by Jim Kenney and David Chaus

On Wednesday March 1, 2023 I skied Sundance Mountain Resort for the first time ever. How do you write objectively about your first day at a ski area when it also happens to be one of the best powder days of your life? I want to use the word unfreakingbelievable to describe the day, but somehow that over-juiced adjective doesn't fit Sundance. Sublime may be the better description.

The Village of Sundance, photo by Jim Kenney
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The weather report said five to seven inches of new overnight snow, but it kept coming down during the day. And because the previous few days had also been stormy there was a cumulative effect that skied more like 15 inches of light, fluffy powder. The quantity and the quality of the snow was very, very good!

Powder hounds will enjoy Sundance, photo by Jim Kenney
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My entire experience at Sundance was a study in contrasts, delightful contrasts I might add. I've had other great powder days in my 56 years of skiing, but what made the day at Sundance so special was the low stress factor of it all. This is so unlike many of the larger, more frenetic ski areas in Utah and across the country these days.

I started the morning in the Salt Lake City suburb of Cottonwood Heights. The GPS said 58 minutes drive time to Sundance and that's exactly what it took. No ugly surprises, no traffic backups, no giant lines, not anywhere.

Booting up in the Lookout Lodge, photo by Jim Kenney
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I was carpooling on Wednesday with two friends. We passed by the intersection of Wasatch Blvd and Little Cottonwood Rd at 7:45 AM. We gaped at the mile long line of cars already staged for the chance to enter Little Cottonwood Canyon if it opened at 8:30 AM after a scheduled overnight avalanche mitigation closure.

Conversely, my car sailed south on Interstate 15 and arrived at Sundance at about 8:40 AM. We parked for free (believe there is a fee on weekends) at an uncontested spot 25 yards from Sundance's Lookout Base Lodge, grabbed a snack, booted-up, and still took our first lift ride probably an hour before those folks back on Wasatch Blvd arrived at Alta/Bird. Did I mention the low stress factor?

Friends smile at the line for the Outlaw Express Chair at Sundance at 9:15 AM on a fantastic powder day, photo by Jim Kenney
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Another great part of my enjoyment of Sundance is that I made the visit with about 30 friends from an online community hosted by SkiTalk is a leader in gear reviews, news, and discussion on all things Skiing. SkiTalk has nearly 9,000 members in its online discussion forum and hosts numerous articles on ski equipment, industry news, resorts, instruction, tuning, etc. There is even a dedicated youtube channel.

SkiTalk Day at Sundance, photo by Phil Pugliese
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The SkiTalk forums have fostered many ski friendships and connections for me and the physical gathering of members at Sundance was a culmination of communal joy. It was not only a powder day, but a powder day on what felt like our group's own private mountain! The founders/owners of SkiTalk, Phil and Tricia Pugliese picked an amazing place and day (well in advance) for a get together - genius!

Then there is the skiing. A lot of folks might call Sundance a "boutique" ski area. But from my perspective as an East Coast native it's pretty dang big with a 2,150' vertical, five chairlifts, 50 runs, and 500 skiable acres. The area also features a nice terrain park and a beginner slope with three magic carpet lifts. The variety of terrain includes 35% beginner, 45% intermediate, and 20% advanced.

Sundance terrain features tree-lined runs, open bowls, and beautiful gladed areas, photo by Jim Kenney
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It's those 500 acres that make Sundance ski very big on a powder day. The entire mountain comes into play, with numerous gullies, bowls, ridges, and tree shots in and around the designated runs. Every acre was up for grabs. And most importantly, there are only a few hundred people to help you slay the pow, whereas back in the Cottonwood Canyons there will be many, many thousands competing for every inch. At Sundance it's you vs. the mountain, not you vs. the hoards.

Our group has clout ;-) We were fortunate to have Annie Condon show us around the mountain for about 90 minutes early in the day. Annie is the new Sundance Public Relations and Marketing Manager. One of the first places Annie took us to was Bishop's Bowl. It's served by Red's Chairlift (named after the Robert Redford family) that climbs to the highest point on the mountain, elevation 8,250'. The visibility wasn't great, but our group charged into wide open Bishop's Bowl anyway. There was a foot of powder to be pillaged.

Annie points the way into Bishop's Bowl, photo by Jim Kenney
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Later Annie led us to a little tree shot near the top of Red's Chairlift, in the area of No Excuse trail. The snow was deep and the group was super stoked. Skiing in or near trees is a good option in low visibility conditions. Annie said she was going to take some video so we all charged towards her at once. It was chaotic, but fun.

Fearless leader Phil Pugliese of leads the charge, photo by Jim Kenney
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As the morning wore on Annie excused herself and our big group split into smaller posses. One of my friends, Scott, led seven of us to a beautiful glade in the Far East area near the summit of the mountain. It might have been the slope labeled on the trail map as Jamie's Run (after Robert Redford's son).

Under the guise of, "I'll go first and take photos of the rest of you", I got to ski the first line through the glade. It was still largely untouched at 10:30 in the morning. It was so good I let out a whoop and raised my arms to signal a touchdown. Then I whistled for the rest of the gang to ski down and I took the following photos to document the fun and great snow.

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Some of the gang stayed on the mountain and ate in the rustic Bearclaw Cabin, but I returned to the Lookout Base Lodge for lunch and arrived at noon. The Lookout dining area is super easy to access from the trails at the bottom of the Outlaw Express Chair. A nice group of my Ski Talk friends were there, yet still l spied plenty of open tables at prime lunch time.

The casual dining experience we enjoyed in The Lookout starkly contrasted with the large, packed lodges we negotiated earlier in the week at Alta, Snowbird, and Snowbasin. The Lookout serves simple, but delicious dishes at prices that are about 1/3 less than comparable eats at the aforementioned resorts. I enjoyed a bowl of very meaty beef chili.

Snowy Lookout Lodge, parking is to the right, photo by Jim Kenney
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After lunch I skied with additional friends and we took turns returning to favorite terrain discovered in the morning. We also explored new areas like Hill's Headwall and portions of the Pipeline Gullies. At one point we saw some locals doing aerials, about six in a row launched off their own private kicker. Even popular intermediate runs like Bearclaw below Red's Chairlift and Maverick beside Jake's Chairlift were filled with powdery pillows of snow at 3 PM.

Local talent on the hill, photo by Jim Kenney
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{Comments from my SkiTalk friend David Chaus: I had inquired of someone if they were going to Sundance, and their reply: “If it’s a powder day, where would you rather ski, Snowbird or Sundance?” The response was clearly intended to indicate that LCC was the only option. Well, I’ve come to a different conclusion: Sundance.

There were no long delays getting to the resort, even with some tricky challenges on the road for a few vehicles. No closed highways, no interlodge. Parking was convenient. People were friendly and welcoming. The base area is charming, and well, the whole resort is just gorgeous.

At least three people (in the SkiTalk group) mentioned to me that it was a “top 5 day.” Despite it being a powder day, there were no crowds and no powder day frenzy. No lift lines. Nada. Not one.

Top 5 Day, photo by David Chaus
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There is a lot of great terrain at Sundance, and a nice variety of runs and glades. The layout of the resort allows you to chose from multiple aspects and lines from the same chair lift. Even though it’s a smaller resort, it feels and skis like it’s much more expansive. When you’re on a lift or skiing the terrain from that lift, you often can’t see any other lifts; each terrain pod feels like you have a ski resort to yourself. The fact that we had powder that lasted all day was a bonus.

Terrific views of Mt. Timpanogos late in the day, photo by John L.
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Would I ski Sundance again? Hell yes. At lunch I even looked up season pass prices on the website, $769. Totally worth it for a week of skiing even if you are traveling from out of the area. I will be back.}

David getting posterized, photo by Jim Kenney
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My (Jim Kenney) concluding thoughts based on spending the last five winters skiing extensively in Utah: The mega passes and the mega snowfall have made Utah crazy in 2023 with big crowds, volatile traffic, and packed parking lots. Fridays are the new Saturdays, Saturdays are the new holiday weekends, and holiday weekends blacked out on the Ikon base pass are the new quiet weekdays!?!

There is also a disturbing unpredictability to the crowding and traffic. The Cottonwood Canyons resorts can be a mess on days when there's nothing special going on. Even the drive on "normal" weekdays can elicit stressful anticipation of what awaits for the 8 AM ascent or the 4 PM descent.

Sundance is having none of it; no Epic, no Ikon. It's not even on the Indy Pass. It's a true independently run ski area, like the old days. If you're making a trip to ski Utah in the near future think about adding a day or two at Sundance Mountain Resort. I guarantee you won't regret it. Sundance is not crazy, it's sublime.

Additional Sundance Discussion here:

Sundance website:

Sundance trail map: