With direct flights to Salt Lake City, escaping the Texas heat has never been easier. You can literally have breakfast in Austin and lunch in Park City.
There are moments when a traveler may wonder if the proverbial juice is worth the squeeze. Questions can arise while scheduling a trip about making the decisions that will ultimately determine how to spend your precious time off. Invariably the ‘to drive’ or ‘to fly’ question will surface. Gas is expensive but airports, TSA security, and delays can be costly in other ways.
Yet, when faced with 100-degree plus temperatures for days on end, standing in line at an air-conditioned airport for a direct flight to cooler temps can be the easiest decision of them all. And so, while Texans melted in some of the highest recorded temperatures in history, I jetted off for Sundance, Utah and the surrounding towns.
On the national radar, Sundance is perhaps best known for its film festival and the guy who started it all, Robert Redford. He knew he had discovered something special in 1969, and began acquiring the awe-inspiring land. Redford has since sold the ski resort but has ensured the area maintains its untouched authenticity. In fact, of the 5,000 acres that encompass Sundance’s majestic mountains, only 450 are developed for recreational use. The deer, elk, moose, bear, and all of the other pervasive wildlife get the rest of the perpetually preserved space.
Turns out, 450 acres is plenty. The drive from Salt Lake City to Sundance takes less than an hour, and the closer you get to Sundance the harder it is to not look up. The mountains tower overhead, and the sense of feeling small starts to permeate as life’s pace begins to slow down. Sundance is a ‘where-the-locals-ski’ mountain and home to a new quad chair lift that welcomes skiers and boarders; but traveling to Sundance in the summer – the juice is indeed worth the squeeze.
Mountain biking, cycling, hiking, world renowned fly-fishing, horseback riding, and even mountaintop yoga is there for the taking sans the crowds and stifling heat. And then there’s the zipline. A six-line course that includes one of the longest in the nation with the steepest vertical drop at 2,100’. With breathtaking treetop views of the Wasatch Mountains the zipline crew is so well-trained that one could imagine them easily positioning the trollies and clamps in their sleep. Professional and competent, the guides are able to be present and enjoy the exhilarating moments with their clients while assuring their safety.
Sundance offers a bevy of arts and culture that even the adrenaline-seeking outdoor junkies will want to partake. The on-site art studio offers everything from pottery classes to candle, journal, soap making and more. Spending the afternoon inside an art studio may seem antithetical to the outdoor enthusiast. It isn’t. The ability to learn a new skill and take home a scented candle or a gift bag of soap that you made, start to finish, is perhaps the essence of ‘being on vacation.’ The ‘make and take’ art studio is staffed with talented artists who exude a genuineness led by affable Manager, Bre Elzey, and was a surprising highlight of my time at Sundance.
For music and theater enthusiasts, Sundance in the summer does not disappoint. The Blue Bird Café Concert Series features Nashville’s finest singer-songwriters and musicians, and the Summer Theater has been a tradition since 1970, with productions from their high-altitude amphitheater.
A short and scenic drive south, you’ll be welcomed by the lush, green Heber Valley. The area is literally on the verge of being discovered and locals seem to know it. At its heart is the small, yet vibrant Swiss-heritage town of Midway, growing with intention in all the right ways. Whatever is on your bucket list for small town activities, Midway and Heber City deliver them with quality over quantity. Restaurants are locally owned and sourced and al fresco dining is practically a given. In addition to the lake, reservoir, and surrounding mountains that provide ample recreational opportunities, you can explore town on an e-bike, take a tour of the local creamery (where the cows are trained to milk themselves with cutting-edge technology), and float in the famous hot pot natural springs at the Homestead Resort, currently undergoing a $45 million renovation. Golfers will not lose sleep about reserving their preferred tee-times. The Heber Valley has five public courses with 90 holes and there are also private courses.
Park City, the host of one Olympics and actively vying for another, is located between the Heber Valley and Salt Lake City and where you will find everything from the latest fashionable pop-up store, restaurants, shops, and a book store duly named after its resident cat, Dolly. The sharp-eyed visitor will also spot graffiti artwork by none other than the famously anonymous artist, Banksy.
Utah is a lot of things to a lot of people. It is the home to the LDS church and the average family has six members. Despite the ongoing public health emergency, the state’s economy is thriving and is likely due to the ambitious work ethic and motto that states simply, ‘Industry’. They claim to have the best snow on earth, and the license plates read, ‘Life Elevated.’ You’ll just have to decide for yourself.
Cover photo from Visit Utah
Haven Lindsey resides in Taos, NM. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories. She was recognized by NPR for her solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Haven is working on her second book, a follow up to, ‘The Blue Dog and The White Horse Adventures on A Texas Ranch’, a children’s book about the friendship between her dog and a horse.