As ski towns go, Park City rivals Aspen for quaintness. The town's colorful, eight-block-long Main Street tilts steeply, making the walk from Mulligan's Irish Pub to Wasatch Brew Pub a slippery pursuit in the cold months. When snow does fall on twinkle light-lined Main, tourists and locals duck into spots like the cozy No Name Saloon to imbibe well-earned pints after a day of skiing. Because of the large number of watering holes in town, folks in Salt Lake City call the town "Sin City." Yet, Park City isn't usually a wildly rollicking type of town. Even during events like Sundance, Park City maintains an unpretentious vibe—snow boots and jeans are the uniform no matter where you roam.
Despite that, going to Park City during Sundance is a bit like going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras: The mash of humanity overwhelms every aspect of the town.
Dining out is perhaps the hardest thing to master at Sundance. Like Aspen, Park City's main thoroughfare is chock-full of top-notch eateries. During the ski season, Park City is a foodie's paradise. But during the Sundance rush, restaurants are booked, sometimes having been rented out a year beforehand. That means you're not getting into Robert Redford's acclaimed Zoom restaurant that week unless your last name is Spielberg. Even the less-fancy burger joints devolve into a guest-list-only situation to accommodate all the private parties.
The secret is to find one restaurant that's not crowded and stick to it. For us, it was Butcher's Chop House & Bar, a classic steak joint serving up delicious cuts of meat and mouthwatering mac 'n' cheese. But because it's one block off Main Street (a good rule of thumb to follow when looking for smaller crowds), we managed to get a table in the bar every night. During the day, we ate at the nearby Davanza's, an order-at-the-counter restaurant that serves up fantastic pizza by the slice.
Of course, there is no better time to ski in Park City than during Sundance; festivalgoers are often too consumed with film and fame to find time to ski. And that means you'll have each of Park City's three resorts—Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, and the Canyons—almost entirely to yourself. If you have the time, ski all three. If you have to choose just one, go for Park City Mountain Resort—the rickety three-person chairlift leaves right from the town center. During a snowy day of the festival last year, we caught a movie in town, carried our ski boots into the theater, and afterward snagged a ride on the lift for some powder before the mountain closed. Yes, Sundance is about the movies, but we didn't see a happier ending than that all week.
Cheryl Meyers is a contributing editor for 5280. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.