I just got back from my third consecutive, and fourth overall, Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.  This trip was, by far, our best one yet - aided by our cumulative prior experience, where each year we have figured out more secrets to having fun, seeing films, and people watching.

Rather than buying individual tickets, we went for a ticket package this year.  Buying a package guarantees an earlier purchasing time, which turned out to be a great deal for us - securing tickets to premiere films.  These are the films you want to see because many of the stars and production crew are present to answer questions after the screening.  Our first film was "Laggies," starring Kiera Knightly, Sam Rockwell, and Chloe Moretz.  The movie was cute and had several laugh-out-loud moments.

Our second film premiere was "A Most Wanted Man" with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Defoe, and Rachel McAdams.  I was not very impressed by the plot, but my friend felt some of the intended suspenseful elements.  And the actors did a great job in their roles, but sadly the director never brought the story to life for me.  The second premiere experience was not completely lacking in excitement, though, because there was a surprise addition to the audience - Bradley Cooper snuck in with his girlfriend Suki Waterhouse.  Bradley Cooper!

So that covers the films.  With our package, we received two grey credentials that got us into several of the festival venues - unfortunately none of the invite-only parties and swag areas.  One of the credentialed areas was the Sundance Channel HQ, where we were able to catch a panel discussion on the intersection of independent film and television featuring Aaron Guzikowski (creator of Sundance Channel show The Red Road), Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Conan), Paul Riser, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Of course, no Sundance experience is complete without a solid dose of people watching.  This year, we were primarily back at the same spot on Main Street by the Town Lift - refueling after a good day of skiing - and the celebrities were walking by us.

Having already seen Christina Hendrix, Jason Momoa, Tom Sizemore, and Julianne Nicholson in the Salt Lake City baggage claim the day before, the morning started out with a sighing of John Lithgow and Alfred Molina on my way to the ski lift near one of the festival photo tents.  Additional stars spotted include (pictured below): Kate Hudson, Lance Bass, Diane Kruger, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Dan Stevens, Josh Gad, John Slattery, Evan Handler with Tim Daly, Jason Ritter, Michael Shannon, Elle Fanning, and Cheryl Hines.

I love that my friend caught me talking to and taking a selfie with Zach Braff while he was on his way to his film screening party at the restaurant next to our restaurant.  Of course, if I had to identify the celebrity photo coup for the weekend....

...it was, without a doubt, getting a photo with the most infamous member of the UK boyband One Direction: Harry Styles. After we took this photo, the mayhem started - the teenagers and associated screams multiplied like rabbits.  By the time Harry made it to his car, it was surrounded. What a phenomenal thing to witness!  Absolute insanity, though a smaller scale than what he is used to, I imagine, being that we were in the mountains of Utah and not a major city.  Regardless, hopefully this firmly secures my title of "Coolest Aunt" in my pre-teen niece's eyes.

Additional celebrities spotted but not photographed: Sam Shepard, Shiloh Fernandez, Jim O'Heir, Molly Shannon, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Kendrick, Lea Thompson, Ian Brennen, and Don Johnson.  The latter was not very nice at all, and I wanted to tell him that he is a has-been that is only popular because of his two cheesy cop shows a long time ago.  Fortunately for him, I'm the nicer person.

Now we've covered movies, special events, and celebrity spotting.  The last part that makes the Sundance Film Festival so great is some of the best skiing in North America!  As an added bonus, this past weekend was the U.S. Olympic Team qualifying events for Slopestyle and Halfpipe.  We were watching the guys fly off the jumps and do amazing aerial maneuvers as we skied down the mountain and took the lift back up.  Taking photos from the lift proved to be a bit challenging, as I'm sure you can imagine.  What a great way to get into the Olympic spirit, though!  I wanted to do another Olympic-related thing, but was prohibited by time and cost.  At the Salt Lake Olympic Center, they have a trained bobsled driver that will take you down the Olympic bobsled run.  I was very tempted after seeing reviews that mentioned it cost only $60, but when I looked it up, it was $200!!!  Perhaps that's an off-season rate?  Anyway, it was still a fantastic weekend without the at-speed bobsled ride! Maybe next time.....

One last photo: a morning sun rising and moon setting, overlooking the mountains of Park City: left to right ski resorts - Deer Valley, PCMR, Canyons.