Skiing in Utah is the Mecca of North American skiing experiences – there are iconic, legendary ski resorts everywhere you turn – so how does Sundance make a name for itself? Robert Redford said from the very beginning of the Sundance venture that it is not just a place, it’s a feeling.
Backed up against 12,000ft Mount Timpanogos, visitors will be hard pressed to find a more stunning natural setting than Sundance. Thoughtful design that keeps the natural scenery at the forefront of our guests’ experience sets Sundance apart from other ski areas that are more geared towards development than nature.
The first time Robert Redford passed through Provo Canyon was in the late 1950s, and he fell in love with it instantly. In 1961 the Redfords bought 2 acres of land nearby. At the time, the land Sundance sits on now was being homesteaded by a family of Scottish immigrants, the Stewarts, who had developed it into a small ski resort called Timp Haven.
In the late 60s, Redford heard the Stewarts were being approached by developers and were going to sell the land. Eager to protect the area he’d fallen in love with, he bought the place instead in order to preserve the canyon and develop it the right way, by not allowing buildings to take away from the scenery.
Redford initially acquired over 5,000 acres, well over half of which he placed either in conservation easements or protective covenants, which means it can never be developed. This meant that future Sundance Resort owners would have to honor the protection of that land.
The ski mountain itself sits on about 500 of those acres — smaller compared to most surrounding ski mountains, but meant to preserve the land and the canyon. Because the Sundance property runs right into national forest land, the Sundance area will never be able to become what a lot of other ski areas become. It will always remain very nature based with low development, which is why there is truly not another place like it in the area – or, arguably, in America.
The Redfords sold the property in 2020, after years of searching for who they felt were the best next stewards of the land. Since that time, with careful planning, the skiing experience has improved exponentially. The initial goals of both management and the new owners were to increase snowmaking, add new lifts, and create additional parking – all of which were accomplished within the first year.
For those who have been skiing Sundance for a long time, you know that the 1995 addition of Ray’s Lift, with two mid stations, took 25 minutes to ride all the way to the back side of the mountain. The addition of Outlaw (Sundance’s first high-speed lift), with a small ride up Stairway and then Red’s to the back mountain, makes for a much more efficient ski experience – and in the end, more runs in a day, which is every skier’s goal.
Another goal with ski improvements was to make the mountain more beginner friendly. The new Outlaw Midway station was adjusted from Ray’s Midway to access more beginner terrain. Perhaps the best improvement for adding beginner terrain, though, is this year’s addition of Wildwood Lift and 40 new acres of terrain – most of which is beginner friendly!
From new lifts to improved snowmaking to better lighting for night skiing, improvements are being made all the time under new ownership to the Sundance ski experience – all while preserving the goal Robert Redford had from the beginning: to preserve beauty, and encourage thoughtful, artistic community.
Interested in learning more about our resort's history, environment, activities, and lodging? Our field guide, given to each guest at check-in, contains a fun vacation checklist, useful maps, and interesting facts about the Sundance community.
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