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Utah Travel Headlines Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Public Lands Bill Protects Utah Wilderness Areas

On Monday President Obama signed what is being called one of the most important public land bills ever, creating more than 2 million acres of wilderness areas in nine states, including 256,338 acres of wilderness near St George. It also enlarges Zion National Park to protect more land.

One important thing about this bill is that it represents a compromise approach, with give and take coming from all sides. That seemed impossible just a few months ago, when pro- and anti-wilderness groups refused to concede even an inch.

Some think this compromise approach may be key to determining how to manage vast areas of public land in southern Utah.

The Deseret News has this article about the new bill. Below are excerpts.

"The Washington County Land Bill is the most important natural resource bill I have introduced in my Senate career and it was rewarding to witness the president sign it into law," (Bob) Bennett said. "Today is evidence that groups with opposing interests can come together after years of debate to solve the wilderness problems in Southern Utah. It is my hope that this bill will be a blueprint for future public lands bills in the West."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the land bills package is "one of the most significant protections for our treasured landscapes in a generation."

The Washington County bill included in the overall packaged also designates 165.5 miles of the Virgin River as a wild and scenic river, sort of a wet wilderness area — the first such designation in Utah. That bans development and building along its banks, and damming of the river along that stretch.

The bill also creates two new national conservation areas to provide permanent protection for the endangered desert tortoise and other at-risk species near St. George, while allowing development in other areas where it had been blocked.

Read the complete article.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Massive Storms Dump More Than 60 Inches On Utah Resorts

Skiers are loving the snow conditions at Utah resorts, after a series of storms blasted the state. Alta and Snowbird received more than 60 inches of new. Brighton picked up 41 inches and Solitude received 40 in the past 48 hours.

Skies are blue today but more of the white stuff is scheduled for Sunday.

Onthesnow.com has this new article about the storms. Below are excerpts.

The recent snowfall pushed the current snow total this season to 507 inches (breaking the average annual snowfall total of 500") and jacked up resort base depths as high as 145 inches. This is not PR spin or hype. It truly is epic right now on the hills with low crowds and February-like conditions of light, fluffy, often untracked, off-piste trails. As this latest storm has moved on to torment Colorado, Friday's weather calls for warmer temps and partly cloudy skies. However, another major system presently bearing down on the Pacific Northwest, is scheduled to arrive in Utah Sunday.

The nearly four feet of new snow that came in swiftly since Wednesday, coupled with strong winds, have bumped up the avalanche danger to "high." In other words, both natural and human triggered avalanches are almost certain to occur on steep slopes. The word this weekend is to stay out of the backcountry. Besides, the inbounds action is nearly as good right now.

You can track the avalanche situation online.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Easter Jeep Safari Begins Next Week in Moab

The annual Easter Jeep Safari runs April 4-12. It is a huge event that brings thousands of people into the Moab area. Motels and campgrounds will be full and the town will have a festive atmosphere, with vendors and music and food everywhere.

Many people come to participate, others to watch the action. Official events include group rides over many of the area's rugged 4X4 trails. Unofficial events will also take place, with enthusiasts spreading throughout the countryside.

All official events are permitted and stay on established trails. People participating in unofficial events are encouraged to obey all laws and regulations, including paying for permits, staying on established trails and showing respect for the environment.

Most events are held outside of Arches and Canyonlands national parks, but the parks will be crowded during the safari.

Weather is usually very nice in the Moab area at this time of year, but it can be stormy and cold. Come prepared.

See our Moab offroad videos to get a taste of the festival.

See this website for more information.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All are Invited to HOLI, The Festival of Colors

HOLI Festival of ColorsWhen: March 28, Saturday 4 pm
Where: Krishna Temple, 8628 S Main St., Spanish Fork, Utah
Contact person: Charu or Vai
Contact Numbers: 801-798-3559 or 801-787-1510

Festival Information

Here's a little info from the Krishna Temple website:

In India Holi announces the arrival of spring and the passing of winter. It is a festival that breathes an atmosphere of social merriment. People bury their hatchets with a warm embrace and throw their worries to the wind. Every nook and corner presents a typically colorful sight. Young and old alike are covered with colors (red, green, yellow, blue, black and silver). People in small groups are seen singing, dancing and throwing colors on each other.

There will be musical interludes, the lighting of a bonfire, burning of an effigy, and the throwing of dry colors on friends and foe alike. The dry powders supplied by the temple are non stain, but still guests are cautioned not to wear their “Saturday Best.”

Dance & Drama will commence at 4 pm. Bonfire lighting, color throwing, and mantra rock concert 5:45 pm. Arrive early to enjoy the excellent cultural program, avoid traffic, parking congestion and to get your bags of colors.

Monday, March 23, 2009

NY Times Features Powder Mountain Ski Resort

Powder Mountain is our biggest ski resort, in terms of skiable acres, but is less known because it is off the beaten path and is less developed than more famous Utah resorts. If you are hunting for untracked powder, it may be your best choice.

The New York Times describes Powder Mountain's unique charms in this new article. Below are excerpts.

Powder Mountain, old-school and underdeveloped, has only four chairlifts to serve its ample supply of alpine bowls. But harder to see are one helicopter, two snowcats and a fleet of roving buses on a road below the resort that help move droves of skiers and snowboarders uphill each day.

"It's a unique resort experience," said Josh Stephen, a retail buyer for an outdoors shop in Bolton, Vt., who was skiing several runs in a row via snowcat on a day off before business meetings in Salt Lake City. "With the lifts, the snowcat and the buses, you can always find untracked terrain." Mr. Stephen then gripped an armrest as the snowcat rumbled uphill.

I took two more chairlift runs, my skis spraying slush on each turn. Then I headed out for one final trip into Powder’s off-piste section. A large part of Powder Mountain — about 1,200 acres of terrain — is designated "Powder Country," a backcountry-like area that has no lifts. Skiers access Powder Country from the lift-served area, but the runs drop about 2,000 vertical feet away from the lodge and to a road.

In lieu of hitchhiking, the resort runs vans and buses along the road, picking skiers up at no cost and shuttling them back to the lifts.

A single run might yield 100 turns in thigh-deep snow, white mist exploding as you drop away in the woods. I found some remnant loose snow on my last run of the day, and cut lazy turns toward the road. A gulley ended abruptly at pavement, where a van waited, with its radio tuned to classic rock and cranked up.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ironman Race Coming To St George

St George will host the World Triathlon Corporation's newest Ironman event. Here's part of the official announcement:

Taking place on May 1, 2010, the event will consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. The inaugural Ford Ironman St. George will utilize a variety of Utah’s scenery, to include Sand Hollow Reservoir, Snow Canyon and the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

It will be a qualifying even for the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Examiner.com offers more details in this report. Below are excerpts.

Triathletes will swim one loop in the Sand Hollow Reservoir, then take to a bike course that runs through the towns of Hurricane and Washington before following a route into St. George. On the bike racers will be able to check out views of Snow Canyon. With a transition in St. George's Town Square, the racers will start the two-loop marathon course which includes a climb toward Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a wind through Pioneer Park, traversing along Diagonal Street and more. The finish line features a backdrop of downtown St. George alongside Heritage Tower.

"Ironman is the world's premier endurance event and we think it is perfectly suited for St. George. The determination and tenacity demonstrated by Ironman athletes resembles the fortitude of the early settlers in this area and the spirit our residents. The course highlights the striking scenery and contrasting landscapes. We are thrilled to offer athletes and fans an experience they are sure to remember," stated Kevin Lewis, Sports & Events Director, St. George Area Convention and Tourism Office.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Utah is the Fastest Growing State in the US

Utah leads the nation for population growth, according to new census data (for the time period from July 2007 to July 2008). And we also have some of the fastest-growing cities.

Provo/Orem is the nation's 6th fastest growing metro area

Logan has the 9th fastest growth.

St George ranks as the 10th fastest

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article on the growth. Here's a quote: "More people continue to move to Utah in search of jobs than move out, she said. The trend has slowed with the drooping economy, she noted, but Utah's business climate still fares better than most. That has nudged Utah cities' robust growth rates."

The Deseret News has this article. Here's just one tidbit: "Census estimates show that about a third of such Utah growth came from people immigrating, likely attracted by economic conditions that were still generally better here than elsewhere. But about two-thirds of that growth came from Utah's much higher-than-normal birth rates (and long life expectancy)."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Listen to Sounds of the Wild, Courtesy of the University of Utah

An archive of bird and animal sounds is now available online, as a service of the JW Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

Called the Western Soundscape Archive, the database features audio recordings of thousands of animals and environments throughout the Western United States.

The project was launched in November, 2007. It continues to grow and currently includes representative sounds of approximately 80% of the West's bird species, 90% of the region’s frog and toad species, and numerous mammals and reptiles.

See the archive website for more info, or to listen to the sounds.

Here is an article that gives more background on the project. Below are excerpts.

From your desktop, you can travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to hear the calls of an arctic fox, or follow a biologist into an abandoned mine to record bats. The unique natural environments of the west are available through sounds and stories.

Through freely available streaming audio files and downloadable podcasts, scientists, scholars, educators, students and nature enthusiasts will be able to identify animals and hear ambient recordings of natural environments throughout the eleven contiguous western United States and parts of Alaska.

"Our premise is that the sounds of the west are unique and that they deserve a closer listen," says research librarian Jeff Rice. "As our lives become more urbanized, we are losing our connection to the natural world and its rich sounds. There are whole generations of kids growing up that have never heard coyotes, or even frogs, in the wild. This is our heritage and we want to help restore some of that connection."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hiking Zion National Park

Zion National Park: Narrowsexaminer.com has this interesting article about hiking in Zion National Park.

The article includes a prominent link to our Zion Park videos - a nice plug for our work.

The article also has some good general information about hiking in Zion, but not many specific details. And no photos - how can you write a full article about Zion but not show photos?

It is worth reading. If it leaves you hungry for more, see our Zion section for detailed info about hiking and other activities.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Utah Tops New Well-Being Index

Utah often ranks at or near the top of national quality of life studies and so it is no big surprise that we are number 1 in a new Gallop-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado and Minnesota round out the top five in the comprehensive study. See the complete rankings here.

The report has generated some interesting commentary, such as that shown below.

From CheapFlights.com: Travel to Your Happy Place: Survey Ranks America's Happiest States

Looking for happiness? Look no further than Utah. In a survey of Americans' well-being, Utah ranked the happiest state in the nation.

The survey was conducted by Gallup in partnership with Healthways and America's Health Insurance Plans. High marks went to Utah, thanks to its endless outdoor activities that keep people active and promote a healthy lifestyle.


From the Chicago Tribune: Utah: More fun than Illinois?

No, really: Recent news seems to dispel the belief that the Beehive State is a little more uptight than the rest of us

• Drinking laws are being liberalized: Legislators voted to eliminate the private club system that required customers to fill out an application and pay a fee to be able to enter a bar. In addition, bartenders in restaurants can now serve cocktails directly over bar counters instead of walking around them.

• Utah residents are the happiest in the nation, according to a Gallup Poll index of well-being out last week. (Illinois was a dismal 31st.)

• The University of Utah's football team went 13-0 last season. University of Illinois? 5-7.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Moab Is Sunset's Favorite Town For Getting Outdoors

Sunset Magazine has named its favorite small towns for getting outdoors, and Moab tops the list.
Actually, we could have predicted that, but it is still a nice accolade.

Read the article here. Below are excerpts.

The vibe: How in love with the outdoors is Moab? So in love that one of the community’s main activities is trail maintenance. What do you expect from a town surrounded by millions of acres of public lands ― Canyonlands and Arches National Parks among them ― where mountain biking and river running can be daily activities?

Inside scoop: "A lot of people who live here say the same thing: 'The first minute I saw this desert, I knew it was my home.' " –Steph Davis, rock climber and author

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Temple Square Ranks Among America's Top Tourist Attractions

Temple Square has long been Utah's more visited tourist attraction, and it consistently ranks among the most popular spots in America. This year Forbes Traveler puts Temple Square at number 16 in its list of the 25 top US attractions.

Here's a link to the Forbes list.

This Deseret News article gives more information. Below are excerpts.

In spite of a struggling economy, 5 million visitors made Temple Square the 16th most visited site in the United States, according to Forbes.

In 2007, the square saw visitors from 83 countries and each of the 50 states, according to the LDS Church.

"We hope these visitors feel welcome and enjoy their time in Utah," church spokesman Scott Trotter said.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Utah Is Modernizing Its Liquor Laws

Utah's strange liquor laws, which have long been the subject of jokes and misunderstandings, are being overhauled. The result will be regulations that are more tourist friendly, similar to rules found in other states.

Yesterday legislative leaders announced details of a compromise overhaul bill that would eliminate two oddities: Utah's private club law and the so-called "Zion curtain."

The action has generated news reports around the world. Below are excerpts from this Boston Herald article.

Utah is the only state in the country that requires someone to be a member of a private club or the guest of one to enter a bar.

The membership requirement has long been considered a headache for locals and a deterrent to tourists who have frequently chosen to go skiing in Colorado instead of Utah because of the state’s perplexing liquor laws.

"We’re moving toward much greater normalization today of our alcohol policy," (Governor Jon) Huntsman said.

Another of Utah’s quirky liquor laws is also on the chopping block.

Utah is the only state that prohibits bartenders from serving cocktails directly over bar counters in restaurants. A partition usually made of glass known as a Zion Curtain serves as a separator.
Under the deal lawmakers have reached, the Zion Curtain could come down in existing restaurants and minors would be prohibited from sitting at bar counters.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Are Camping Reservations Needed Near National Parks In April?

At utah.com we receive many good questions from readers, including the one below. Occasionally we will use this space to share questions, along with the answers.

Question:
My wife and I are planning a driving vacation the last week of April, 2009. We are planning on visiting Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands parks. My question is: Are reservations needed for campgrounds at that time of year? I realize that campsites in the parks are first come, first serve. However, I know there are a number of private campgrounds as well as those in the parks. I would prefer to not make reservations and be tied to a schedule, but if the areas are crowded and camping at a premium, I suppose we would make reservations. Can you advise on how busy camping is in late April?

Answer:
April is perhaps the busiest month of the year in the Moab area, which includes Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Campgrounds there will be packed - both in and out of the parks. The massive Easter Jeep Safari takes place in early April. You have to reserve well in advance for that weekend.

By late April, Moab is settling back toward normal but it will still be very busy. If you plan to be there on a weekend I definitely advise advance reservations. If you come mid-week you can probably find something without much trouble.

Zion Park is also very busy in late April. Again, things fill up quickly on weekends but there is usually plenty of availability mid-week. There are many campgrounds to choose from and they can handle the volume of visitors.

At Bryce Canyon, there may still be snow along the rim, where most visitors concentrate their activities. Daytime temperatures will be mild but nights will still be cold. Some people will be camping at or near the park and there should be plenty of sites available.

Not far from Bryce, Kodachrome Basin Utah State Park is warmer and offers very pleasant camping at that time of year. But it will be packed on weekends.

At Capitol Reef you are back down to a lower elevation and the weather will be nice for camping, hiking and other activities. Capitol Reef does not get as many visitors as our other national parks and so campsites should be available - no problem. If you were visiting over a holiday weekend I'd say get reservations but at other times you should be able to find something.

- Dave Webb

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Grade-A Discounts At Zion And Grand Canyon National Parks

If one of your children gets good grades, you can get a discount on lodging at Zion and Grand Canyon national parks, according to this LA Times Travel article.

The article explains that you can get $10 off per A grade shown on your child's report card. The deal is good at Xanterra lodges at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and inside Zion National Park. If you child has multiple A grades, you can get up to $30 off. You can only use one report card per reservation.

The deal is valid through March 26 at Grand Canyon and through April 2 at Zion. Off-season rates are in effect at those times. Prices are already good and become great with the discounts.

Read the entire article.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Where To Cross-Country Ski In Utah

There is still plenty of winter left in Utah - plenty of time to enjoy snow sports before the season winds down.

Most winter visitors and news reports focus on great downhill Ski Resorts, sometimes overlooking our great cross-country terrain. Nordic skiing offers a change of pace and scenery that many people really enjoy.

OnTheSnow.com has this new article providing overviews of our cross-country centers.

Our downhill and cross-country ski areas will be open at least through the Easter holiday. Get out and enjoy the snow.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Check Out Our New Videos


We have fun new videos running that provide great overviews of the Moab, St George and Zion Park areas. They were produced by the respective regional travel offices.

Click on these links to watch the videos

- Moab Overview

- St George Overview

- Zion Park Overview

- Highway 12 Overview

We have been working hard to produce or acquire high quality video for this website. We think video is an important tool that can really help people understand what Utah has to offer.

Many of the main pages on this website now offer embedded videos, or links to videos in our video library.

Stay tuned because we will be adding more.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Backpack into Grand Gulch







It is still early in the season - still winter - but I enjoyed a great weekend backpack trip into the Grand Gulch Primitive Area in southeastern Utah. (See video from my trip.)

Grand Gulch is a beautiful canyon - it would be worth hiking there just to see the scenery. The big attractions are the many Ancestral Puebloans (also known as Anasazi) archaeological sites. I am fascinated by the sites and enjoy searching them out.

The Anasazi culture thrived in the Four Corners area some 1,000 years ago. The people formed large communities and built impressive rock structures in the area's rugged canyons. They also left interesting rock art.

You can see impressive Anasazi structures in many places in SW Utah along roadsides or at the end of short hikes. Why would someone want to put in the effort to backpack?

Well, I'm one of those crazy people who enjoy backpacking - getting away from civilization. Grand Gulch is pristine. As you drop down into the gorge you walk away from our modern world. There is no litter in the canyon - not a candy wrapper or coke can. No human sounds save our light footsteps. When the sunsets and the stars come out, they are unbelievably bright. It is a great experience in one of the few places you can still find solitude.

There are usually a few other people in the canyon. You have to obtain permits to hike or backpack there and the number of visitors is controlled to ensure a quality experience. If you want to go, get permits well in advance.

In Grand Gulch, most of the ancient sites still contain artifacts, and that adds to the interest. There are pottery shards everywhere. There are also ancient corncobs and grindstones and other items. More accessible sites have been stripped of artifacts - the stone walls and rock art remain but everything else has been hauled away by vandals.

It has been about 10 years now since my first pilgrimage into Grand Gulch. On this trip I intentionally retraced my original steps and photographed some of the same sites I had visited back then. I was curious to compare photos and see how much had changed during that time span.

Unfortunately, I have to report that I could not find some of the interesting artifacts I photographed 10 years ago. At one site, known as Perfect Kiva Ruin, my old photos show braided cords and a ceramic jug handle, but those items were not to be found.

There were impressive piles of pottery shards, but apparently not the same shards I saw 10 years ago. Every time the wind blows more shards are uncovered. Unfortunately, it appears that some hikers are taking them home. That is illegal and immoral and dastardly, but it appears to be happening.

These sites are fragile. At one point, grave robbers were the biggest threat to their survival. Robbers would bring in equipment and pound sites into rubble, searching for valuable items they could sell. Authorities have cracked down and that kind of activity in now rare. Now the biggest danger comes from respectful hikers, fascinated by the artifacts, who can't resist handling them and taking the pretty ones home.

I'll go back in 10 years and, hopefully, there will still be shards on the ground.

On this trip we took our time, pushed into rugged side canyons, and saw more ruins than I've seen on any of my previous trips. We also saw far more rock art on this trip.

We went in from the Bullet Canyon Trailhead and camped down near Perfect Kiva. From there we hiked and explored, and then returned up Bullet Canyon to our vehicle.

I had hoped to hike down to the Big Man rock art panel, about 9 miles below the junction of Bullet Canyon and Grand Gulch. Unfortunately, time did not allow for that excursion. I hope to get back down there within a few weeks and search that out.

The hiking/backpacking season is just getting started. We encountered some ice and snow, but it wasn't a problem. It will be gone within a week or so. Daytime temperatures were nice - perfect for hiking. Nights were cold, but we were prepared for that.

Temperatures will moderate quickly now. March, April and May are ideal months to hike Utah's desert canyons. Summers are very hot and hiking activity wanes. Activity picks up again as temperatures cool in fall.

This Gulch is grand indeed. I recommend it.

- Dave Webb
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