puts skiing first. Sundance, moreover, seems like a less-than-obvious choice in a region blessed with some of the best skiing in the world. Resorts like Alta, a closely-kept secret among powder fiends, Snowbird, and Park City are all within 40 minutes drive of Salt Lake City.

But perhaps it is the socked-in weather of this weekend that gives Sundance an almost Tardis-like quality of seeming much more extensive than the simple trail map with its three lifts and unspectacular 2,100-foot vertical drop suggests. Perhaps it is the complexity of the terrain, crammed with hidden bowls, ravines, and glades that are a reminder of some of the lower- altitude resorts in Europe.

Soon, also, you begin to realise that there is a rare intimacy about Sundance - and I mean on the hill as well as in the village below. Of the 6,500 acres owned by Redford, only 650 are developed. And avowed environmentalist, he has clearly opted to keep his resort small. Small and also simple. And so to the snow. In truth, it would have been hard not to have enjoyed this weekend at any resort in spite of the ferocious cold. But at Sundance we were especially lucky. Our schedule called for us to leave straight after waking on Sunday, but the risk of avalanches meant that both routes out were closed for the day. Equally, no one could get into the resort. There were no more than 30 people on the hill that Sunday and some of the best snow I have ever encountered. Even on the busiest weekends, however, Sundance strictly limits the number of skiers to 1,200. Snowboarders are banned altogether.

Though none of its black runs are quite as teeth-chattering as some at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or at Montana's Big Sky, there are enough to give all-comers a rush.

With little time left, we determined to explore some of the other less famous Utah resorts. One that still qualifies, though only just, is Solitude. It is the spot to head when at breakfast in your hotel you hear everyone else laying plans for Alta and Snowbird. The latter two are high in the Little Cottonwood Canyon that leads almost directly up for the eastern suburbs of Salt Lake City. Solitude, meanwhile, hides deep inside the parallel Big Cottonwood canyon - it is just as close to the city and usually less crowded.

Snow Basin, by contrast, was one Utah resort I had never heard of. If you have not either, rest assured, you soon will. A bit more of a stretch away from Salt Lake City towards the north, it has been chosen as the site for the men's and women's Downhill and Super-G races when Salt Lake hosts the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Variety of choice is the special joy of skiing in Utah. Feeling laid- back and romantic? Head for Sundance. Want the best Utah can offer but the traffic to Alta seems too terrible? Go for Solitude. Or, on the hand, go to Alta anyway. I haven't, but I mean to.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness