Robert Redford is selling the Sundance Mountain Resort, the Provo Canyon ski destination the actor, filmmaker and environmental activist opened in 1969.
Though the resort has been Redford’s Utah home for more than a half-century, it also “created a lot of weight for me to be carrying around,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune this week, ahead of Friday’s announcement. “I had been searching for years for the right people to take it to the next level, so that I could take that weight off my shoulders and enjoy my life.”
Philip “Flip” Maritz, managing director at Broadreach Capital Partners, said that in negotiating with Redford for several years, the sale price (which neither side is disclosing) wasn’t the most important part of the deal.
“He was more concerned about legacy, stewardship, fit, philosophy,” Maritz said in an interview Friday.
The word people kept using when talking about Sundance, said Benjamin Leahy at Cedar Capital Partners, was “magic.”
“We obviously think there are ways to improve upon it, but we don’t want to lose the essence of it,” Leahy said. “It’s a haven, and it’s not like any other resort we could think of in the United States.”
Redford said of Maritz: “The thing that impressed me was the amount of time he spent at Sundance over the summer and winter. I spent a lot of time with him, to see if he was really the right person. … I gave it some time, and kept questioning him and pushing him. … His answers held up. So I said, ‘OK, this is the time and I think this is the right guy.’”
Leahy said that above what the two companies paid Redford for Sundance, they aim to spend half as much again to upgrade the resort.
In the first year or two, they plan to improve the infrastructure of the mountain, adding some ski runs and a high-speed lift, Leahy said. They also will expand the guest and skier facilities, such as the addition of a day lodge. A couple of years further out, there are plans for an “inn,” with 50 to 75 rooms, in the Sundance Village area, he said.
All the additions, Maritz stressed, would follow Redford’s model of sustainable and locally sourced building materials, to match the surroundings as much as possible.
Maritz said part of Sundance’s appeal is how it showcases nature, with only a light overlay of the human-made. “What’s amazing to the place isn’t just what Bob did to it, but what he didn’t do to it,” Maritz said.
Broadreach Capital Partners, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., is a real estate development company that owns such luxury hotels and resorts as The Carlyle in New York; the Biltmore Santa Barbara on the California coast; The Park Hyatt in Sydney, Australia; and the Rosewood hotel chain globally.
Cedar Capital Partners, based in London and New York, has a portfolio that includes such luxury destinations as The Savoy in London, the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, the Monte Carlo Grand in Monaco, and The Shelborne in Miami.
Though both companies are involved with high-end luxury locations, Maritz and Leahy said they intend to keep Sundance’s “democratic” feel, rather than turning it into a haven for the superrich.
“There’s a lot of superfluous luxury in the world,” Maritz said. “The ultimate luxury is finding a spot that is authentic to its place.”
Maritz said the companies have been consulting with a veteran in the ski industry, Bill Jensen, who in August left his job as CEO of Telluride Ski and Golf Resort in Colorado.
Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, said that “Robert Redford has been very deliberate about the way he has treated the gem that is Sundance. I have a great amount of trust that he has put it in the hands of people who will treat it as delicately as he has.”
As part of the sale, Broadreach and Cedar have committed to continue Redford’s policies of responsible development and land preservation. The resort’s 2,600 acres include 1,845 acres that are preserved through a conservation easement and protective covenants.
As part of Friday’s announcement, Redford and his family said they have formed a partnership with the nonprofit Utah Open Lands to put more than 300 acres of land — wildlife habitat, streams and wetlands — into permanent protection. The Redford Family Elk Meadows Preserve will lie at the base of Mount Timpanogos, in the meadow below Stewart Falls, where there are popular trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.
Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands, said it was “a humbling honor” to work with the Redford family to create the preserve. “We always want to balance the stewardship of these lands the way the Redfords have,” Fisher said.
The sale does not affect the other entities that bear the Sundance name, or Redford’s involvement in them. Those include: the Sundance Institute, the arts nonprofit Redford launched in 1981; the Sundance Film Festival, which the institute took over in 1985; the Sundance Catalog; the SundanceTV cable channel; or The Redford Center, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that fosters filmmaking about environmental and social justice issues.
The resort will continue to play host to Sundance Institute and Redford Center events. Those include the institute’s summer labs, and the Sundance Screening Room’s status as a venue for the Sundance Film Festival every January. (The screening room will remain dark for the 2021 festival, which will be conducted mostly online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
In 1961, Redford and his first wife, Provo native Lola van Wagenen, bought two acres of land by the Timp Haven ski resort, and built a house there. Redford considered the land therapeutic, a refuge from Hollywood. He would often say, “other people have analysis. I have Utah.”
In 1969, Redford bought Timp Haven, and renamed it after his character from the movie that made him a star, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
In 1981, Redford launched his Sundance Institute with a Filmmakers Lab program at the resort. Fledgling directors and writers have gathered with mentors every summer, workshopping their independent scripts, using the resort’s cabins and facilities as sets, editing bays and meeting spaces. The labs have been a constant for the institute for four decades, though this summer’s sessions went virtual because of the pandemic.
Redford said he missed having this year’s labs in person, “because I could see what happened when we pull people from all different walks of life, from different countries, coming to the same spot. The value of people coming together and sharing their ideas and information, together rather than virtually.”