Park City Braces for Sundance Traffic & Releases Community Guide

Bright red banners are going up all over Park City demarcating temporary Sundance Film Festival theaters from the libraries, temples, health clubs and other assorted businesses that typically fill spaces in town. Buzz surrounding highly anticipated film premieres and breakout movie stars is permeating the streets. Airbnb prices are reaching astronomical heights. Sundance 2020—which kicks off next week on January 23—is fast approaching, and the Park City community is bracing for its impact, which includes the always maddening Sundance traffic.

The annual transformation of Park City from quaint mountain town to Hollywood in the Hills brings a vital surge in national interest, visitors and revenue, but is also accompanied by headaches for residents, employees and visitors as they try to go about their day to day business. In preparation for the event, City Hall has released its Rules of the Road for permitting processes surrounding the festival as well as its Community Guide to help locals and tourists navigate town with traffic, transportation, parking and rideshare information.

Gridlock envelops Park City like clockwork each year during Sundance, usually on Thursday afternoon as the festival commences. Intersections and merges along S.R. 224, S.R. 248, Deer Valley Drive and Bonanza Drive turn into ostensible parking lots as commuters and skiers encounter vehicles filled with film buffs and corporate raiding parties—many of whom wouldn’t be categorized as great winter drivers. A severe dearth of parking only exacerbates Sundance traffic as two-wheel drive rental cars spin their wheels while fruitlessly circling for a place park or at least unload their passengers. Parking is expensive and impractical, so I won’t even get into explaining the few options, viable only for those who have vast fortunes stashed offshore.

In the Community Guide city officials implore as many people as possible to eschew driving in favor of riding busses, walking and carpooling. Like most appeals to peoples’ better angels, their pleas will be largely unheeded. For those willing to be part of the solution, the City enhances the already robust bus system with a Sundance Line that loops between theaters and is staffed with volunteers who seem shockingly content to stand half frozen in the snow and answer the same question to confused travelers all day. Skip out on the frustration by checking out Park City’s Transit App for complete maps and real-time information about all your transportation needs.

Ridesharing is better than driving into town, though with the recent kerfuffle surrounding confusion, ticketing and incompetence in the newly mandated drop-and-load zones, I’d recommend sticking to the extraordinarily convenient, and free, mass transit. Who knows, maybe you’ll overhear a film recommendation about an indie flick you’d have otherwise ignored or, heaven forbid, even strike up conversation with a stranger.

See all our community coverage here.

Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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