Sundance's 40th

By Ray Grass Dec 19, 2009
Robert Redford celebrates 40 years with the return of night skiing

After spending 24 years in the dark, lights are on again. Sundance ski resort is offering night skiing again.

My question is: What took so long?

The mountain is made for daytime/nighttime skiing.

Other Sundance notes: It was 40 years ago Robert Redford made the classic ski movie “Downhill Racer’’ with Gene Hackman. It was 40 years ago he joined with Paul Newman for the classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’’ And, it was 40 years ago Redford bought a tiny Utah ski resort -- named Timp Haven -- that he would later name Sundance.

That’s a lot to celebrate.

Luckily, Mother Nature came through. Thirty-eight inches of snow before opening made it possible for the resort to run its lifts, all of them, on schedule.

Sundance is one of my favorite resorts. It’s a little resort, only four lifts and 42 runs, but offers lots of vertical, great fall-line runs and some real enjoyable skiing. It’s also one of the most charming resorts in the country.

Stand anywhere within the village and it’s difficult to see more than one or two buildings through all the trees.

As far as night skiing goes, the resort turned off the lights nearly a quarter century ago.

Jerry Warren, mountain manager and a legend in the skiing world, said requests and opportunity brought back night skiing to the resort. He will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in April. Over the past 50 years, only six people have been so honored.

Over the summer the resort offered roundtrip evening lift rides and upwards of 1,000 people would line up each night. With a large work force and larger student population in the valley below, skiing after hours seemed a no brainer.

If I were to pick a perfect night to ski, it would be under a full moon with Mount Timpanogos as the moonlit backdrop. The sheer majesty of this mountain rivals any in the world.

Between moonlight off the mountain and light off the snow, I can think of nothing more pleasing.

As for all the 40s, I have to applaud Robert Redford for what he has created at Sundance. Oh yea, I loved his movies. But, I have to admire him for what Sundance is today- -- a quaint, low impact, family-friendly resort offering great skiing.

He resisted the advice of investors to build hotels and condominiums.

He went on to add filming, acting, art and nature classes.

The only thing I can do with some degree of success, though, is ski.

For those interested in a little history, the resort opened in 1944 when Raymond Stewart installed a rope tow and began calling the area Timp Haven. Where he differed from other resorts is he closed on Sundays. He said six days was enough. Stewart himself didn't ski, but his children did.

In 1951, a used lift purchased from Park City was installed.

In 1957, Junior Bounous, another skiing legend, came back to Utah, bought into the ski area and started a ski school. Bounous, at age 84, was among those who made first runs on lighted night runs last week.

By 1960, there were two lifts and three tows in operation.

In 1963, Robert Redford built a home near the resort and took up an interest in getting into the ski business. He purchased the resort in 1969.

Now, 40 years later, I tip my ski hat and say “well done.’’