Robert Redford Sets the Sundance Scene

There’s a history to Sundance. There’s a story to be told.

Pale aspens masked against white snow cradle a slew of dramatic peaks. One peak — an impressive limestone wallscape — looms particularly large: Mount Timpanogos. The second tallest peak in Utah’s Wasatch Range, “Timp” watches over Sundance Mountain Resort nestled among thousands of acres of protected wilderness. The fall beauty of cycling the Alpine Loop and hiking among the lingering wildflowers has given way to cross country skiing, night owling (guided nighttime snowshoeing) and carving up slopes. Only the hardiest of fly fisherman remain. Winter has descended on Provo Canyon.

What’s the spark that kindled Sundance Mountain Resort? Resort founder Robert Redford saw it as a place to hear and tell stories.



“It’s about storytelling...There’s a history to Sundance. There’s a story to be told,” says Redford, an actor, director and Utah enthusiast.

Only an hour from Salt Lake City International Airport, the Provo resort is rustic elegance steeped in dramatic scenery. Its 42 runs cross more than 450 acres with 2,150 vertical feet. Its classic cabins boast rough sawn wood and stone fireplaces. Everything breathes high quality.

Sundance’s own story started with a misrouted road trip. Redford, on his way West, came up Provo Canyon by mistake but was quickly captivated by the presence of Mount Timpanogos. He took a side road for a closer look, which brought him to the area that is now Sundance Mountain Resort.

“[Sundance] always feels new, it always feels fresh, and it sets in motion a different attitude where I then begin to slow down.” — Robert Redford.
Robert Redford (left) as the Sundance Kid alongside Paul Newman, his co-star in the iconic film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Robert Redford (left) as the Sundance Kid alongside Paul Newman, his co-star in the iconic film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Skiers in the backdrop look out on Bishop's Bowl, Robert Redford's favorite run known for its evolution from spacious to tight turns.
Skiers in the backdrop look out on Bishop's Bowl, Robert Redford's favorite run known for its evolution from spacious to tight turns.

At the time it was a small resort called Timp Haven with a homemade rope tow, a single chair lift and a T-bar. Attracted to the land for both its potential as a creative hub and a landmark resort, Redford also saw his purchase as an act of preservation. He wanted the stories of this land, originally a cool-temperature summer mecca for the Ute tribe, to live on for future generations, free from major development.

The wall-like Mount Timpanogos cradles the illuminated Sundance Mountain Resort.
The wall-like Mount Timpanogos cradles the illuminated Sundance Mountain Resort.

A decade later, in 1981, the Sundance Institute was founded at Sundance Mountain Resort, bringing writers, directors, actors and artists together to collaborate among the natural beauty of Provo Canyon. Today, the institute is spread out among offices in Park City, Los Angeles and New York City, with the exciting culmination taking place each January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City (45 minutes away from the resort), which introduces a global audience to groundbreaking work in independent film.

Just as stories and emotions drive the decades of films propelled by the Sundance Institute, the resort itself still knows how to summon a strong reaction. Few sentiments rival the feeling of a Mount Timpanogos vista set among the quality and class of Sundance Mountain Resort.

“It always feels new, it always feels fresh, and it sets in motion a different attitude where I then begin to slow down,” says Redford.  

Whether you’re slowing down, or aiming to capture the feeling Redford describes while being “up top and cutting loose” on his favorite run — the wide-open Bishop’s Bowl — his invitation is simple: “come here and see what you feel.”

Rosie G. Serago

Rosie creates content and keeps the em-dashes in line at the Utah Office of Tourism. A Utah native, she split the last decade smelling creosote in the Sonoran Desert, comparing lobster rolls across New England and savoring thunderstorms outside of southern Appalachia. Now back in Salt Lake City, she is ready to explore the expanse (in between Real Salt Lake and Utah Jazz games).

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Sundance Mountain Resort

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Timpanogos Cave

Timpanogos Cave

Timpanogos Cave sits high on the northern slope of Mount Timpanogos in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah.

Provo / Utah Valley

Provo / Utah Valley

The Provo River cleaves the range in the Provo's backyard, forming Provo Canyon, and serving as the setting for scenic fly-fishing, kayaking and floating. The surrounding mountains cradle an extensive network of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and mountaineering. As a base camp, Provo offers a rising local foodie scene, cultural amenities and great road cycling.

Sundance Mountain Resort

Sundance Mountain Resort

Compared to its neighboring Utah resorts, Robert Redford's Sundance Mountain Resort has a cozy, nestled quality, yet its 42 runs across 450+ acres still pack in 2,150 vertical feet and the spectacular snow of Utah. It's simply first class.

Where to Stay

The rustic but modern rooms, suites, dining and event services of Sundance make for one of the finest complete destinations in Utah, especially when measured against the breathtaking views of Mount Timpanogos, perhaps the loveliest peak in the Wasatch Mountain Range.

Visitors to Sundance also lodge in Utah Valley or farther up the road in the Heber Valley. Both destinations offer excellent accommodations and access to outdoor recreation. It's an hour from Salt Lake City International Airport to Sundance Resort, and you'll pass through Provo to get there.