Sundance Film Festival

Locals call them "PIBs," meaning people in black. Every year, PIBs descend on this picturesque ski town for Sundance, a 10-day independent film festival, which runs from Jan. 15-25 this year.

They come here to market their movies, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and talk on their cell phones. And yes, a lot of them are dressed in black. It's become so much of a cliché that a local marketing agency ran the following ad; "Sundance Film Festival. Welcome to Park City: 65,874 gallons of coffee, 84,038 cell phones, 9,387 black turtlenecks and plenty of wives for everyone." PIBs and a polygamist reference all in one ad.

Actor/director Robert Redford started the Sundance Film Festival in 1981 to provide a stage for the talents of emerging screenwriters and directors. Redford lives just around the corner in Provo Canyon at his Sundance resort and is seen by locals virtually every winter. The once-fledgling film festival has grown over the years, and this January hosts more than 40,000 film goers, exhibitors, directors, publicists, and actors.

Actors spotted along Main Street this year include Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Hank Azaria, Demi Moore and boyfriend, Ashton Kucher, Danny DeVito, Courtney Cox-Arquette of Friends, her husband David Arquette, and of course Redford to name a few.

Emerging Films, Bustling Bars

Of the 137 full-length films — 91 features and 46 documentaries — three or four seem to be emerging as standouts. There is Supersize Me, a documentary about a perfectly healthy filmmaker who eats three meals a day at McDonald's and puts on more than 30 pounds in a month; Garden State, a film set in, yes, New Jersey; Maria Full of Grace, and Redford's first independent film debut at Sundance, The Clearing.

The annual festival also attracts lots of traffic, parties, and overbooked restaurants. Although Park City has more than 100 bars and restaurants, it can be difficult getting into the good ones such as Grappa, Riverhorse Cafe, 350 Main, Easy Street Brasserie, and Zoom (another Redford venture). Locals know better and head away from Main Street to the Blind Dog, in Prospector Square or Morel's at the top of Deer Valley. The Snake Creek Grill is also good, though it is an eight-mile drive to Heber, Utah.

And by the way: Enough of this whining about the peculiar alcohol laws in Utah — it's easy to get a drink here. Some bars are required by law to ask you to buy a two-week membership for $5 because they're classified as "private clubs."

Beer bars require no such membership, nor do restaurants that serve alcohol with your meal. Check out the Wasatch Brew Pub at the top of Main Street for handcrafted beers with labels like Saint Provo Girl and Polygamy Porter (another takeoff on Utah's Mormon past and in some quarters, "present"). Yes, it's 3.2 percent alcohol beer but at the 7,000 to 10,000-foot altitudes around town and in the mountains, the "effects" are the same as 6 percent brew at sea level.

Escaping the Black-Clothed Crowds

Now here's the inside news that locals may not want you to know. January usually provides some of the best skiing conditions of the season and this year, the snow totals are breaking 20-year records. How about an 80-inch base at Deer Valley, Park City, and the Canyons?

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