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.
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 pounds (45 kilograms) with an extra $225 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 during Olympic Park’s official bobsled and skeleton events.
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.
Seven lanes that are lit. We mean it both ways.
Slide 1,200 feet — on purpose!
Tube as the French do, with banked turns and existentialist conversation.
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.
Soaking pools and waterslides, open year round. Entry is $18 per person.
Eclectic spot with pools, bathtubs, camping and cabins. Kids (12 and under) $12.50; adults $25. Reservations are required.
Three pools just bubbling up in a cow pasture, about 10 minutes west of I-15. Donations are welcome.
Hike a couple miles and combine hot spring water and Fifth Water Creek to taste. Free.
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.
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.
It’s our list, we’ll make it as vague and catchall 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. Held in late January. Donations suggested to benefit The Family Place.
Ruby’s Inn hosts archery events, watercolor painting, ski clinics, kayaking and … just everything, mostly. Takes place in mid-February. Most activities are free.
Everything is better in front of vermillion cliffs, and hot air balloons and live music were pretty cool to begin with. Held in mid-February. Free.
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.
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.
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.
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.