One of the best times to visit Park City, Utah, is just around the corner—during the Sundance Film Festival from this Thursday, January 16, to Sunday, January 26.

With so much attention on Sundance, locals will tell you that festival season is also one of the best times to hit the slopes—now empty and spectacularly wide open as crowds drop off the mountain and into town.

Park City’s three major ski resorts fall beautifully silent: Take in nine powder-dusted bowls and a captivating backdrop of mining history at the 3,300-acre Park City Mountain Resort (lift tickets from $107). Zoom down meticulously groomed runs at the ski-only, 2,026-acre Deer Valley (lift tickets from $108). Or, go for variety at the 4,000-acre Canyons (lift tickets from $107), with 182 trails and the extremely challenging Ninety-Nine 90 run, which drops from an elevation of 9,900 feet.

Of course, you probably shouldn’t entirely avoid Sundance, a famously good time to catch premieres at the Egyptian Theatre while rubbing shoulders with celebs. Here’s how to make the most of a last-minute trip to Park City:

  • Tickets are still available for every Sundance screening as no film is ever sold out and some 10 percent of festival-goers get into screenings via waitlist. And thanks to this year’s new electronic waitlist system, you won’t need to wait in long lines for an attempt at a seat. Instead, eWaitlist lets you check in online two hours before the film you want to see, assigns you a number, and let you hop in line just 30 minutes ahead to take your place in the queue. Word to the wise: The first weekend of the festival tends to be the busiest, so you’ll have the best luck with films showing next Monday, January 20, or later.
  • This year’s program features several screenings worth a mention, including: the Chicago-set comedy, Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, Lena Dunham); Song One (Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn) from University of Chicago graduate, Kate Barker-Froyland; the documentary Life Itself, based on the memoir by the same name about Roger Ebert; a short from Chicago artist Deborah Stratman, Hacked Circuit, and a classic from the Sundance collection, the 1994-award-winning Hoop Dreams, a documentary about two inner-city teens from Chicago. See the film guide for more.

Olympic prep: Gain a deeper appreciation for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics at Utah Olympic Park, home of the 2002 winter Olympics, a ski and winter Olympic museum, and a real bobsled ride.

Where to eat and drink: Sundance mayhem clusters in downtown Park City’s historic Main Street. Climb the scenic, hilly street to shop at locally-owned boutiques, dine at progressive restaurants like Silver, a concept from Gavin Fine (who trained early on with Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You), and saddle up to the bar at High West Distillery & Saloon for copper-pot-made whiskeys.

Where to stay: While many hotels and condos are booked, some still have availability (use this Sundance lodging tool) or plan to release more rooms this week and throughout the 10-day festival. Try the 12-room, vintage-posh Washington School House (from $1,025), a rehabbed boutique housed within an historic 1889 schoolhouse in downtown Park City; the mid-mountain, 180-room Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley (from $915); and the slopeside, 174-room Montage Deer Valley (from $845), a sprawling lodge featuring the new Burgers & Bourbon pub, home to the largest collection of bourbons in the state. Call hotels directly for the latest and most accurate availability or to be added to little-known waitlists.

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