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Less Snow, More Stars for Sundance 2012

PARK CITY, Utah ( MainStreet) -- Finding less snow than has been on the ground in years, Hollywood has arrived in Park City for this year's Sundance Film Festival, toting cash to publicized film openings and private screenings that indy filmmakers hope will lead to purchases and distribution deals. The winter ski-town festival usually includes a series of headliner parties and corporate-sponsored soirees that make national headlines and attract the industry's more famous faces -- especially toward the beginning of the week when most of the biz action takes place.

There is no shortage of luxury hotel options, including celeb stalwarts from the Stein Erikson Lodge to a newer outpost of Hilton's Waldorf Astoria Park City that's debuting a Slopes by Talisker eatery in place of its outpost of San Francisco's Spruce. Montage Deer Valley also changes things up this season by diversifying its lineup of eateries for the first time since opening in 2010. The hotel unveils a winter sushi venue called Yama ("mountain" in Japanese) with an apres-ski sake scene along the Vista Lounge Terrace that's a good fit for a Hollywood community that always notices the absence of a Nobu-style eatery in Park City.

Of the three hot spots defining the 2012 Sundance film festival. Silver is the fanciest.

With poor snow conditions thus far in the ski season, look for the revamped Park City Racquet Club to be a draw with the influx of L.A. gym addicts and those looking simply to get a first look at the facility, which just wrapped up a $10.5 million renovation. With guest passes available for visitors and locals, a micro-country club setting offers an impressive cardio floor, yoga and spinning studios, indoor climbing and full-service locker rooms. There's racquets, of course, and tennis courts with private instruction available on a same-day basis from 7 a.m to 9 p.m. during Sundance week.

Restaurants are a central part of Sundance wheeling and dealing, and there are three hot spots defining the 2012 festival. The fanciest, Silver, is along Main Street within a stunning three-level space that merges fine dining with an equally alluring lounge scene. The building dates back to 1926, replete with authentic brick details but a glamorous flair from a redesign by New York's Rockwell Group. Food is no afterthought here. Consider the wild mushroom and crispy leek crostini followed by grilled baby octopus and torchon of foie gras, a main course including wild mushroom Chianti ravioli with black truffle butter, ribeye with cauliflower gratin and braised Colorado lamb shank, preferably with a heaping of truffle fries.

Talisker on Main remains as tough a reservation as it was upon opening last year with its uber-stylized dining room and marble-trimmed open kitchen. Competition comes from Al Dente Trattoria, which opened in the past month within a well-known space once occupied by Jean Louis restaurant. In a city with no shortage of starry eateries, Al Dente emphasizes a more casual style that has broader appeal in a rugged ski town. The kitchen emerges as one of the best to open in the past year, with a consistent chef that turns out perfectly crisped pizzas, pastas such as duck confit ravioli and linguine Bolognese as well as traditional dishes including veal piccata.

In terms of parties and music, the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe returns with headlining guests including David Gray, the All-American Rejects and James McCartney, as well as a hosted stage for emerging songwriters and artists. Those looking for a bit more bass in their nightlife can head to the former Harry O's space, where this year a hosted club known as The House of Party Rock debuts (a performance by LMFAO was Saturday, and Big Sean appears closing weekend). In between, look for numerous corporate-sponsored events and more intimate mixers at spots such as Downstairs Bar and Sky Blue Lounge through the festival's Jan. 29 closing.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

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