While most people flock Utah for vacay in the summer, the Beehive State can equally be enjoyed in winter. Skiing is one of the favorite winter activities in Utah and it attracts thousands of ski-lovers who come to explore the stunning mountain views as they glide on snow. With five national parks, seven national monuments, herds of bison, and a salty lake, you will not be struggling to fill up your itinerary.
Utah winters can be quite gruelling, especially for international travellers who may not be accustomed to winter freeze. This lasts from December to February each year, with December and January experiencing the coldest temperatures. The winter has long periods of snowfall and short daylight. If you would like to experience the winter solstice in Utah make sure you are there on December 9th.
What else can you do in Utah during the winter?
In spite of the chilling temperatures of Utah winter, there are several exciting things that you can look forward to. All you will need are your winter clothes, some money to spare, and an adventurous spirit. Once you have that ready, you can try out all or some of the seven best activities to do in Utah during the winter listed below:
1. Attend Sundance Film Festival
You can’t do a Utah winter vacay without exploring the Sundance Film Festival. This event takes place at the end of January or beginning of February each year. You will notice that hotel prices peak when the Sundance Festival is taking place because it attracts visitors from different states and countries. Good thing is that you are likely to spot a number of celebrities at this festival. This festival, organized by the Sundance Institute is an independent film festival that showcases new films by American and international creators. The festival takes place in three different locations: Salt Lake City, Park City and at Sundance Resort.
2. Catch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Performing at Temple Square
The Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City is a display of history and worship. This is a beautiful place to explore in winter and it will help to get you in a festive spirit. The square which consists of five city blocks and well-manicured gardens is usually beautifully lit up with unique lights that create a celebratory atmosphere. Purpose to visit the welcome center and if you are lucky enough you may be able to see the Tabernacle choir’s performance during Christmas. At the Welcome Centre you will also be able to learn a lot about the Mormon Church. Note that you don’t have to be religious to enjoy this activity.
3. Admire the Ice Castles in Midway
A midnight visit to the shimmering winter wonderland is likely to blow your mind away. Each year, sculptors create a Disney-like wonderland on an acre of land in Midway. The ice castles are usually illuminated at night. Your children are likely to enjoy exploring the rooms that are decorated with thrones, fountains, and ice slides. In the evenings, visitors can sit around fire pits and enjoy hot sips of cocoa as they join in belting out ‘Let it Go’ from the movie Frozen. This is quite a Disney experience that your kids are sure to love.
4. Winter Ski in Utah
Utah is known for its breathtaking mountainous ski spots that collect an average of 500 inches of snow each year. Whether you are a beginner or a pro at skiing, you will not run out of options in Utah. Some of the best beginner friendly ski resorts in Utah include the following:
- Deer Valley Resort, Park City
- Canyons Village, Park City
- Sage Creek, Moab
- Snowbasin, Eden, Huntsville
- Powder Mountain
- Brian Head Resort, South West Utah
- Brighton, Salt Lake
- Nordic Valley, Eden
- Solitude Mountain Resort, Salt Lake
Advanced skiers can hit the slopes of the frozen hills connecting through the backcountry. The Deer Valley is made up of 6 mountains: Little Baldy Peak, Bald, Flagstaff, Bald Eagle, Empire, and Lady Morgan. The slopes and corduroy runs in each can be enjoyed by skiers at different levels of expertise. This is a prime spot where you can chance on celebrities all year round.
Park City Mountain is the largest ski resort in America covering 7,300 hectares for skiing. With over 330 trails, and 6 terrain parks, skiers and snowboarders can have endless fun in the summer. The skiers also have access to the historic Main Street. If you prefer to avoid crowds, you will enjoy skiing during the Sundance Festival when it is less crowded.
5. Go Ice Fishing at Bear Lake
If you fancy ice fishing then you should make your way to Bear Lake this winter. The Bear Lake freezes in most winters and the fish move closer to the shores in January. While fishing is free, you will need a fishing license. You may be lucky to chance on the Bonneville Whitefish or the Cisco which are only found at this lake.
6. Swim in a Geothermal Spring
Soak yourself in a geothermal pool at the Homestead Resort. This is a rare underground cave that is located an hour away from Salt Lake City in Heber Valley. The hot springs are found in a 55-foot dome of limestone rock. The temperature of the water is usually at 90-96 degrees all year-round. It is believed that this dome was created about 10,000 years ago and was formed by melted lava from the neighboring Wasatch Mountains. You can also enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving at this spot.
7. Hike in the Winter
If you are an avid winter hiker, or would want to try it out, then you should head out to Utah. Zion National Park is one place to explore as the weather is fair even in winter. Other favourable spots for winter hiking include the Bryce Canyon, the Corona Arch Trail, Pine Hollow Trail, and Silver Lake Loop.
Here are five tips to bear in mind when hiking in the winter:
- Have appropriate winter hiking gear which includes: waterproof boots, layers, sun protection, and food and water.
- Keep track of the weather forecast
- Start as early as you can
- Learn how to use microspikes
- Don’t hesitate to turn around when the conditions don’t seem favorable.
There are many exciting things that you can do in Utah during the winter, and the list of seven is not conclusive. In 2018, Utah legalized medical cannabis. If you are a medical marijuana patient, you will be able to purchase marijuana from a Utah dispensary. This is one of the perks that comes with having a legal Utah medical marijuana program. So if you are planning a winter trip there anytime soon, know that there is much to look forward to.