Pembury Partners Travel Diaries: Utah & the Sundance Film Festival
It’s the final week of the Sundance Film Festival, long established as the place where small, independent films rub celluloid shoulders with the big names in the industry. It’s an important event in the movie business because it’s not just about big-budget Hollywood flicks nor networking for major studios – simply put, it’s where a little indie film can make it big.
It happens each year in Utah, taking its name from the Sundance ski resort near Provo, UT, although of course this year’s festival has been purely virtual due to Covid.
At this time of year Sundance puts Utah in the spotlight, but as the 13th largest state by area in the Union and the 11th least densely populated it’s always a great destination for a getaway. It is well known for skiing with the mountains near Salt Lake City collecting an average of 500 inches of snow each year, but that’s by no means all the state has to offer.
It would however be remiss not to mention winter sports first – Utah residents take great pride in maintaining some of the top ski resorts in the USA. Utah is regularly ranked no.1 for snow, lifts, access and accommodation. There are no less than 14 ski resorts, most of which are under an hour from Salt Lake City airport.
Nature and the great American outdoors are a big thing here. National and State Parks cover much of the state, preserving the uniquely rugged landscape and the habitats of native fauna and flora. Outdoor recreation is a way of life – rock climbing, cross-country cycling, whitewater rafting, or simply revelling in the empty, unspoiled landscape.
It’s a historic landscape, too. Native American heritage sites are widespread, with rock art and ancient dwellings in the Hovenweep National Monument and Cedars State Park, and numerous events relating to Native American culture. Chronologically this was followed by the Old West, when Utah was part of the untamed frontier – think cowboys, outlaws, pilgrims and ranchers and visit the ghost towns at Silver Reef and Grafton.
If you like your history to stretch back a little further, Utah is also famous for its dinosaurs. An unparalleled number of fossils have been found here, and you can visit dig sites as well as take in the displays at the Dinosaur National Monument which has one of the largest collections of dinosaur bones in the world.
Far back in time or far away in terms of distance? It’s worth mentioning the stars – light pollution mean most of us never see most of what should be visible, so Utah has several Dark Sky Parks, certified locations where you can explore the night sky.
Where to stay
All this healthy outdoor activity means you’ll need to unwind at the end of the day. Fortunately Utah has a plethora of beautifully appointed spas with just that in mind. Here are just three favourites:
Amangiri, Canyon Point is one of the world’s most remote resorts, with 5-star luxury and a 25,000 sq. ft. spa on over 600 acres of land miles from the nearest town.
1 Kayenta Road Canyon Point, Big Water, UT 84741, United States https://www.aman.com
You already know about the film festival, but Sundance Mountain Resort, Sundance was also founded by Robert Redford. It’s a top ski resort in winter and a destination for hiking and biking in summer, as well as a spa.
8841 North Alpine Loop Road, Sundance, UT 84604, United States https://www.sundanceresort.com
Red Mountain Resort, St. George is not only a leading wellness destination, but is notable for its customised adventures, tailored to your preference of outdoor pursuits and desire for private or social experiences. Nature-inspired spa treatments are on offer on site, and it’s pet friendly.
1275 Red Mountain Cir, Ivins, UT 84738, United States https://www.redmountainresort.com