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One of the more fun benefits of the Chase Sapphire and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards is access to Chase Sapphire Exclusive Experiences just for cardholders, who can either pay cash or redeem points for unique events and packages not available to members of the general public. This year, Chase Sapphire and Chase Sapphire Preferred cardmembers got access to pre-sale and exclusive packages to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, which is running from January 16–26, 2013 in Park City, Utah – and I decided to take advantage and head to Sundance for the first time.
My Sundance Package
There were a few options available, which you can see here on my post on redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for experiences such as Sundance. I chose the:Opening Weekend Celebration requiring $4,000 or 400,000 points
• 5 nights stay for 2 at Hotel Park City based on double occupancy from January 16–21
• 2 tickets to Day One screening on January 16
• 2 tickets to Day One post-screening party
• 2 tickets to 4 other film screenings during stay
I chose to pay the $4,000 to purchase the package because I value Ultimate Rewards points at over 2 cents a piece (from getting great value from transfer partners like Hyatt and United) and the actual purchase of the package ended up counting as a travel expense, so I got 2x points.
I flew in for opening weekend from Los Angeles. Actually, this was my first trip to Salt Lake City beyond transiting via the airport and the mountains were gorgeous as we descended. Park City is then about a 40-minute drive east of Salt Lake City.
My Hotel Stay: Hotel Park City
My stay at Hotel Park City was a positive one. The hotel was convenient in a sense, but unfortunately it wasn’t really walkable to Main Street or the Eccles Theatre, so I ended up taking taxis or using Uber. This was a little frustrating at times, because Uber has a $25 minimum (however, click here to get $20 in Uber credit which could help in a situation like this!) and it was very difficult to get taxis due to long lines and crowds, so having a hotel (like the Marriott) or condo within walking distance would have been a plus.
The lobby was pleasant with a nice breakfast and drinks, though I didn’t actually make it for drinks daily since my schedule was pretty packed with screenings and taking advantage of different gifting lounges. During the “winter” from December 12, 2013-March 31, 2014, guests can enjoy a full “skier’s breakfast” and complimentary cocktails for up to two people per day in the lobby.
The room was comfortable and spacious. The bed was big with high quality sheets, just what you’d want to crawl into after a day of snow and skiing. I was sharing the room with a friend, and the queen sofa bed was sunken down so it was semi-private, which was also a plus.
The hotel has a heated pool, which unfortunately I never got to use but would have liked to. The staff was welcoming and nice, however once the housekeeping accidentally left our door propped open! Luckily, nothing was taken, but it made me a little nervous.
I felt as I got a very good deal on the hotel through the Chase package, especially on the hotel end of things. For example, the Hotel Park City where you can stay for 5 nights with this package was already sold out during many of the dates of the festival, though room rates during the rest of January are going for $499-$799, so even at the lower end with room rates at about $600 during the festival, you’re already getting $3,000 in value from the package just on the room. Then if you add in Ticket Packages for the Day One events and parties as well as additional screening tickets, you’re looking at anywhere from $1,000-$3,500 depending on how many events and screenings you want to attend, so if you plan to go all out and maximize the access you get with this package, you could really be saving some money.
My Skiing Experience
I wanted to make sure I got some ski time in during my trip. Although there are tons of great spots to ski in around here, we ended up going to the Park City Resort mainly because it was close by. However, it was very expensive. For example, just for lift tickets for one day only, it was $86 per person-and that price doesn’t include any rentals. Keep in mind there are packages that can make things a bit cheaper, especially if you are staying for several days or are traveling in a family as there are youth discounts. For other hotels, resorts and pricing, check out our Destination of the Week: Park City post.
With the package we got access to opening night film Whiplash. Chase had a bus take us from hotel to Eccles Theater, which was nice – no messing around with taxis or Uber. We had reserved corporate seats in front section center about 5 rows back at the theater, which was fantastic. After, we took the bus back to hotel for cocktails/light food, followed by the opening night party which was a bit crowded, but it did have free drinks, so I can’t complain. Whiplash is about a drummer at a prestigious music school in New York that has an abusive teacher that pushes him to his limits. The film was interesting, though way too long and needed some editing. If you love drumming (to the point of your hands bleeding) you very well may love the movie.
The Other Four Movies
Camp X-Ray: This movies was about Guantanamo, featuring Kristin Stewart and Payman Maadi. Maadi put on an incredible performance in my opinion. The film was a bit slow in my opinion, but the acting was solid.
Laggies: This was my favorite movie in the festival, a sort of coming-of-age story starring Keira Knightly and Chloe Grace Moretz.
The Skeleton Twins: Right up there with Laggies, this dramatic and funny movie with Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, and Luke Wilson was a close second for my favorite. While Wiig and Hader are known from their funny days on SNL, they both delivered solid dramatic performances, peppered in with their deadpan comedy we all love.
Love is Strange: Probably the best acting, though the story was a bit bland. It’s about an older gay couple in New York (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) who hit hard times and need to depend on family and friends and the stress that it causes. Marisa Tomei rocked it and overall it was a really well done film by notable director Ira Sachs.
Tip: Get to movies at least 20 minutes in advance – seating becomes very difficult and so many seats are reserved. Still, having tickets is amazing and not having to deal with annoying wait list lines in the cold (as many people have to) is really nice.
My Dining Experiences
The first evening there, we had dinner (mainly for convenience) at the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which is located at the Hotel Park City. The food was very bland, just unimpressive and way overpriced. I do not recommend.
The second night there, we dined at the Cafe Terigo. The food was tasty, though they messed up our order, both food and drinks (forgot to put alcohol in my cocktail!). I think they were overwhelmed by festival crowds.
Another night I had pretty good bison burger at the No Name Saloon, however it struck me as more of a watering hole than restaurant. However, I must admit the onion rings were amazing!
Tip: It’s really hard to walk in to restaurants during Sundance, everything is just so crowded. I’d highly recommend reservations in advance – now I know for next time.
In order to enter the premier parties, you need to know people, so get your contact list ready! Luckily a lot of my friends are agents/managers so I got to attend the Camp X-Ray, Love is Strange and Game of Thrones parties. I was able to check out the Bungalow 8 pop-up which was more exclusive/loungey but still fun.
I also went to Tao which is THE hot spot and extremely hard to get into. Regular bars also have long lines and there was even a $20 cover at No Name for Ex. I stopped by Collies for drinks between events and liked the low key atmosphere there.
There are gifting suites to go to during the day for celebs, and you need to be on the list for good ones. Gifting suites are locations where several companies give products to celebrities in exchange for the celebrity taking a photo with the product or on a red carpet while standing in front of a press wall displaying company logos. While I’m not a celebrity (the clothes wouldn’t fit a tall person like me anyway!) I was still able to go to the lounges thanks to friends who run them.
Chase has their own Sapphire on Main street lounge, which has a concierge to help make dining reservations and an area to take staged pictures. They have some movie memorabilia like a bunch of things from Napolean Dynamite, but nothing too notable. I stopped by and hung for 15 minutes, but the other lounges were more lively (read: served free booze!).