Utah. What comes to mind? Perhaps wide-open deserts, probably some pretty impressive rock formations and Mormons too. I doubt what sprung to mind was a winter wonderland, but it should have been. High above the sprawling deserts are a number of mountain ranges in all corners of the state that make for the perfect winter adventure destinations.
The snow in this western state is coined the Greatest Snow on Earth® because of its constantly fresh powder layered on top of a strong stable base layer. It’s all about something called flotation (the perfect water content for the snow) and in Utah, it’s ideal. How is that possible? Something else called goldilocks storms. Essentially, the conditions in the Beehive State are all in harmony for perfect snow every day. This means perfect skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snow shoeing, winter fat biking and any other snowy fun you can imagine.
That’s not forgetting the amazing deserts either. With five unbelievable national parks you can have the best of both worlds on your winter holiday. You can be skiing one day and in the otherworldly landscapes of Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks the next. With direct flights into Salt Lake City from London, there’s no reason not to head to Utah this winter.
For a taste of this perfect snow, Park City, home to the two world-class ski resorts of Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain, has to be the destination of choice. Bursting out of the north of the state, this winter-lovers paradise has everything you could want. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, you can head up into the hills for the day and never repeat the same run. There are also free guided tours every day so you can get the lay of the land before going it on your own. Or, if intrepid exploration is more your thing, head to the nearby Uintah Mountain range for a taste of cat skiing – a form of back country skiing where you’re taken up the slopes by a Snowcat and sent down on totally untouched snow.
If downwards isn’t your preferred trajectory, then you can explore the perfect powder on foot, bike, cross-country ski, dogsled or by the side of a river with fishing rod in hand. Or head down into the warm embrace of Historic Main Street. Flanked by more than 200 unique shops, curiosities and bars, you could spend all day here sampling delicacies and meeting the locals. A trip into town is the perfect way to end a day of exploration on the slopes.
For more information on winter in Park City, click here.
Greater Zion and Zion National Park might be what you’re thinking of when you think of Utah. Towering red rock canyons baked in the sun and lined with twisting trees – a natural paradise. If your immediate thought is, ‘that sounds great, but not for my winter break’, then you should think again. With winter highs of 16̊C and 300 days of sun a year, when everyone else heads up to the mountains you’ll have these famous canyons, like the thousand-foot-high Narrows, deep waters and sprawling Mojave Desert all to yourself.
And there’s plenty to get stuck into. See the bucket-list sights like the hair-raising Angels Landing, the Subway, or Zion Canyon, or take your pick of 35 hiking trails in the national park. Whether you tackle them on foot or on two wheels, it’s impossible not to be amazed by the sweeping cliffs and deep valleys of this region – especially with no other visitor in sight.
If your ideal adventure is spent on the green of a golf course, then you’ll be glad to know there are 14 championship-level courses within a 20-mile radius in Greater Zion. Take on the locals under the crisp winter sun for the perfect chilled adventure.
To find out more about Greater Zion and Zion National Park, click here.
To step into an old Hollywood fantasy, base yourself in Kanab. Equidistant to two of the Mighty Five® National Parks, it’s the perfect place for a trip full of varied adventures, and, it is straight out of a 1920s old Western. The town’s unique landscape has made it the apple of Hollywood’s eye for decades and some of your favourite films, including The Lone Ranger and Planet of the Apes, were shot there.
Once you’ve lived out your John Wayne fantasy, head out to one of the national parks to play the role of explorer, as you squeeze through slot canyons and discover strange new lands. Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon, with high sandstone walls, narrow passages and sloping rocks that cast bizarre shadows over the path. For a taste of the otherworldly, the Toadstools have to be top of the list. The result of varied rocks eroding at different paces, these formations look like effigies left by another species in the middle of the desert.
The adventure doesn’t stop when the sun goes down either. With some of the darkest skies in the country, the view of the Milky Way is unparalleled. The sheet of stars that appear overhead dwarf even the great canyons that loomed so large in the day time.
If you can’t get enough of the sandstone landscapes, then you must go to Moab. Arches National Park has the highest concentration of natural sandstone arches on earth and is a geological marvel. Equally, in Canyonlands National Park, the Island in the Sky District is something to behold. Rocketing 1500 feet out of the earth, this mesa offers panoramic vistas of the canyons, often with views up to 100 miles in any direction.
This area of the state is also blessed by its proximity to the mighty Colorado River. Adding a whole new dimension of adventure to your trip, you can throw yourself down the rapids (from milder class I rapids all the way up to extreme class V rapids), or, if you don’t feel like getting wet, jump in a kayak or jet cruise for a more relaxed experience on the great river.
You’ll be lucky to see snow in this part of the state, but if you do it really is magical. The white dusting on top of the red rock sets off all of the colours of the land. If this still isn’t enough snow for you, then you can even ski in the La Sal Mountain Range just south of Moab. It’s the best of both worlds – desert and winter wonderland in one.
For more information on Moab and the surrounding national parks, click here.
Ski Safari offers Utah ski and national parks ski safaris. Call 01273 977752 or visit www.skisafari.com. Alternatively, the experts at Trailfinders can tailor-make a winter road trip to Utah. Call 020 7795 4592 or visit www.trailfinders.com.