Winter can be cold, dark and hostile- a stark contrast to Utah summers with plentiful sunshine and long warm days. Compounding this extreme is the reliably poor air quality during winter months and the dreaded inversion. (No the inversion is not a permanent winter condition, but when present please consider escaping to higher elevations for exercise during unhealthy conditions. For more information about air quality please visit air.utah.gov or download the UtahAir app.) Winter is not a reason to stay indoors for a three-month Netflix binge, instead it is even more important to seek outdoor activities and maybe even try something new. The intention of this post is to provide suggestions for winter activities that can be enjoyed by all, even if you don’t think winter is for you. These suggestions are for healthcare professionals and patients alike. It is important for all of us to get outside year-round, especially in Utah where some of the best winter recreation in the world is just up the road.
1. Skiing The Greatest Snow on Earth
Many people live in Utah for the skiing. If this is you, keep it up. If you have never skied before, it is time to learn. Skiing is a life-long sport that can be enjoyed by all ability levels in some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. This year George Jedenoff spent his 100th birthday skiing at Snowbird, so you are not too old to start. Learning is affordable with numerous Utah resorts offering “Learn to Ski” deals for $49; visit skiutah.com for details.
There are many deals for children as well, often free or cheap season passes with purchase of an adult season pass. Ski Utah offers many days of free skiing for 5th and 6th graders, Park City offers 5 free days for kids K-5, including lessons in January. Details on skiutah.com
2. Cross Country Skiing
Also known as Nordic skiing, this sport can be enjoyed by all ages, all ability levels at a much lower cost than alpine skiing and with an amazing exercise benefit. Skate skiing is technically challenging and physically demanding, burning the most calories per minute of any exercise on the planet, if you’re a beginner this will require lessons. Classic skiing is keeping skis in the tracks or in a straight line like the Nordic Track exercise machines. Affordable equipment rentals are available at REI or the U of U Campus Recreation Center or local ski shops. Free Nordic skiing at Round Valley in Park City, cheap rates at Mountain Dell golf course, and many others are listed on skiutah.com
3. Snowshoeing or Winter Hiking
Like hiking in the summer? You might like it in the winter too! Many of the easily accessed trails around SLC, especially in Millcreek are well traveled in the winter with packed down snow allowing hiking in regular boots or even sneakers. Improve your traction and prevent falls with YAKTRAX-a genius over the shoe invention that improves traction on ice. Less traveled trails or backcountry travel will require snowshoes, many used pairs are available or can be rented at the same outdoor retailers as above.
4. Southern Utah
If looking for a weekend get-away you aren’t limited to the Wasatch. For example a 4 hour drive to Moab will offer temps in the 40’s or 50’s in the dead of winter with endless outdoor recreation opportunities and a much cheaper price tag than peak season tourism. Visiting Utah National Parks in winter is a unique experience with a fraction of the crowds and deeply discounted accommodations as well, visitutah.com is a great resource.
5. And Many Others!
Ice climbing, snowmobiling, tubing, hot springs, snow biking and visiting the Utah Olympic Park for a bobsled ride are just a few other winter activities and adventures. Visitutah.com has many suggestions and is a great place to start. Get creative and get outside!
Sean McNamara is a third year family medicine resident at the University of Utah School of Medicine.