Think outside the skis to have fun throughout the cold months
Published by Salt Lake City Weekly | 2014
The rush of the workweek often dumps us out at the start of the weekend unprepared—making it too easy to waste all that potential fun time cleaning or binge-watching marginally interesting TV. Double that disconcertion when the seasons suddenly change. (Wait? It’s winter?)
So, let this winter calendar kick-start your brain into planning mode. Sure, there’s no time like the present—but looking ahead every once in a while can seriously improve the odds of enjoying it even more down the line.
Watch the weather, shape up and grab the gear
Anticipation is invigorating. Fuel yours; start tracking the snowpack with help from the Utah Avalanche Center (UtahAvalancheCenter.org). Backcountry beasts will know every storm layer to choose the safest, sickest lines, and inbound rippers can mobilize the second their favorite run has full coverage. While you’re at it, use all that exhilaration to get in shape for ski season. Focus on your upper legs (quads, hamstrings, hip flexors), core, and those glorious glutes, advises the University of Utah’s Health Library website). Climbing stairs, wall sits, lunges, balancing exercises, and cardio workouts are all good things. And if you missed the off-season sales, enjoy a last-ditch effort at savings at the Park City Ski Swap (Nov. 7-9, ParkCitySkiSwap.com). It’s a classic. If the snow just isn’t showing, head south to one of Utah’s five national parks for free entry on Veteran’s Day (Nov 11). If it is, vets ski free at Brighton Resort.
Score some solitude, go for a skate, or seek out Santa
Early December is a great time to hit the wide-open, uncrowned slopes. Head to your resort of choice or fuel your giving spirit—and your snow stoke—at Quad Wednesdays at Brighton Resort (BrightonResort.com) On Dec. 3, 10 & 17, ski for $20 and a charitable gift (toy, warm clothes, or nonperishable food, respectively).
If there’s still not enough snow to bury the more interesting parts of the mountains, keep up that conditioning the wintery way with ice-skating. Take some speedy turns around the Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, nicknamed “the fastest ice on Earth,” as it holds more than 100 speed records. Solitude’s well-loved, open-air village rink is a charming mountain alternative.
And sure, the resorts are crowded in late December, but they offer some pretty great holiday festivities. To avoid the brunt of the holiday craze, try Park City Mountain Resort’s Santa Comes Down the Town Lift event. Held Dec 13, it’s early enough to avoid full-on Christmas crowds, and features carolers, hot cocoa, and Santa’s arrival via reindeer-drawn chairlift.
Resolve to have more fun
Make a vow to get outside and explore more, then get the required permits. Reservations to hike the famous Wave at Coyote Buttes must be requested four months in advance. The best months to check it out are April and May, so get on it. Ditto for river-trip planning. A permit application for the lottery to run the Green River’s Desolation and Gray Canyons must be submitted by Jan. 31. Not a skier or rider but want to be? Sign up with Snowbasin Resort’s Learn to Earn Program by Jan. 18 and earn a pass for the rest of the season with the purchase and completion of five lessons (Snowbasin.com).
But don’t forget to have some good times in the meantime, as January is the month for rail jams and freestyle comps. Attend Canyons Resort’s New Year’s Eve Bash & Rail Jam, Deer Valley Resort’s FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup event (Jan. 7-10), or Snowbird’s IFSA Journal Freeride Nationals (Jan. 23-25). Acquire a deep, personal connection with the cold at the annual polar plunge at Bear Lake on Jan. 24. If you’d rather sit in warmth and comfort while hobnobbing with movie stars (or at least looking for one), there’s always the Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 22-Feb. 1).
Declare your love for winter
This is often winter’s sweet spot—when the resort bases are solid and the snow flies. Ask winter to be your valentine and get out as much as you can. If you need a break, and you’re a card-carrying Utahn, check out the Sundance Film Festival’s Best of Fest, which provides free (and very popular) screenings for locals in Salt Lake, Park City, Sundance Resort and Ogden (Sundance.org).
Actually have a sweetheart, or just know there’ll be a few days when your legs won’t be able to hang on the hill? Try out a few funky/romantic wintertime alternatives. A few outfitters offer winter horseback riding, including Blue Sky Adventures (BlueSky-Adventures.com) and Rocky Mountain Outfitters (RockyMtnOutfitters.com). If you’re really looking to take your paramour’s breath away, take to the skies on an hour-long sunrise hot-air balloon ride ($225). Though there are options throughout the state, the otherworldly experience of floating through soft morning light over the snow-draped Wasatch Range might best be provided by Skywalker Balloons (BalloonTheSky.com) and Park City Balloon Adventures (PCBalloonAdventures.com).
The best of both worlds
The snow should still be showering and, aside from spring-break peaks, the crowds can thin this time of year, so plan on plenty of powder days. Festivals and concerts also pop up to keep the mountain revelry ripe. Powder Mountain’s Spring Music Series, Powder Daze, kicks off in early March, followed by the storied spring-break pond skims—such as Brian Head Resort’s version (March 28) or Canyon Resort’s Spring Grüv (March 20-29)—where costumed characters skip across the water prior to a free concert. It’s silly and splashy and fun. If spring fever starts creeping in, head south. Moab’s biking season starts heating this time of year. Check out the Poison Spider THAW (March 6-8, PoisonSpiderBicycles.com) for fat-tire fun or the Moab Skinny Tire Festival (March 14-17, SkinnyTireEvents.com) for road-biker revelry. Proceeds from the Skinny Tire Festival benefit the Moab Cancer Treatment Center.
Spring in to the next (ski) season
Yeah, it’s a little sad to see the snow slow—but that doesn’t mean you can’t start plotting your next season on the slopes. Resorts offer the absolute best deals for next year’s season passes in the spring, so choose your favorite mountain and start shopping. Herald the coming warm weather at the Alta in April celebration, which features community events every day, or at Park City’s Snowasis mountain carnival (March 28-April 5), which culminates in an Easter egg hunt. Alta and Snowbird are offering a women’s ski course (April 11-12) on the storied late-season snow of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Check in with Snowbird Mountain School (801-947-8222) for the full score.
When you’re ready to hang up the winter boots for good, cash in on all your early-season planning and head for the hills. If you procrastinated (for shame!), just hit up one of Utah’s five incredible parks during National Park Week’s opening weekend (April 18-19), when admission is free. Or, wander down to Southern Utah for the seasonal wildflower display. Check in with Desert USA (DesertUSA.com) to track the blooms.