Wintry Wonders


5 Daring Snow Season Adventures

The fun doesn’t have to stop when temperatures drop! Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, there are plenty of ways to enjoy winter in Utah. So bundle up and hit a trail, slope, or lake this winter for some of the most exhilarating outdoor activities our state has to offer.

Photo courtesy of Utah Olympic Park

Photo courtesy of Utah Olympic Park

Bobsled, zipline, sled at Utah Olympic Park

The Utah Olympic Park, the legacy of the 2002 Winter Olympics, offers an array of winter sport activities at a world-class venue. Thrill-seekers can hop aboard the Comet Bobsled for the ride of a lifetime. A professional pilot takes three passengers down the original Olympic track, which navigates 15 turns in a hair-raising 78 seconds, reaching up to five G’s of force and speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour. Rides begin November 27 and run through the end of March.

For a slightly less intense rush, fly side-by-side on the Extreme Ziplines, two of North America’s steepest. Simply step off the top of the K120 nordic ski jump and let gravity take over as you fly down, reaching speeds up to 50 miles per hour.

Or take snow tubing to an entirely new level on the smaller Nordic hills, which serve as the launching pads for the high-speed adrenaline rush of Extreme Tubing. Both activities open the day after Christmas to all visitors ages 5 and over.

Take a break from the cold and go on an hour-long guided tour of the facility, reliving stories of achievement by the world’s most elite wintersport athletes at The Engen Museum.

Ice and Winter Fly Fishing

Of all Utah’s 45 Blue Ribbon fisheries, the angling at Strawberry Reservoir is the stuff of legend. The state record Bonneville cutthroat trout and Kokanee salmon have been landed on its shores. Ice begins to form in late December and holds through February.

Ice fishing isn’t highly technical and usually results in fast action and good catch rates, so it’s a great way to get kids hooked for life! Gear rental packages are available through outfitters like Utah Ice Fishing, with locations in Park City, Salt Lake, Syracuse, and Ogden. If you’ve already got the tackle and the skills, the state park service sponsors a handful of tournaments with cash and prizes up for grabs at lakes along the Wasatch.

Many fishermen grab waders and a pole, tie some flies, and head to the Provo or Weber Rivers in the winter to hook hungry trout. But the irregular shoreline and varying depths of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir combined with the consistent temperatures of the Green River’s tailwaters produces some of Utah’s finest cold-weather fishing opportunities.

“Winter is my favorite time of the year to fish the Flaming Gorge area,” says Kevin Clegg, a fishing guide with the Flaming Gorge Resort in Dutch John, “Between November 1 and March 1, it’s not uncommon to have the entire river to yourself.”

The area’s largest fish typically emerge during the winter, Clegg says. And because the south end of the reservoir rarely freezes over, boating and ice or shore fishing are all viable options.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Jones

Photo courtesy of Kenny Jones

Yurt Camping and Dining

Yurts, known for their distinctive rounded shape and inspired by the traditional dwellings of Central Asia,
are a cozy alternative to camping. Inside, digs range from the rugged to the opulent.

The Summit Mountain Lodge and Resort’s 14 yurts in Brian Head epitomize the glamping trend. Each is uniquely designed with luxury and comfort in mind. Amenities such as satellite TV, iPod radio, Wi-Fi, a minibar, and private baths, vary. A night in the Honeymoon Yurt makes for an unforgettable romantic getaway.

Activities at the resort include sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, stargazing tours, snowcat rides, and skiing or snowboarding at Brian Head Ski Resort.

If looking for warmer weather yurting, visit the north rim of Gooseberry Mesa—
An international recognized mountain biking destination—where Kenny Jones manages and rents two yurts. Along with unparalleled views of Zion National Park, the site is remote enough to offer stargazing and solitude, but with access to cell service and stores.

“Most people think about yurts in wintertime as a ski-in, ski-out activity. Gooseberry Yurts gives you a biking option in the wintertime,” Jones says. Book your stay at

Want a five-star dining experience with an adventurous twist? Yurt restaurants provide a feast for the senses.

Just 30 minutes outside Salt Lake, Solitude Mountain Resort’s Mongolian-style Dinner Yurt begins with a guided moonlight snowshoe trek lasting less than a mile. At the yurt, indulge in dishes like lobster crêpes or pan-seared Long Island duck breast, which are prepared with care on a wood stove. Open Thursday–Sunday beginning December 3. To make a reservation, call 801-536-5765.

Photo courtesy of Dan Jones

Photo courtesy of Dan Jones

Winter Mountain Biking

All-season riding isn’t just for fat bikers. Weather permitting, a handful of trails spanning the state from SLC to St. George are still accessible deep into the winter. Here are a few of our favorites: Antelope Island offers 360-degree vistas of the Great Salt Lake and nearly 20 miles of backcountry trails. Many riders choose the intermediate White Rock Bay Loop, nine miles of fast-paced doubletrack with a few climbs. Tracing the ancient shoreline of Lake Bonneville, the five-mile Split Rock Bay Loop winds through cliffs and rocks, some dating back nearly 3 billion years, with switchbacks, dramatic drops, and steep climbs along the way. The two-mile Lakeshore Trail is ideal for less experienced riders or families with kids.

Situated just southwest of St. George, the 2,700-foot elevation and warmer climate of the Bear Claw Poppy Trail ensures this trail can be ridden year-round; it never sees snow. Along the 7.8 miles of singletrack, riders may spot one of the endangered species that inhabit the area, including the Mojave Desert tortoise, Gila monster, and the trail’s namesake wildflower.

Riders can start from either the Bloomington or Green Valley Trailheads (the latter is the downhill option). Though the trail accommodates all skill levels, its steep hills, nicknamed the “Fingers of Death,” are not to be underestimated.

Dan has been exploring southern Utah’s backcountry on two wheels since 2008, and lists Gooseberry Mesa and the Barrel Roll among his other favorites.

Whether your winter adventure takes you on an alpine trek or a desert ride, keep warm and stay safe!


About Author

Alexa V. Morgan has been a freelance writer in southern Utah since 2011. Her work has appeared in the Mainstreet Business Journal of Southern Utah, Utah Business Magazine, St. George News, and 15 Bytes, among other publications. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, tennis, and her adorable pets. Follow her on Twitter at @alexavmorgan.

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