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Sundance Preview

The festival and tiny Park City have grown up together, though accommodating the hordes during the event always remains a challenge.

Last year, more than 50,000 people attended -- but there are just 6,000 rooms available in the area. Room rates in Park City proper skyrocket during Sundance because large film companies gobble up blocks of hotel rooms far ahead of time.

The Stein Eriksen Lodge at the Deer Valley Resort is considered one Utah's finest (winter nightly rates, $725). Condominium rentals are another option, ranging from $100 to several thousand dollars per night -- try or for listings.

Most Sundance events and screenings are right in Park City. But if you can't find a room, an easy way to enjoy the festival is from nearby Salt Lake City, which has far more hotels and is just 30 miles to the west.

Nearly all the prominent festival films are also screened at three theaters in downtown Salt Lake City.

A smaller selection of Sundance films are shown in Ogden, 50 miles north of Salt Lake City, and at the rejuvenating Sundance Resort , also founded by Redford and located south of Park City.

Parking is always difficult in Park City, especially during Sundance. In fact, renting a car isn't advisable for a Park City visit. Taxi fare from the Salt Lake City International Airport runs about $50; Park City has a reliable public bus system, and the festival operates frequent and free shuttles between the seven festival venues.

Tickets, Please

More challenging than parking or finding a hotel, though, is securing tickets for screenings or forums. Individual tickets are $15 for advanced purchases; inquiries can be made at (435) 776-7878 or online .

Also, each day at 8 a.m., the festival releases day-of-show tickets, which are sold only at the central box offices in Park City and Salt Lake City. And because tickets can be exchanged for a $2 charge, ticket availability is constantly in flux.

If a certain movie is on your must-see list and you cannot find a ticket, each theater also operates a wait list.

Downtown Park City
Photo: Mark Maziarz, Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau

Beginning two hours before a screening, the theater (not the box offices) distributes wait-list numbers. About 30 minutes before the screening, a line forms according to the numbers, and available seats are sold for $10 (cash only).

In anticipation of all this time outside, be prepared for winter conditions. Each year Park City receives an average of 143 inches of snow in town and 350 inches in the resorts.

But one need not worry about shivering outside in the Rocky Mountains -- many theaters have heated tents nearby. The shuttles run frequently, and most events are near each other; Park City itself is just two miles long.

And don't despair if you can't make it out for Sundance. The shorts, which I believe represent some of the most innovative filmmaking anywhere, are streamed online throughout the festival. Wherever you end up, sit back and enjoy the show.

Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.
Martin Stolz is a freelance writer living in Salt Lake City. He previously worked as a newspaper reporter in New York and California.
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