Snow and Ski in Salt Lake City

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Snow and Ski in Salt Lake City
SLC is the ultimate winter playground, with activities to suit the adventurous, the young at heart, and the intrepid. Ski perfect powder, snowshoe untrammeled backcountry, or embark on a romantic sleigh ride with your sweetheart—choices are endless.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo by Jim West/age fotostock
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    An Old-Fashioned Toboggan Ride
    You don’t have to be a ski bum or a snowboard enthusiast to enjoy the mountains around Salt Lake City. Fill your thermos with rum and eggnog, dust off your old-fashioned wooden sled, and head for Gorgoza Park; it’s time to kick off the winter season with the first toboggan ride of the year. Gorgoza Park also features seven lift-served tubing runs for children and adults, while Mountain Dell Golf Course, Lindsey Gardens, and Sugar House Park welcome sled riders and tubers of all ages.
    Photo by Jim West/age fotostock
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    Salt Lake Skiing
    Salt Lake City lies in close proximity to no fewer than four world-class ski resorts, which are almost always blanketed in beautiful powder. The host site of the 2002 Winter Olympics has a ski and snowboard pedigree that is truly unrivaled in America. Deer Valley Resort, a short drive from SLC, hosted the freestyle mogul, aerial, and alpine slalom events in 2002, and continues to challenge visitors today. The Alta Ski Area has been thrilling powder lovers since 1938 with its challenging Little Cottonwood Canyon terrain and beautifully distracting scenery, while Solitude Mountain Resort, along with neighboring Brighton, is one of the region’s smaller ski areas and geared toward family-friendly runs.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Barker/Visit Salt Lake
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    Salt Lake Skating
    Skating may not be as wildly popular as skiing or snowboarding in Utah, but SLC is outfitted with a few fantastic indoor and outdoor skating rinks. The Gallivan Center is home to a renovated outdoor rink that is open seven days a week during the winter and features rental and skate-sharpening facilities along with concession stands. Zipping around the ice late in the evening as the city lights shine bright is a romantic way to beat the chills. The Acord Ice Center is the official training rink for the Utah Grizzlies and features an Olympic-sized ice surface that is frequently open to the public for free skating. (Check the web; times vary.)
    Photo by Randy Faris/age fotostock
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    Hit the Snow on a Snowmobile
    Zipping over fresh powder at 100 mph is a thrilling sensation, while plotting your own mountain course makes you feel like you hold some power over Mother Nature—if only for a moment. Uinta Recreation provides half- and full-day rentals and leads expeditions through the Heber Valley, less than an hour’s drive from SLC. Uinta can accommodate up to 60 people on one expedition of spectacular rides through the Uinta National Forest, Wasatch Mountains, and Strawberry Valley. Snowmobile Adventures at Thousand Peaks thrusts you into the center of Utah’s largest private ranch, a 60,000-acre playground with navigable 11,000-foot peaks and some of the heaviest snow in the region.
    Photo courtesy of Thousand Peaks
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    Ice Fishing Expeditions
    Bundle up in your warmest woolies, pack a thermos of piping hot coffee, and settle in for a unique winter excursion with Strawberry Bay Lodge Ice Fishing Tours. Strawberry Bay does all the difficult work—like building fishing huts, drilling holes, and collecting bait—so you can focus on what’s important, which is settling into your own private hut for an early morning or full afternoon of dropping lures, telling tall tales, and enjoying the company of friends. Strawberry Bay can accommodate up to 20 people per expedition, which means you can bring all your friends. Once you land the big one, they can join you around the fire for a good old-fashioned fish fry.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Cross-Country Exploration
    Cross-country skiing is at once physically demanding, emotionally enlivening, and spiritually invigorating, and is a fine way to explore the Salt Lake City snow country. Solitude Nordic Centre has more than 15 miles of well-manicured trails that spider through pristine wilderness, which means you’ll never feel crowded even in one of the region’s most popular ski areas. Alta Nordic Skiing is home to a fantastic 3.1-mile track near the Sunnyside Lift which is designed for both skate skiing and classic skiing, while adventurous types may wish to explore the rugged country at Mountain Dell via Parley’s Canyon, just east of Salt Lake City.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Barker/Visit Salt Lake
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    Snowshoeing the Backcountry
    If you’re after an adventure that will test your physical resolve while sparing you plenty of time to soak in your surroundings and snap beautiful photos, snowshoeing in SLC is for you. Surrounded by seven canyons, you’re never far removed from an exciting backcountry experience; Red Butte, Emigration, Millcreek, Big Cottonwood, and other sections of the Wasatch mountain range feature well-maintained shoe trails with easily accessible trailheads, meaning your expedition is only as taxing as you wish to make it. Utah Mountain Adventures has tours for newbies and advanced snowshoers alike, and can even help you shoe your way to the pinnacle of your favorite Wasatch peak.
    Photo by Ryan Rombough/age fotostock
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    Mush, Mush, Mush!
    If you’ve always dreamed of leading a dogsledding expedition, hook up with Rocky Mountain Recreation for the chance to command a team of dogs through the beautifully rugged country of the Stillman Ranch. (Some of the dogs are veterans of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that takes place each year in Alaska.) Pawsatch Snow Dogs has teams of Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies that love nothing more than spiriting families over snowy terrain. Since they do all the heavy work you can lean back and pretend you really are taking on the Arctic tundra.
    Photo by Carolyn McCarthy
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    Spectacular Sleigh and Dine Experiences
    Rocky Mountain Sleigh Company offers a unique sleigh and dine program that will elicit your fondest childhood memories of winter. The sleigh whisks you along the Weber River through beautiful woodlands and delivers you to a charming log cabin where a tremendous home-cooked meal awaits—after you’ve had a sip of hot cocoa by the fire, of course. The Viking Yurt at Park City Mountain Resort offers a thrilling sleigh experience that includes a ride through majestic pine forests to a pass at over 8,000 feet, along with night views of glimmering Park City. The adventure is capped with a Nordic-inspired six-course tasting menu hosted in the luxurious Viking yurt, one of the most amazing structures in the state.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Maziarz/The Viking Yurt
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    Olympic Attractions
    Salt Lake City hosted the spectacular and successful 2002 Winter Olympic Games; a decade on, the region still benefits from the facilities and attractions built to host the world’s top athletes. Utah Olympic Park allows visitors to bomb down a bobsleigh track at 70 mph, or test their resolve on one of the world’s wildest aerial jumps. There are also a couple of fantastic museums on-site for the less adventurous. Soldier Hollow hosted the Nordic skiing events and features miles of wonderful cross-country trails, as well as America’s longest tubing track. The Olympic Oval is home to the “Fastest Ice on Earth,” a rink where your new personal speed-skating best is all but assured.
    Photo courtesy of Utah Olympic Park