How to Dress for Success — and Warmth — at the Sundance Film Festival

Two women dressed in winter coats and hats share a giggle on a street.

These two film fans are prepared for cold temperatures in this street scene during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy Sundance Institute.

By Vanessa Zimmer

So, you’re coming to the 2023 Sundance Film Festival! Welcome, we are eager to show you our fantastic independent films — and the beautiful landscape that is Utah — especially after two pandemic years that kept us off what we fondly call “The Mountain.”

Maybe this is your first time at the Festival, or maybe you’ve joined us the past two years for the online Festival, lounging on your living room couch and dressed in well-worn sweats and T-shirt. If you’re attending the online portion of the 2023 Festival from home again this year, we’re excited to see your most fashionable sweats for the new year! 

But, if you’re coming to The Mountain — in other words, Park City and surrounding venues at the Sundance Resort and Salt Lake City — you will need some warmer winter clothing. We thought we’d catch you before you pack to offer some expert advice.

Our expert is Jackie Barton, associate director of marketing at the Sundance Institute, who moved from Los Angeles, California, to Park City about 2 ½ years ago. Coming from a warmer clime, she has learned how to adapt to heavy snowfall and Utah temperatures.

Let’s set up expectations, first of all. Park City is a charming ski resort town that sits at 7,000 feet. The small community began as a silver mining town, and many of the buildings on sloping Main Street were built in the 19th century. It receives 95 inches of snow (more at the ski resorts) annually, according to Sperling’s Best Places; the average low temperature in January is 13 degrees and the average high is 35 degrees. Park City also claims Utah Olympic Park, an important site for the 2002 Winter Olympics, now a training facility for winter-sport athletes, and a destination for visitors interested in such varied amenities as public bobsled rides and a museum.

Woman with long blond hair and red lipstick poses in front of the Sundance Institute backdrop, dressed in a plaid jumpuit and matching long coat. Observers dressed in winter outerwear watch from two sides
Taylor Swift's fashion drew the interest of fans at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where a documentary about the singer, "Miss Americana," screened. Photo courtesy Sundance Institute

But we digress, back to the fashion! At the 2020 Festival, Taylor Swift caught the attention of fashionistas, who admired her all-plaid ensemble, right down to the matching pointy-toed shoes, as she attended to promote Miss Americana, the Lana Wilson documentary on the popular singer. Swiftie aspirations aside, we’re going more for everyday wear with our how-to-pack list.

So, back to advice from Barton, who will help you pack for the warmest and driest experience at the Sundance Film Festival. Here we go, from the bottom to the top:

Socks — Cotton won’t do. Wool socks or ski socks are best, Barton says, to wick away any moisture.

Footwear — Don’t suffer with wet feet through a film. Go for waterproof, low-heeled boots that hit at least mid-calf (or higher), Barton says, and make sure the soles provide good traction. If you have a favorite pair of waterproof boots that are slick on the bottom, Barton recommends attaching removable ice cleats.

Pants — Jeans, leggings, wool or lined slacks, whatever bottoms you prefer, will likely suffice. In that regard, the outerwear is more important, says Barton.

Sweaters — Wool or cashmere sweaters are definitely warmer than cotton sweaters, Barton says. But the age-old advice of layering for warmth applies at the Festival as well, she says, and could be less expensive than investing in wool apparel you won’t use back home. Maybe you could layer a long underwear top and/or a shirt beneath the cotton. When temperatures drop in the mornings or evenings, you might even opt for something layered underneath a wool sweater.

Long coat — Basically, look for “a blanket that zips,” Barton half-jokes. She quickly learned that a short or even hip-length jacket isn’t ideal when you’re standing in line for a movie: “[The coat] needs to at least cover your butt.” She has ordered a long coat for herself this year. 

Scarf — Here’s where you can add some individual style, Barton encourages. Again, wool or cashmere are best.

Sunglasses — Please don’t forget the shades. “Because the snow is everywhere, even when there’s just a little bit of sun, it’s bright,” Barton says.

Hat — Again, this is where you can flaunt your fashion sense. A stocking cap or wool beanie, even a hat with earflaps, fits the scene. “The crazier the hat, the more I know they’re from California,” Barton jokes.

A final reminder from Barton: Leave the leather purse or man-purse at home. You’ll need a waterproof bag at the Festival.

And… that’s a wrap. Here’s hoping Jackie Barton’s tips keep you warm and dry so you can focus on enjoying the films. Happy packing!

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