You can always ski or snowboard in the backcountry for free, but if you’re looking for safer or family-friendly activities, try snowshoeing, snowtubing and cross country skiing.
Snowshoeing is the fastest growing winter sport, and several places along the Wasatch Front offer guided snowshoe tours, equipment rental and dinner, but if you want to get out on your own, you can rent snowshoes for around $10 from just about any outdoor recreation store. The most affordable snowshoe rentals are available through the U of U’s Outdoor Recreation Program for $4 a day. So strap on your snowshoes and put on a happy face.
The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation (cottonwoodcanyons.org) offers several free guided snowshoe tours from January- April. Tours are usually offered on Saturday mornings in the Mill D area of Big Cottonwood Canyon and near Alta Ski Resort. The trails are typically about a mile long and are easy to moderate levels of difficulty. CCF also offers special full moon snowshoe tours. Groups meet at 7 or 8 p.m. depending on the month. Reservations can be made by phone at (801) 466-8411 up to two weeks in advance and can accommodate up to six people.
Get snowshoe trail passes and rentals from these operators for about $25.
Soldier Hollow (www.soldierhollow.com) has a 20-mile network of groomed trails that lead to various vantage points along the way. Rentals: $15 adults, $8 kids. Trail passes: $10 adults, $5 kids.
Sundance Resort (www.sundanceresort.com) has 6.5 miles of dedicated snowshoe trails that wind through the woods. Rentals: $10 full day, $7 half day from 2-5 p.m. Trail passes: $16 full day, $12 half day. Children 12 and under are half price.
Solitude Nordic Center (www.skisolitude.com) has 12.5 miles of snowshoe trails. The paths amble between the Nordic Center and Solitude Village. Silver Lake is located at the heart of the Nordic Center. Rentals: $12 adult full day, $8 adult half day and $7 kids. Trail passes: $5 per person.
No trail pass required for:
- Donut Falls, Big Cottonwood Canyon: Waterfall at end of hike. (3.5 miles roundtrip, elevation gain 280 feet)
- Dog Lake Trail, Millcreek Canyon: Dog Lake at end of hike. (6 miles roundtrip, elevation gain 900 feet)
- Neff’s Canyon, South of Millcreek Canyon: Dogs are welcome on this trail. (5.5 miles roundtrip, elevation gain 2,450 feet)
- Church Fork to Grandeur Peak Trail, Millcreek Canyon (5.4 miles roundtrip, elevation gain 2,619 feet)
- Tibble Fork Loop Trail, American Fork Canyon (3.8 miles roundtrip, elevation gain 2,000 feet)
What to Wear? Layers! Moisture wicking, breathable materials will keep you dry and comfortable all day. Base layers made of polypropylene and wool will perform better than regular thermal long undies. Wear a base layer with a light fleece under your ski/snowboard coat and pants. Make sure your boots are waterproof and comfortably snug. Gaiters are great for keeping the snow out if you are going to veer off trail and snowshoe through deeper powder.
Tubes are available at most tire stores for about $10 and you can buy a tube and reuse it for summer river trips.
FREE – Big Cottonwood Canyon: Slightly less than 10 miles up the canyon there’s a popular tubing area with open hills. This is a do-it-yourself hill, so bring your own tube and earn the ride down by hiking up the hill first. Park by the restrooms and head for the hills southeast of the parking lot.
FREE – Mountain Dell Recreation Area (Exit 134, Parleys Canyon): This sweet tubing spot is popular with locals because you can park at the top of the hill instead of hiking to the top before you slide. You’ll have to bring a tube here as well. The hill is great for beginners because it’s not too steep, but it is fairly long and has a few jumps for added thrill.
Gorgoza Park: This hill, near Park City, is operated by Park City Mountain Resort (www.parkcitymountain.com) and has three lanes open daily from 1-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 12-8 p.m. on Saturday/Sunday through March 27. Ages 3-6: $3 for one ride, $10 for two hours, $14 for four hours; ages 7 and up: $8 for one ride, $19 for two hours, $27 for four hours. There are also lit lanes for night tubing.
Soldier Hollow: Located in Midway in Wasatch Mountain State Park, Soldier Hollow (www.soldierhollow.com) has the longest tubing lanes in Utah, offers lit lanes for night tubing and plays tunes while you ride. No worries, no hiking is required, the tubing hill has lift service too. Tubing lanes are open Monday-Friday 12-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 12-4 p.m. through March 29. For a two-hour session ages 3-6: $11, ages 7 and up: $19.
Cross Country Skiing
The best deal is at Aspen Grove in Provo Canyon (aspengrove.byu.edu). Pass and equipment: $9. Pass only: $4. However, the trail is only to the public Monday-Friday (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) and you have to make a reservation two days prior at (801) 717-3050. Aspen Grove also offers night cross country skiing for $5 per person Monday-Thursday (6:30-9 p.m.) and Friday (6:30-10 p.m.).
Alta Ski Resort (www.alta.com): 3-mile groomed track. Nordic Trail Pass: $10 Equipment Rental: $15
Solitude Nordic Center (www.skisolitude.com): 12.5 miles of groomed trails. Trail Passes: Full day $12 adults, $7 kids. Half day $8 adults, $7 kids. Half day begins at 12:30 p.m.
Sundance Resort (www.sundanceresort.com): 16 miles of groomed trails. Trail Pass: Full day $16 adults, $9 kids. Half day $12 adults, $6 kids. Rentals: Full day $18 adults, $9 kids. Half day $15 adults, $8 kids.
Soldier Hollow (www.soldierhollow.com): 18 miles of groomed trails. Trail Pass: Full day $18 adults, $9 kids. Half day $9 adults, $6 kids. Half day begins at 1 p.m. Rentals: Full day $19 adults, $12 kids. Half day $14 adults, $9 kids.