Utah’s skiing is the best in the world, in our very educated opinion, but Utah winters aren’t a one-trick pony. There’s snowboarding, too, which is just as good as skiing, but Utah ain’t no two-trick pony, neither. The pony that is winter in Utah has no fewer than a dozen tricks, because the same cold, dry air that makes the best snow on earth also creates the perfect conditions for all these other winter activities. So giddy up, get on your horse, and pony up the (generally very modest) resources needed to do all of the below. Yippee-kay-yay, winter-lovers.
1. Bobsledding at Olympic Park | Park City
Utah.com conducted an extensive sociological study about bobsledding and discovered that everyone who watches it on TV during the Olympics immediately has these two thoughts simultaneously: “What an absurd, amazing sport,” and, “Who, exactly, bobsleds? Like, how does one start bobsledding?” To which we say: “I know, right?!” and, “You can bobsled. Yes, you. How? Just drive to Olympic Park in Park City.”
Anyone at least 16 years old and 100 lbs. with an extra $175 laying around can hurtle (carefully, carefully) down the same icy tube as the 2002 Olympians. Don’t worry; a pro will pilot you. But if your thighs happen to look like tree trunks and your schedule is clear for the next four years, who knows? This may be your big break.
Or you can watch the experts for free at Olympic Park’s official bobsled & skeleton events. All sliding events are free to the public.
- December 18 – March 31 (Closed December 25 & January 1)
- $175 per person
- Reservations required
(Yes, the item after #12 on our Top-10 list is #D, because trying to rank Utah’s winter activities linearly from best to worst would be a fool’s errand.)
Tubing is for people who like the speedy rush of skiing but are more at peace with humankind’s inherent powerlessness to control their fate. Just hop on a giant rubber donut and see what physics has planned for you. There’s the free version, of course, at your local neighborhood grassy slope, or you can Park-Citify the whole experience and pay for one of these fancy lift-served tubing parks:
Gorgoza Park is closed for the 2018/2019 season while it expands and rebrands into Woodward Park City.
Soldier Hollow | Midway
Slide 1,200 feet — on purpose!
- Season: December 21 – mid-March, subject to weather
- Hours: Mon–Thu 4–6 p.m. | Fri, Sat 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. | Sun 12–2 p.m.
- Rates (Adult/Youth 6–12/Child 3–5): Weekday $20/$18/$12 | Weekend $25/$23/$13 | Holiday (Dec 21 – Jan 5, Jan 21, Feb 18) $27/$25/$14
Wasatch Parc | Eden
Tube as the French do, with banked turns and existentialist conversation.
- Season: December 20 – early March, subject to weather
- Hours: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Sun 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Rates: One ride $8 | Two hours $20 | Four hours $30
- Reservations recommended
3. Hot Springs
What exactly are you looking for in this paragraph? An explanation of why soaking in mineral hot springs in the winter is incredible? Can you hear how absurd that question is? Get serious, would ya?! What’s that? We need to relax? You’re probably right. Luckily we know where to go for that.
Crystal Hot Springs | Honeyville
Soaking pools and waterslides, open year round. $7–12 per person.
Mystic Hot Springs | Monroe
Eclectic spot with pools, bathtubs, camping and cabins. Kids (10 & under) $7.50 | Adults $15.
Meadow Hot Springs | near Fillmore
Three pools just bubbling up remotely 10 minutes west of I-15.
Fifth Water Hot Springs | Spanish Fork Canyon
Hike a couple miles and combine hot spring water and Fifth Water Creek to taste.
What’s more fun than seeing a bunch of Hollywood’s hottest hotties roaming the streets and independent theaters of Salt Lake City and Park City? Seeing them all taken down a peg as they suffer through the same cold, dry air as the rest of us. Hahaha, nice frostbitten fingers, Chiwetel Ejiofor! Nice rosy cheeks, Julia Roberts’ niece! (No, actually, she’d look adorable with rosy cheeks. And her name is Emma. And she’s a talented actor.) Get the drop on what’s new, what’s next, what’s innovative and what’s international in the cinematic universe at the Samuel L. Jackson of film festivals, i.e. the grandpa who’s managed to stay more hip than his progeny.
- Late January – early February
- Individual tickets are $20–25 and packages range from $200–4,000.
If you put all of Utah’s hikes on a graph measuring difficulty on one axis and beauty on another, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park would be pinned in the easy/magnificent corner. You’ll spend longer bundling the whole family up than actually hiking, and the payoff is way bigger than the investment.
- Hike length: 0.6 miles round trip
- Canyonlands National Park entrance fee: $30.00 per vehicle
- Open 24 hours a day, year-round
It’s our list. We’ll make it as vague and catch-all as we want. Because all festivals, whether they’re about hot air balloons or teeny-tiny little fishies, share the same communal sense of celebration… the same festivity, if you will. Here are five winter festivals in Utah where you can go and meet up with people who will understand you.
A Polar plunge, the Cisco Disco (fishing contest for the biggest little Bonneville Cisco), indoor/outdoor expo. January. Free + state park fees & donations.
Ruby’s Inn hosts archery events, watercolors, XC skiing, yoga and… just everything, mostly. February. Most activities are free.
Balloons & Tunes Roundup | Kanab
Everything is better in front of vermillion cliffs, and hot air balloons and live music were pretty cool to begin with. February. Free.
7. Ice Fishing
Most of the lakes and reservoirs in northern Utah freeze over by January and February, but the fish keep right on swimming. Bundle up, read the DWR reports, obey all fishing laws and use extreme caution as the ice conditions can change. Bear Lake, Echo and Rockport are usually good spots. Consider booking a guide if you’re a beginner.
8. Ice Castles | Midway
Make your kids’ Disney-ish dreams come true at the amazing Midway Ice Castles. You and your family can explore every inch of these amazing human-made structures. Plus hot chocolate, because of course you need some.
- Season: Subject to weather.
- Hours: Mon–Thurs 4–9 p.m. | Fri 4–10:30 p.m. | Sat 12–10:30 p.m.
- Tickets: $11–16 for 12+ and children are $10–12.
9. Horseback Riding | Bryce Canyon
In the olden days, people rode horses in winter because how else are you going to kidnap your bride from the nearest town and then get back to the homestead before the avalanche blocks the pass? It was haaaard work. These days, horseback riding in winter is a leisure activity. The horse-whisperers at Ruby’s Inn will guide you through the canyon country of the Grand Staircase. Bundle up, pardner.
- Kids must be at least 10 years old.
- Winter rides are by reservation only (48 hours in advance).
- Closed Sunday.
10. Misc. Family-Friendly Activities
Sometimes you just gotta get out of the house, even if you don’t have the time or energy to plan anything yourself. Let your children entertain themselves at one of these kid-centric activities. Or just hand them a coat, push them out the back door and tell them to dig a snow cave. That works in a pinch.
- Gallivan Center | Salt Lake City
- Peaks Ice Arena | Provo
- Station Park | Farmington
- Utah Olympic Oval | Kearns
- Ruby's Inn | Bryce Canyon
- White Pine Trail | Little Cottonwood Canyon
- Fairyland Point | Bryce Canyon
- Sundance Resort Nordic Center | Provo Canyon