Illustrations by @sarahmaeliz
Many people don’t realize that even if they don’t ski or snowboard, there are still lots of fun ways to get into the powder and explore Utah’s sprawling mountain forests. From ice climbing to ski biking, emerging sports give people of all abilities options for enjoying the season. These four options will help you make the most out of Salt Lake winter.
Scale Frozen Waterfalls with Utah Mountain Adventures
Across the Wasatch Front in winter, the rivers freeze and waterfalls become breathtaking ice features you can climb using ice axes and crampons. Ice climbing is rapidly gaining popularity, and local mountains provide world-class terrain to get introduced. “[There are] beautiful ice formations—from easy to difficult—and mixed ice and rock routes located in the Wasatch Canyons,” says Tyson Bradley, Chief Guide at Utah Mountain Adventures (UMA). “Access to these routes is relatively short, safe and easy compared to in other parts of the world.”
Bradley began mountaineering guiding on Denali and has been with UMA since 1994. He supervises a host of world-class ice climbing guides. These friendly guides provide beginners with a solid foundation and plenty of fun. “In a UMA class, a ‘rookie’ ice climber can follow a guide up or top-rope an ice formation and have fun becoming a novice ice climber,” says Bradley.
You don’t need to be seasoned in mountaineering to have a good time. Ice climbing requires an average level of strength and fitness. “Any experience hiking, scrambling or climbing in the mountains is helpful,” Bradley says. “Technical skills can all be taught in the first hour or two of our ice climbing day.”
Groups can also benefit from UMA’s Multi-Day Ice Camp—a two-day progression of ice climbing skills and techniques. UMA also offers private guided trips or classes in backcountry skiing, avalanche safety, rock climbing and mountaineering.
Learn the Slick Art of Olympic Oval Curling
5662 Cougar Ln., Kearns, Utah 84118
(801) 963-7101, UTAHOLYMPICLEGACY.ORG
Hailing from Scotland and popular with our Canadian neighbors, curling is a sport many became familiar with during the 2002 Winter Olympics. “Almost everyone is new to curling when they come for lessons because it’s not a common sport in this country,” says Derek Parra, Sport Director at the Utah Olympic Oval, who is a two-medal Olympic medal winner in speed skating and heads the Learn to Curl Program.
“This is a sport kids and adults alike can do and have a great time with,” says Parra. Curling classes are taught by Utah Olympic Oval–certified instructors, and follow lesson plans and skill development established by USA Curling. Parra emphasizes that you shouldn’t be worried about if you’ll be unsteady on the ice, because the ice is pebbled—treated with hot water—and it’s easy to walk across, even for older folks. “I get calls asking if grandparents will have a good time, and anyone who’s able to be out and about can learn.”
One of the many surprises in store for people who learn to curl is how special the curling stones are: “The stones we have are from the Olympics and made from a single block of stone on an island in Scotland. Each stone weighs 42 lbs,” says Parra. A unique experience that’s perfect for date nights, corporate events or family get-togethers, the Olympic Oval’s classes give a good foundation in fundamentals like proper delivery of the curling stone, how to sweep, stabilizing your body on the ice and game strategies.
Kick Up Some Powder with SkiBike Utah
15198 Mule Train Dr., Riverton, UT 84065
(801) 792-0150, UTAHSKIBIKE.COM
Ski biking is a fun and safe alternative to skiing and snowboarding, has been around since the 1950s and is gaining popularity. With the same basic mechanics as skiing, the real difference is that this sport takes place sitting down, so you’ll tire less quickly. Todd Marriott, the self-proclaimed SkiBike King of SkiBike Utah, says, “There’s a very quick learning curve and most people can pick it up in 15–20 minutes.”
If you’re going out for a ride, you also don’t need much equipment—just snowboard or ski boots to keep your feet warm. The typical ski biking day sees the group meet at the chosen resort, either Park City or Brighton, and most won’t want to quit. Marriott also says that advanced ski bikers can do black-diamond runs or small jumps. With some of the mechanics and the social setting of the ski resort proper, this is a great sport for someone who might not be comfortable with the physical excursion of skiing/snowboarding but who still wants to spend time with other friends or family on the slopes.
See Snowbird’s Forest Wonderland by Snowshoe
9385 S. Snowbird Center Dr., Snowbird, UT 84092-9000
(801) 933-2147 - snowbird.com
Snowbird Resort is a sprawling landscape of pine forests, mountain streams and sunny glades that becomes otherworldly in the winter. While famed for having some of the most technical skiing terrain in the West, visitors of any age and ability can explore with Snowbird’s snowshoeing excursions.
“Snowshoeing is a great choice for many visitors at Snowbird. Skiers and riders might want to take a day off skiing but still want to get out in the mountains and enjoy the views of Little Cottonwood Canyon,” says Nick Nason, Operations Manager of Snowbird Mountain Guides. “For non-skiers and riders, snowshoeing also provides an opportunity to get out in the mountains, regardless of ability on the slopes.”
In these two-hour guided tours, the resort’s seasoned guides inform participants about the mountain’s human history, natural features, the flora and the fauna. If you’ve never snowshoed, don’t worry about the equipment: Gone are the days of the tennis racket–esque, wicker snowshoes. Snowshoes today are made of lightweight materials. All you need to bring are high-top mountain boots and warm, layered clothing. Once you make a booking, the guide will take into account the desires of the group to create a unique excursion you will never forget.
Each of these options will be a fun winter excursion and a unique experience in the beautiful Utah landscape!