Skiers and snowboarders were everywhere, both on and off the slopes. The wood boardwalks, bridges and staircases were well worn from the moisture of tracked snow and various footwear. A blazing fire was steps away from the slopes, benches arranged around the firepit and large barrels, glowing with flickering orange flames led the way to the screening room, warming the night as people headed to the 6 o'clock showing.
Just outside the restaurants, B showed me a place where runoff from the porch roof had formed a thick sheet of ice around one side of a tree trunk. I was amazed, having spent too many years in New Mexico to experience such a thing, and felt compelled to gently kick the base of the tree like a car tire just to see if it was really as thick and sturdy as it looked. It was like crystal concrete; transparent, shimmering and utterly immovable.
I was glad for the warmth of the restaurant. My years in California and New Mexico have spoiled me with mild winters and I walked in shivering. B was perfectly fine, of course. The Foundry Grill, so named because it originally housed a blacksmith workshop, is charmingly rustic and homey, yet not oppressively claustrophobic as some western-style steakhouses can be. The ceiling is at least twice as high as most other restaurants; necessary because the brick oven and grill in the open kitchen had no vents other than the oven chimney. As more guest orders were cooked up, a light haze of smoke drifted and clung to the rafters, adding to the room's authentically rustic feel. I was completely smitten; from the blacksmith tools decorating the walls and red-berry strung iron chandelier to the coffee bean filled hurricane lamps and snowed-in windows.
Our server was cheerful, friendly and actually seemed to enjoy his job. That was a common theme throughout my experience up at Sundance: the staff was happy and content. This feeling infused the entire resort. We joked with our waiter, J.D., who was not rushed in taking our order. He checked on their root beer brand, which I ended up snubbing in favor of the raspberry lemonade (fantastic! bits of raspberry, not just syrup) and even gave me a few extra minutes when I remained sheepishly indecisive. We ordered the wood oven flatbread for a starter, which was good plain but even better with the garlic feta cheese spread on top. As we finished that up, J.D. brought us our steak knives, which vaguely reminded me of a bowie knife. I admit I was slightly startled to see the long, sinister-looking blade being slid into place next to my right hand. They turned out to be not much sharper than most other steakhouse knives but they sure looked formidable. B and I both ordered the ribeye, which J.D. recommended with a sauce change. His suggestion turned out to be a wonderful one and we dug in with gusto. Our steaks were tender, flavorful and well-cooked. For desert we shared the pumpkin bread pudding with a drizzle of white chocolate and a scoop of ice cream on top. I was a little skeptical because, for some reason, the words bread pudding conjure up visions of vanilla pudding with cubes of white bread sprinkled in. Yeah. Yuck. I was pleasantly surprised and ate a good bit more than my stomach really wanted me to.
I knew it was a good place to eat for one major reason: B and I normally talk about how our server is doing through our meals, so as to determine what sort of tip (if any) they should get. At the Foundry Grill, we spent the bulk of our time talking about Sundance and how we felt while we were there. I was comfortable, happy and enjoyed my date with my husband with hardly a thought for my responsibilities at home; yet another indicator of how great this place is. Sundance left me with feelings of serenity, inspiration and a strengthened link to the natural world.
As we walked back to the car, a light snow started. At the same time I was glad we were leaving before it got too heavy or iced up the roads, I was filled with joy and love. Inexplicable? Maybe. Magic? Definitely.