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The Sundance Resort: Dinner & a Movie
by Karen Pecota

To attend a film at the Sundance Resort during the annual Sundance film festival is a special treat because of its location and nostalgic atmosphere. Set in a narrow canyon, naturally nestled in between two famous mountain ranges is the Sundance Village and Resort. Its amenities are strategically placed for low-key fun, enjoyment and relaxation. It provides a small ski hill that provides night skiing as well as daytime, casual and fine dining, walkways, an intimate theater seating roughly 125 people, a few conference rooms and rustic lodging accommodations. It reminds me of going to camp as a teenager...the smells, the sounds and the rustic visual esthetics create a delightful intimate feeling of familiarity.

"This place in the mountains, amid nature's casualness toward death and birth, is the perfect host, for the inspiration of ideas: harsh at times, life-threatening in its winter's destruction, but tender in attention to the details of every petal of every wildflower resurrected in the spring. Nature and creativity obey the same laws, to the same end of life." ~ Robert Redford

In addition, the area is home to the Sundance Institute workshops, labs, and conferences for those pursing independent filmmaking (adding live theater, music and dance) founded by Award-winning actor, artist and philanthropists, Robert Redford.

"I have always felt the need for artists to have a place where they can try new things, experiment with new ideas and have the freedom to fail. That is what growth is all about. Sundance is a place where new ground can be broken, lines be tested in the marketplace. We're trying to create a community here where film, dance, theatre and music can share some spaces--what matters here is the experimentation, not the end result." ~ Robert Redford

The story of the area is told with words and other art forms on beautiful rustic wall murals located along the hallways in the country style wood building that houses the restaurants, bakery, café, and gift shop. Here is a little excerpt of its history:

The first inhabitants arrived in 1776 known as the Timpanogotzis. Spanish Padres entered the area known as the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon. In the 1890s, Andrew Jackson Stewart and his sons, John and Scott, started to homestead the area and bought 3500 acres under the name "North Fork Investment Company". The area was under ownership of the Stewart family until the 1960s sharing several humors stories living off this land and creatively inventing an exciting life.

During a visit to Utah in 1961, Robert Redford was taken by the beauty of Mt. Timpanogos and the canyon. Seeing that it would be an ideal retreat or himself and his young family, he purchased 2 acres in the North Fork and built a cabin. Realizing that the rabid appetitive of developers could destroy the canyon, he assembled a group of New York investors, and by 1968 they had purchased from Paul Stewart the Timp Haven Resort and the accompanying 5,000 acres to protect and honor it rather than destroying it for short-term gain.

The area was re-christened Sundance--a reference to a Native American ritual and to the ways the sun dances on the ridges of the canyon.   Sundance today represents thirty years of careful planning. Only 450 of Sundance's 5,000 acres are devoted to recreational use. By blending art, nature and commerce into a diverse and vibrant community, the Sundance village hopes to maintain a place to play, to heal and to inspire.

My husband and kids have skied/boarded the area in the winter and my husband and I have visited the slopes in the summer accessing the walking trails and chair lift. It's an all year playground that offers rest or activity, whatever your pleasure.

Our dinner and a movie at the Sundance Resort took place on the first Friday night of the Sundance Film Festival (several film screen daily at the resort during the festival). We had a delightful 50-minute drive from Park City to the Resort as the weather was warm and sunny. We had time to walk the area prior to our dinner reservation to observe skiers, boarders and people warming themselves by the varied fire pits as the night fell.

It was so nice to have time for a leisure dinner that was exceptional, prior to the screening of the documentary Apollo 11 held in the resort theater. We stood in line for the film with people who were locals and learned a lot about the film festival from their experience over the years. Their favorite was to attend as many films at the resort theater as possible. Understandably, the unique atmosphere and intimate theater at the resort diminishes the hectic hub-bub of the other festival venues. It's a peaceful place.

We entered the theater, selected our seats and shortly, the film began after a brief welcome, an introduction to the film and the acknowledgement that there would be a Q & A after the film. We were excited to be one of the first audiences to witness the Apollo 11 documentary. We were not disappointed as the film was totally archival footage with the most amazing collaboration of music to tell the story of the missions’ most eventful feat. I don't think there was a dry-eye in the house at the films end. Right, we did have time to wipe the tears during the credit roll but even that was a lengthy segment honoring ALL who participated in the original space mission and the current documentary film incorporating several generations of people.

A special guest attending the Q & A session was one of the sons of Neil Armstrong who also worked on the film. One of the questions asked of him was in reference to the feature film about his dad which released months prior called FIRST MAN. They wanted to know if the film did an actual portrayal of his father. His answer was "affirmative" and then shared a few family memories.

My husband was impressed that the entire film had no narrator only the usage of the actual sound bites some fifty-years prior and asked if that was intentional. “Yes, it was and just short of a miracle that it actually worked.”

Director Todd Douglas Miller ends with these words, "This film only exits because of the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of an extremely talented group of individuals. From the archivists and researchers, to the post production teams and production partners, everyone labored for years to ensure we got it right." Adding, "We are also indebted to the scores of writers, filmmakers, and researchers that have come before us to build on the canon of project Apollo. And it the astronauts, their families, NASA and NARA employees, contract tours, volunteers, many of whole we came to know in the course of making this film, we humbly say thank you. You remind us that great things can be accomplished when people unite for a common goal."

Exiting the theater in silence was necessary to simply process what our eyes and ears witnessed. We were in awe!