Skiers in Park City can get the star treatment during Sundance
For many movie buffs in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival is the highlight of the year. It’s a chance to be among the first to see some of next year’s Oscars contenders, catch glimpses of Hollywood’s brightest stars and be at the center of the cinema universe for 11 days.
Often overlooked in all the hubbub, however, is the other reason Park City’s name is on the global map: its ski resorts. It’s a familiar adage in town that Sundance is the best time for Parkites to hit the ski hill because the winter crowds have abandoned the slopes to pack into dark theaters and to hunt for Hollywood on Main Street.
Coleen Reardon, director of marketing for Deer Valley Resort, said the film festival does, in fact, cut into the number of lift tickets the resort sales. But that isn’t necessarily bad news. Deer Valley more than makes up for the lost revenue in ticket sales by filling up its lodging properties.
"Our lodging does sell out the first five days and comes really close the second five days," Reardon said. "That’s sort of the dynamic that’s interesting — we do really well in lodging and food and beverage and some other areas, but not on lift tickets."
Additionally, there is the added value of having the town associated with an event that draws the attention of people throughout the world. Reardon said Deer Valley works with Sundance on a number of fronts and basks in the exposure the festival provides.
"You can’t put a price tag on the worldwide exposure of Sundance," she said. "It’s crazy good for the whole town. What a brand to be associated with, especially being located in Utah, where we get the misperceptions of the alcohol (laws) and all of that stuff. Well if Sundance is in town, that’s pretty darn cool, right? So while there are less skiers, we understand the sort of rising tide it brings for the community."
Deer Valley has always been pleased to be linked with the film festival. Despite that, however, Sundance always presented one large drawback for the resort.
"One of the biggest problems we had with the festival was that in certain cycles, it would fall on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which really hurt us," Reardon said.
But the city and Sundance signed a long-term deal in 2013 that pushes the festival back to later in January during years it would otherwise overlap with the holiday. Last year was the first time the festival was moved back, and the new arrangement has made it much easier on the ski resorts. Reardon said Deer Valley set a record pace last week during the holiday weekend.
"Now that they’ve moved off MLK, we had an amazing weekend because we’ve been able to grow that time period," Reardon said. "That concession was very meaningful."
Margo Van Ness, senior manager of communications at Park City Mountain Resort, declined to go into specifics but agreed with Reardon that Sundance is a fun time of year. She said in an email that skiers will enjoy their time on the mountain during the festival.
"Sundance is a fantastic time to experience Park City," she said. "With the recent fresh snow both locals and guests in town for Sundance are sure to find fun terrain and an amazing on mountain experience."
Though most people in town during Sundance aren’t in Park City to ski, there are some who view it as a prime opportunity to strap in and hit the slopes. Reardon said Parkites love to ski while the festival is in town, and a small number of festival-goers even get in on the action.
"We do get some (festival attendees who ski)," she said. "I don’t know what the demographic split is, but sure we do, absolutely. I think it depends on why you’re attending the festival. If you’re in the industry, and this is serious business, you probably don’t have time to ski. But if you’re a festival-goer, and you want a break and clear your head after seeing three films in a row, it’s nice to go skiing."
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.