Harness the power of the elements to create the most epic winter in family history. Or at least make it a pretty fun one. Head to the mountains, across the valleys, into the water and across it. Utah.com’s list of Utah winter activities will keep you busy this year. Or over the next 10. You decide — it’s a bucket list.
A certain Disney movie has nothing on the Ice Castles in Utah. In the Midway version, there are frozen thrones and sculptures, naturally. But you can also crawl through ice tunnels, race down an ice slide and explore a frozen maze. How about a friendly reindeer? Of course. Sleigh rides? Yep, you can add that to your adventure, too.
Tickets go on sale the Monday after Thanksgiving. General admission is $18-23 for ages 12 and up, $12-16 for kids ages 4-11 (prices are higher on weekends and holidays). Exact times are available when you purchase tickets.
Missing fresh fish? Head to any of Utah’s lakes for some ice fishing. Scofield Reservoir is usually the first to freeze over, often around Thanksgiving. Strawberry Reservoir, the premier spot for summer fishing, is also popular from December to February for the colder variety. Flaming Gorge is usually the last to freeze over, due to its depth, but is an excellent spot to catch trout and burbot after Christmas. Practice your technique, then head over to Emery County in January for the annual ice fishing tournament, held at Millsite State Park.
Are you sensing a theme here? Channel your inner Nathan Chen and head to the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns to skate on the “Fastest Ice on Earth.” The 400-meter oval is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are only $6 per person — much cheaper than the actual Olympics. Figure and hockey skates are available for rent. Sorry, Apolo Ohno wannabes, you’ll have to bring your own speed skates. But you can take a curling lesson while you’re there.
Still feel like you coulda been a (Olympic) contender? Here’s your chance. Utah’s 2002 Olympic Games Sliding Track in Park City — home to the bobsled, skeleton and luge events — is open to the public. On the Winter Bobsled Experience, a professional driver steers you through the bumps, twists and turns of the actual track for one intense ride.
Tickets are $195 per person. Riders must be at least 16 years old and 100 pounds. Spandex not required, although fitted winter clothing is recommended. The track is open from late December through early April.
If the downhill variety is a little intimidating, or you just prefer to go at a slower pace, try cross-country skiing this Utah winter. That doesn’t mean you need to leave civilization and head into the backcountry. There are several parks with groomed trails specifically for the sport. Some places even offer equipment rentals and lessons.
Make like an Olympian and ski the 23 kilometers at Soldier Hollow, another site of the 2002 Games. Stay in the tracks or freestyle it down the gentle slopes. Wasatch Mountain State Park offers an even milder experience, with 10 kilometers of track on a groomed golf course.
In southern Utah, stay the night at Ruby’s Inn so you can head out at first light. There are 30 kilometers of trails across meadows and through a forest of ponderosa pine near Bryce Canyon National Park.
You know the worst part of tubing? Hiking back up the hill. The best part of tubing at Soldier Hollow? No hiking back up the hill. Get ready for pure, snowy bliss as you careen down a 1,200-foot lane. Then, get towed back to the top to do it all again. Kinda seems like you’re cheating. But we won’t tell. You can tube during the day, or make it even more thrilling by plunging down the hill at night — under bright lights, obviously. Tickets are $21 for kids and $32 for adults. It’s open weekends from mid-December to the end of February, and weekdays during the holidays.
If sliding across the snow doesn’t interest you, consider pedaling instead. Rent a fat bike from White Pine Touring and head to the groomed, extensive winter trail system around Park City. Fat bikes easily roll over obstacles, shussing you down the slopes in a different way. Never tried it before? Book a tour with a professional guide, who will customize the experience to your ability level. Tours begin at $175 per person for a two- to three-hour excursion.
Ever watched the Iditarod? Courageous drivers skillfully guiding a team of huskies across the plains, snow flying all around them as they race at top speeds? Sure, you could totally do that. Try your hand at dog sledding near Park City. Four companies offer day tours, from an hour to a half day. Don’t worry, the actual driving is done by professional racers. Afterward, spend some time playing with the friendly canines, many of which are rescue dogs. Prices begin around $400 per sled, up to two people. Call ahead for reservations, as tours often fill up far in advance.
Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
It’s not the road to grandma’s, but you can experience the wonder of riding in a two-horse open sleigh this Utah winter. Park City Sleigh Rides and Broken Arrow Sleigh Rides are just two places to book a snow slushing adventure near Park City. In Heber Valley, Rocky Mountain Outfitters offers a holiday lights ride around Jordanelle State Park. Tickets vary by provider, but are generally $150 per sleigh of up to 6 people, or $30 per person. Rides last between 20 and 30 minutes.
Soak in a Hot Spring
Relax after all that activity with a soak in one of Utah’s geothermal hot springs, which are open year-round. Homestead Crater, a 65-foot deep spring in Midway, may be the most unique experience. The spring itself is inside a 55-foot tall, beehive shaped limestone cave. Reservations are required.
If you’d rather swim in the open air, try Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville or Meadow Hot Springs near Fillmore. Water temperatures hover near 100 degrees at each site. Bring a fluffy towel, ‘cause you will need to get out at some point.
Hot Cocoa Quest
Hey, we know it’s cold out there. Warm up by drenching yourself in a rich, silky, chocolatey cup of hot cocoa. Hatch Family Chocolates in downtown Salt Lake City not only makes showstopping candies. No, you’ll also find a cup of melted dark chocolate pieces, swirled with heavy cream and rich whole milk. Not decadent enough? Add flavors such as salted caramel, mint or gingerbread spice. There’s a vegan option, too.
’Tis the Season
Sure, building a snowman and having a snowball fight are quintessential parts of winter. But there’s so much more. Get your cold gear ready, Utah winter activities are calling. Bookmark Utah.com to keep track of all there is to do here — in every season.