Nestled into the valleys of the Rockies between Salt Lake City and Wasatch National Forest lies a small town that was once a mining village, and today comes alive as a sort of “alternative Hollywood” for 10 days every winter. It’s Park City, Utah – a truly beautiful place. Looking back on my week-long holiday there, which passed by far too quickly, I have taken away some thoughts/ advice on the town itself and the Sundance Film Festival it hosts.
1. I have never seen a ski town quite so charming. True, I have been to very few ski towns at all, but I cannot imagine one that surpasses PC. Small multi-colored bungalows line the mountain-sides sloping up from Main St, which is crowded with small boutiques, restaurants and stands trying to sell passer-bys $20 lift tickets in exchange for “just 30 minutes of your time.” The wonderful thing is that the quaint old houses are authentic, or at least many of them are, dating back over a hundred years to the mining days. Also, the people there are all soooo nice. Approach someone and comment “I’m on the waitlist for a movie” or “I really should have worn another layer today” and you’ve made a friend. And the overall pace is sl o w e r . The people move at a more leisurely pace, and the cars don’t speed and are far fewer in number. It really is refreshing.
2. If ever I take a winter to be a ski bum, it will be in PC. Which makes me wonder why the term “bum” is used when in fact ski town employees often work long hours, scarcely finding time to make it down the slopes without five ski-wiis following in their tracks. One concierge at our hotel said he’d clocked in 93 hours that week. I’d venture to guess he didn’t get a single run in.
3. Regarding Sundance, BUY TICKETS BEFOREHAND. If you don’t have tickets and you want to see a movie, plan on 3-4 anxious hours waiting, sometimes with a slim chance of ever being allowed through the doors. The official time to pick up your wait list number is 2 hours ahead of time, but 3 gives you more of a chance that you’ll make it. You do risk being asked to leave the premises that early, though. Once you’ve got your number, you’re free until 30 minutes before the show, when you line up and wait. And wait. And wait. And just MAYBE, you get in. If you’re lucky. We were lucky 5 out of 6 times we tried. Not too bad, but next time I’ll be sure to buy tickets ahead of time and avoid standing around for hours and hours.
4. Talk to people you meet. During the film festival, there’s a buzz around town amongst the PIBS (“people in black,” as the locals refer to the movie people, who dress in all black and each carry 2 cell phones wherever they go). With hundreds of films to chose from, it’s hard to know what is actually worth spending $15 on. But as the week goes by, word spreads about what’s being picked up and what you can miss. Also, you never know who you’ll meet – after seeing Holy Rollers, I ended up in the same shuttle as the man who played the rabbi in it.