It’s difficult for me to write objectively about Sundance Mountain Resort, up Provo Canyon in Utah County. I grew up in Provo, so Sundance is where I learned to ski and where I spent every winter Saturday when I was in high school. It’s also where my husband proposed while we were both students at Brigham Young University. It’s where we had our wedding dinner a few months later. But perhaps most importantly, it’s where my favorite food in the whole entire world — the Bearclaw Cabin nachos — are served.

When I spoke with Sundance’s vice president of marketing, Nick Como, he described Sundance as rustic yet elegant. “The vibe is very relaxed here,” he said. He explained that skiers tend to be families from Utah County and students from BYU and Utah Valley University. “It’s a really accessible and approachable experience for families and friends,” Como said, and explained that there’s only one centrally located lift at the bottom of the mountain, making it nearly impossible to get lost.

When the time came for my children to learn to ski, Sundance is where I enrolled them in their very first lesson. I knew I’d be able to check in on them throughout the day and quickly find them when their lessons were completed.

Because the resort is entirely independent and does not accept the Epic or Ikon pass, the lifts never feel too crowded. Como said he and his wife recently skied a weekend powder day and had no problem finding parking or getting on the lift quickly.

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In 1969, Robert Redford bought 5,000 acres in Provo Canyon and named it Sundance after his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. He opened the resort and designated most of the land as a wilderness preserve. Over fifty years later in 2020 Redford sold the land to two capital investment groups. At the time, I and other Sundance devotees worried the sale would change the unique nature of the resort. But, Como explained, the new owners think of themselves as the new stewards of what Redford built and his commitment to conservation. “Our resort is inextricably tied to [Redford’s] name, and his presence looms,” he said.

A heaping tray of Bearclaw Nachos are shown on a table at Sundance Mountain Resort in Provo Canyon on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Como said they’ve seen an increasing number of out-of-towners as word about Sundance’s impressive mountain spreads. “It’s pretty radical terrain,” he said. And this might be my personal bias talking, but I do think it’s tough to beat Bishop’s Bowl — the run at the top of the mountain off of Red’s Lift — on a powder day.

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But what’s more key to the Sundance ski experience in my opinion, even more than Bishop’s Bowl, are those nachos from Bearclaw Cabin. I dream of these nachos, which are made of a bed of crisp corn tortilla chips, smothered in melted cheese, topped with black olives, pickled jalapeño slices, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream, best shared with at least one other eater.

Down at the base of the mountain are restaurants of the fine-dining variety. The Foundry Grill is my go-to spot for any special occasion. The atmosphere is both cozy and elevated, and the menu from Chef de Cuisine Stephani Auerbach — better known as Chef Steph — is gourmet and clearly inspired by the restaurant’s natural surroundings.

During my most recent dinner at the Foundry Grill (on my birthday, thank you very much), my party of four shared the “dirty fries” — topped with truffle aioli, a poached egg and everything seasoning — and the Brussels sprouts, which are prepared in a soy glaze and mixed with cashews and craisins. For my entree I ordered the grilled beef filet served with mashed potatoes, asparagus and a demi sauce. And for dessert I had the sticky toffee pudding with dates and a rich, butter caramel sauce. It might be the best birthday meal I’ve ever had. And I’ve had 38 of them, so that’s really saying something.

I moved out of Utah County more than 15 years ago and live mere minutes from some of the most prominent ski resorts in the world. But Sundance will always be my home, and the nachos will always be worth the drive.

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