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The Greatest Ice on Earth: Speed Skating for Dummies

Though everyone’s go-to winter sports in Utah are skiing and snowboarding, another great way to enjoy the cold weather is speed skating.

When trading in “the greatest snow on earth,” you get “the fastest ice on earth” in return. Salt Lake County’s high elevation creates a special atmosphere, and people from around the world come here to train or race at the Utah Olympic Oval, built in 2002 for the Winter Olympics. It is a state-of-the-art facility that includes one long track around the perimeter, encompassing two smaller rinks inside.

The best part of the facility is that it is open to the public. Located in Kearns, about 14 miles from Salt Lake City, you can go experience this place for yourself. It costs $8 per person for a day pass — a relatively cheap option for a great time.

If you get the chance, make sure to visit the Olympic Oval when there is a competition going on. You’ll have the chance to meet racers from all over the country while they’re qualifying for spots on world championship teams and in the Olympics.

There are two specific types of speed skating — long track and short track — and within each are various event distances for athletes to race. In long track, it is impressive to see how efficient participants are in each of their strides. They are able to maintain high speeds while exerting the least amount of energy possible.

Like most people, my personal favorite is watching short track. The athletes fly around the track at high speeds and extremely low angles while tightly packed. It is amazing to see how much control they have at speeds approaching 30 mph. Rounding the corners, the athletes have to put their hands out just to stay on top of their skates while their hips are less than two feet above the ground.

At a recent competition, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the athletes who received a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. I learned that in this sport the strength of your legs is the most important part — you can easily tell a speed skater by the size of their toned thighs.

If you’d like to match this athleticism or just try some regular ice skating, there are a couple of outdoor rinks around the Salt Lake area: the Gallivan Center, located in downtown Salt Lake City, the Plaza, at the South Jordan Ice Rink, the Solitude Mountain Resort ice rink, and the Park City Mountain Resort ice rink.



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The Tip of the Iceberg: The Novice’s Guide to Ice Climbing

Ice climbing, though a unique sport, parallels other winter activities I’ve tried in subtle ways.

It’s like skiing and snowboarding because you are wearing the same gear. It’s like rock climbing because you’re in a harness and attached to a rope. It’s like mountaineering because you use a pick and wear a helmet. What differs, though, is the suspense: You have crampons attached to your boots, your hands are connected to ice axes, and you are being supported by a wall of frozen water.

Ouray, Colo. is a world-renowned ice climbing park. People come from all over to learn to ice climb on this vertical. The ice park is located five minutes from the main street in Ouray in the Uncompahgre Gorge, which is about a mile long and has canyon walls ranging from 60 to 200 ft. in height. The ice that forms on the walls is maintained by a series of water pipes along the canyon rim with sprinklers that spray water at night to form a fresh layer of ice.

What makes the ice park such a popular destination is that it gives novice climbers the ability to learn ice climbing with the safety of top-roping. It is also a great place to figure out how to place ice screws and lead climb in a safe environment.

Over winter break, I traveled to Ouray, which is about six hours from Salt Lake City. The drive there was stunning — there was a fresh coat of snow covering the roadside scenery. Once in the town, you’ll see ice climbers walking around with their climbing gear on and packs hung over their shoulders. The temperature at night was in the single digits, which is great for the formation of new ice.

Pack your day bag, and head out early in the morning. It’s crucial to get a good route in the ice park that is near the bridge because of the close proximity to the lodge and fireplace. After you park and get your climbing gear out, fasten your crampons to the bottom of your boots to ensure traction. It is a requirement in the park to have crampons, to prevent falling down the Gorge, as well a helmet, to protect you from falling ice and debris.

The first thing you’ll do once you have your route selected is to set the anchors and flake the rope to make sure there are no knots. After that, attach your belay device to the rope and throw the remaining length over the cliff. Rappel down to the bottom of the gorge — there you will meet up with your group, who will help belay while you climb.

Once you are finally ready to start ice climbing, you’ll need to pick up your ice axes. They will act as extensions of your hands. Swing one arm at a time until the ax is set deep in the ice. You might have to take a couple of swings to get it set properly. You’ll then kick to get your crampon set in the ice.

Remember to mimic the shape of the letter “A” so your arms are directly above your head and your legs form a foundation for balance. Slowly inch your way up by finding new spots to set your ice ax to move yourself up the wall. At first you’ll want to use your arms, but relax and remember to use your legs.

During your ascent up the ice wall you’ll come across parts that will break away and fall to the bottom of the gorge. When you swing your ice ax and it doesn’t set, but instead causes a large hunk to fall, yell “Ice!” so your belayer doesn’t get hurt.

On reaching the top of the cliff, you’ll have accomplished your first ice climb. Your hands will sting as the blood rushes back into your fingers in the frigid air. Your heart will beat vigorously. You are now hooked. You’ll want to climb more. Don’t worry — that’s exactly how I felt.

After a long day of climbing in the gorge, be sure to stop by the local hot spring and relax with your friends. At night, it’s where everyone goes to recover.



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Chill out and relax at Cliff Lodge

Once you’ve successfully completed a day on the slopes and your body is failing you, it is important to factor in some time for rest and relaxation.

One of the best places to unwind after a long, cold day of shredding powder is the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. The lodge is open year-round and houses the Cliff Spa, which features everything you need to refresh and warm up at the end of the day.

The spa is open to anybody, not just those who have a room in the lodge, which is great for Salt Lake locals or visitors who just want to drive up the canyon for a day. The Cliff Spa features a wide variety of amenities for a fairly low price. For $25, you get a pass to the spa, which includes access to the steam room, dry sauna, locker room, rooftop pool and hot tub, tea and comfy chairs in the solarium, and a robe and slippers for use in the spa. If you elect to bring your own sandals and robe you can save $5.

The spa, unlike a lot of places, also allows its patrons to bring in their own food. You can plant yourself on the roof or at one of the tables in the solarium for snacks and drinks.

The spa’s rooftop hot tub and pool offer an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, which is pretty much unbeatable. This spot alone is worth the $25 fee. Snow or shine, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind on a winter day. The hot tub is large enough for a small crowd and has jets and bubbles to soothe aching muscles. When you get overheated you can take a dip in the slightly less heated pool.

During the winter months, the Salt Lake Valley often becomes clouded with a thick layer of unhealthy air. It’s nice to get away from the smog every now and then, and the eucalyptus steam room will make you feel like you’re taking a breath for the very first time. Eucalyptus and steam open up your lungs and soothe dry winter skin. After 15 minutes of soaking in the steam, you are guaranteed to feel refreshed and revitalized.

Once you’re done there, you can kick back in one of the comfy chairs lining the solarium. The room is quiet, with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the ski slopes. You can watch the skiers or plan your next run while sipping a cup of one of the multiple varieties of teas available to spa patrons. If you happen to have some extra cash and feel like treating yourself after conquering the slopes, the spa also offers treatments, such as massages, facials, and pedicures.

The lodge has a lot more to offer than just proximity to the slopes. There’s a restaurant and lodging, too, but the Cliff Spa is by far the most rejuvenating, preparing your body for more runs down the mountain.





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My First Time: Death lifts, falling leaves, and other snowboarding adventures

If you’ve ever seen “Bambi,” you might remember the scene where all the forest creatures congregate to watch him take his first steps. Bambi’s bumbling and awkward attempt at a grand entrance is pretty much how our first time snowboarding went down.

Having a general, and completely rational, aversion to steep cold slopes puts us in the minority of Utah natives, those who do not frequent “the greatest snow on earth.” Not afraid of a challenge, but unsure whether we would actually make it out in one piece, we prepared for our first snowboarding lesson. Luckily for us, it was a perfect winter day in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The temperatures were mild, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as we made our way up to Brighton Ski Resort.

Strapping on

Forrest: I felt a bit out of place as I tugged on my snowpants in the parking lot next to some seasoned “snow bros” chugging Redd’s before hitting the slopes. This was mountain culture at its finest. We met our instructor, Kenny Barry, in the rental area, and he helped us gear up amid our awkward jokes about ending up in the hospital. I was given a Burton board as tall as I was, and I immediately began joking that I was going to be sponsored, like Shaun White, by the end of the day. I had to confirm with Kenny that Shaun White was, indeed, a professional snowboarder.

Kamryn: Already on edge as I pulled into the icy parking lot teeming with semi-pro homies ready to shred, my previously Googled “first time snowboarding advice” seemed obsolete — I would have to rely on animal instinct. I slipped into my snowpants and added another layer for good measure before we headed up to the ski school. I was told that snowboard boots are easier to handle than ski boots, but I had an impossible time trying to get the damned things on. Kenny took us over to the counter where I was given what I can only assume was a child-sized board.

Mastering Maneuvers

Forrest: The lesson started off slow, which is always helpful for a first time. We began without the board, just leaning, bending our knees, and jutting out our hips. Once Kenny was satisfied with our form, he taught us how to mount up. It is important that the bindings are tight as it gives you control and stability — a lesson I would learn very well later on.

We learned how to fringe snowboard down a very mild grade that had my heart pumping. For some reason Kenny kept alluding to the lift we would take to the top of the bunny hill when “we mastered the basics.” I glanced over to the hill, and it looked like Everest. I decided to fall a few more times in the hope that Kenny would deem me too amateur for the bunny hill and let me stay on mostly flat ground.

Kamryn: Going downhill, using muscles, having both feet strapped into something I hardly recognize, and being cold all make my list of things I never want to be involved with. But this is exactly where I found myself. Once we mastered the complexities of standing upright, we graduated from one foot strapped in to both.

Forrest went first, and I watched in despair as I saw my bleak future. When I got to the top I realized getting started was hard, stopping was hard, but going was easy. Toe-side and heel-side are easy enough to understand, but somewhere from ear to brain to muscle, I forgot where my toes and heels were and paid for it in pain. Pro-tip: toe means go, heel means stop.





Forrest: Even though I felt like I hadn’t stood up on my snowboard for more than five feet — unlike Kamryn, who looked like a damn natural — Kenny herded us toward the dreaded chairlift.

Kenny: “Have either of you been on a ski lift before?”

Me: “I have. Once.”

Kenny: “Great, Forrest you can go alone then.”

Me: “I take it back.”

I had only been on a ski lift seven years ago when my dad “taught” me how to ski. I wouldn’t exactly count tumbling once down a hill and calling it a day as a solid chairlift experience, but it was too late. Kamryn was hopping on a chair with Kenny, and I ended up on the lift with another newbie snowboarder, still more composed than me. I was just praying I could make it off the chairlift without breaking something.

As predicted, my dismount was far from graceful. I fell down right as my board hit the snow, and I lay crumpled on the ground until Kenny yelled at me to get out of the way. Turns out the chairlift does not stop moving if you fall on your way off.

Kamryn: The chairlift, which until now had been looming in the distance like Mount Doom, suddenly became a reality. All I could think was that we were on a mountain, and people die on mountains. Forrest made the mistake of telling Kenny she had been on a lift before, so she landed a solo spot on the death lift. Whether it was my petite frame or palpable fear, Kenny suggested he and I ride together. Once we got on the lift, I turned around to get one last glance at my beautiful best friend before we both met the same icy end. I had this idea in my head that chairlifts gently lowered you down so you could gracefully slide off at your own pace, but no. They’re not gentle, they don’t lower you, and they wait for no one.

The ‘Falling Leaf’

Forrest: After my near-death chairlift exit, I was ready to redeem myself on the way down the hill; however, the slope now seemed like two Everests, and I just wanted to be at the bottom. Not only was it steep, but it was also teeming with people: A collision seemed inevitable.

I finally got up on my board and tilted down to start a slow and steady descent. I fell on my ass every foot — so much for slow and steady. Chris, our friend capturing video and photo of the exploit, captured it all on camera for posterity. I tumbled so many times that I felt like maybe snow sports were better left to my imagination. My abs were on fire, and I couldn’t seem to stay upright for the life of me. I had no balance.

Halfway down the hill, after watching my brutal struggle, Kenny asked me if my bindings were tight. Oh. My bindings were far from tight, and as a result I was falling all the way down the hill. Once I reevaluated my strap situation, I stood up and instantly felt solid on my feet. I actually managed to make it about 50 ft. before spiraling out for another delightful blow to my tailbone. I was shredding some serious powder.

Kamryn: Time to face the cold harsh realities of the bunny hill. Kenny told us we were going to work on a move called “the falling leaf,” zig-zagging left and right across the hill. I had the falling part down, so I just needed to work on my leaf. Should be easy.

In all honesty, the bunny hill was probably roughly the same size as the slope we just were on polishing our maneuvers, but it somehow seemed impossibly steeper and miles longer. Run one was a wreck. I barely managed to make it to every one of Kenny’s checkpoints. I was wobbling and shrieking and squinting and flailing my arms, but dammit, I made it down. This gave me the shred of confidence I needed to hop back on the chairlift for run two.

Chris suggested I wear his GoPro to show off my skills. What a great idea, I thought. I mean, I was practically Shaun White. Whether it was because of my new found confidence, the pressure of filming, or divine intervention I managed to have a beautiful, uninterrupted run in round two. I made it to the bottom first,and turned to cheer on my friend. Forrest, who is usually the graceful one, was stumbling down the snowy hill towards me. I couldn’t look away. Of course, when I tried to get out of the way, I finally fell, face-first into the snowbank, but that’s just how the universe works.

At the end of any first time, you are bound to be sore, but it is worth it. If you’ve been putting off skiing or snowboarding because you think you can’t do it, you can. If we can make it off the slope in one piece, then anybody can. No matter how painful you think it might be, there is something gratifying about spending a day mastering new skills. If you do not frequent “the greatest snow on earth,” at least try it one of these winter days. Power through, feel the burn, and learn something new — or at least enjoy trying. Sometimes it’s just fun to fall down.






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Sloan Storey skis for her team

“Just don’t get last,” she mutters, her breath turning into white swirls in the near 0-degree weather.

The calm Colorado morning is broken by the sound of a gun, and she’s off. But Sloan Storey doesn’t get far before her mantra seems more like a jinx: five feet into the 15-kilometer cross country race, the Nordic skier hears a sharp snap — she’s broken a pole.

Her coach, standing in the snow on the sidelines, reacts almost instantaneously and hands her a replacement. The freshman skier has never broken a pole before and now, during her first collegiate competition, is not ideal.

“OK, OK, I’ve got this,” she repeats to calm her growing nerves as she falls farther behind the pack. She rounds her first bend, and the impending panic still looms when it happens again. Another snap. Her shock is incomprehensible.

Nordic head coach Abi Holt is 300 yards away uphill — a distance Storey only defines as “enough time to lose everything.” Even so, she makes an unbalanced drive at her coach to grab another new pole. “You’re still in it — slow and steady,” Holt shouts as she passes by. Storey, though, isn’t as sure. She can no longer see any of the other 25 racers on the course. She’s in dead last.

‘“I bet my coaches are wondering why they recruited this 18-year-old,” she thinks.

That certainly wasn’t on Holt’s mind, though. When the coach first saw Storey compete a year previously, as a senior in high school, she knew she wanted the skier for the U’s team. Holt watched her race at Soldier Hollow, and when Parker Tyler, who formerly competed for the U, passed Storey on the course, Holt recalls a “look in Sloan’s eyes like, ‘Uh-uh.’”

“She stayed with her and passed her back,” she says. “I watched that, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I want her.’”

That’s how Holt knew Storey wouldn’t give up now. Two broken poles weren’t enough to stop her from finishing.

Storey knows it, too. She replays Holt’s “slow and steady” comment over in her head, takes a deep breath, and keeps moving. By one mile in, Storey starts passing other skiers, clumped together in groups of five.

Just after 9 a.m., she comes to her first feed. Storey reaches for her shot of diluted Coke — used to replenish sugar levels — and spills it down the front of her black uniform, coating the red U-T-A-H letters in sticky brown syrup. You can see by her face, covered in tape to avoid frostbite, that she isn’t thrilled. She hears her dad cheering, “Come on, baby!” from the side and shakes it off.

U skiing director Kevin Sweeney updates Storey as she glides past him, telling her how the rest of the school’s team is doing. And that’s when something weird happens: Storey smiles for the first time during the event. It’s not the typical reaction for a skier having her worst race to date; however, it compelled Storey forward that day, ultimately placing 12th.

“It was my tip-off to college skiing and a complete, I can’t say ‘shit show,’ but it was a shit show,” she laughs, recalling the race. “[But] I remember that being such a motivator to me. I loved hearing that everyone else was having good races.”

Storey, now a senior and team captain for women’s Nordic, does better when her teammates do well. It’s an odd mindset for a race where the girls on her team are also her competition, yet her rankings seem to prove the enigma. The Sun Valley-native has only gotten better from that first Colorado invitational, winning five All-Americans at the NCAA championships, with four podium finishes, two first-team RMISA placements, and a solid record that rarely dips below the top ten. And that’s just a small sample of her accolades.

Though her record has gotten increasingly better, her mindset has been unwavering. Ask Storey, age 21, what her biggest motivation is, and her first reply is always: “my team.” It’d be a feat to get a different answer.

“I really like to push myself for them,” she says, flipping her long brown ponytail behind her shoulder.

The mentality is expected in a sport where players work together for the win, but in Nordic skiing, Storey could easily get edged out from the NCAA championships by her own teammates. Sitting in her office at the Huntsman Center, Holt says the U’s racers are some of Storey’s “stiffest competition” this year. Her silver watch slides down her arm as she describes how Storey often comes in second or third to her own teammates, such as sophomore Veronika Mayerhofer, who won the 5k Nordic national title last season.

Storey’s tendency to celebrate the team over her own individual accomplishments is deeply rooted, however, and not likely to change soon. It’s a way of thinking that stems largely from her family life and upbringing in Hailey, Idaho, where her parents and all four of her siblings — all older than her — skied.

Her sister, Elitsa Storey, had one of the bigger impacts. Storey’s parents adopted Elitsa, then age five, from an orphanage in Bulgaria after having three boys. She was missing joints in her right knee, and when Gary and Janis Storey brought her to the U.S., doctors suggested amputating the limb. They said she’d be more capable with a prosthetic leg — and they weren’t wrong. Elitsa learned to ski by seven years old and qualified for the U.S. Paralympics alpine ski team by age 16, later competing in Torino and Vancouver.

Storey was inspired by her sister’s attitude, crediting Elitsa, now 27, for leading her into the sport and giving her an early example of success to follow.

“She never ever felt bad for herself, never thought she couldn’t do anything,” she says. “That relays straight to me, where I have no disabilities of any sort. I can have no excuses to ever be lazy. She’s just a super positive, happy person that showed me that the love of the sport is what would carry me farther.”

Elitsa, Storey’s closest sibling in age, taught her to be a good winner and a humble loser, to celebrate the accomplishments of her team, and to never take skiing too seriously. And she’ll be there to cheer Storey on when she finishes her college season this March in the same place it started: the Colorado racetrack where she broke two poles but didn’t get last place. Holt says the team will bring a special “Sloan pole supply” for the occasion, as she’s broken about 13 since then.

Her mantra, though, might be a little different. “Just get first,” Storey hopes — both for herself and especially for her teammates.




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Keep your gear ready to ride

It’s winter time again in Utah — snow has covered the mountain peaks, the mornings start with a skiff of snow on cars, and the air is quiet. This all means one thing: it’s time to hit the slopes.

Because winter sport equipment is so expensive, it would be illogical to purchase new gear each season, so it’s important to maintain the integrity of your boards. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wax your skis or snowboard and keep them ready to ride any time.

Step 1­—Start by identifying where rocks have encountered the base of your boards. Such encounters range from minor scratches that are barely visible to major scratches that have actually removed part of the base layer. Don’t worry yet, though, because all of these can be fixed.

Step 2—Use a coarse-cut file to grind out the flaws in the metal edges. This will help sharpen and keep your skis or board gripping the snow even on the iciest of conditions. Place the file at a 45-degree angle from the board’s base and move it repeatedly from tip to tail. Repeat the motion at only an arm’s length to allow adequate pressure to grind away at the flaws in the metal edges. To sharpen the edges perpendicular to the base you’ll need to orient the board on the side and repeat the use of the file. After the metal edges have been ground down, you’ll know when it is sharp enough by brushing your finger on the edge — if some of your fingernail remains, it is sharp and ready to wax.

Step 3—Before you wax the base, you’ll need to fix any core shots or deep grooves on your skis or board. To fix the gouges, get a stick of P-tex plastic that matches the color of your base (generally either black or clear). Get a lighter and catch the end of the P-tex stick on fire. Hold the P-tex stick with the flaming end about an eighth of an inch above the defect. The melted P-tex will heat up the defect and will drip in to fill the void. Once it dries you can blow out the burning end of the P-tex and use a metal scraper to remove any excess.

Step 4—Using a brass or metal brush, you’ll want to first remove any built-up wax from last season. Do so by brushing from tip to tail and pressing firmly down to allow the bristles of the brush to remove the wax. Repeat until the brush doesn’t remove any wax from the base. After this, you’ll repeat the same step using a nylon brush.

Step 5—Press your desired temperature glide wax into a ski iron, allowing the hot surface to melt the wax while dripping onto the board. Move the iron and wax quickly over the base of the ski to allow for adequate coverage of the melted wax. After the wax has cooled on the board, press the iron flat on the base and allow the wax to completely melt. Once it has melted, slowly move the iron from tip to tail to smooth out the wax on the base. Do this three times, each time moving more quickly from tip to tail. Be sure not to hold the iron in the same place for too long because you can damage the internal structure of the skis or board.

Step 6—Using the plastic scraper, scrape the excess wax off of the bottom of your ski or board. Do so by angling the scraper at a 45-degree angle from the base and pressing firmly while moving from top to bottom.

Step 7—Using the nylon brush, remove the excess wax that wasn’t removed from scraping by brushing. Again, move from tail to tip. Repeat a few times until you don’t see any more wax being brushed away. Next, using a fine horse hair brush, repeat the same step. Once that is complete, you’ll be ready to go back on the slopes with ultra-sharp edges and a silky smooth base.



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Backpacking trips for the beginners and the experts

It’s so hard to compile a list of any “bests” in the Wasatch. I’ve had the pleasure of growing up in the Salt Lake Valley with Mount Olympus, Twin Peaks, and Lone Peak providing a wonderful backdrop to my daily routine. As I’ve immersed myself more and more into backpacking and climbing, an entire world has been opened up to me, and I’ve realized that of all the uncertainties in life, one thing is definite: The Wasatch Mountains are pretty rad.

With that being the case, there are a lot of “bests,” no matter your chosen form of recreation. In this list of the best backpacking locations in the Wasatch, I’ve decided to only include two entries: a relatively beginner trip for quick after-work expeditions and a formidable ascent into the heart of our local mountains.

1. Willow Heights

Have you ever woken up to a fantastic view of a serene lake? I don’t even know why I asked that question. If you have, you probably want to go back, and if you haven’t, you should join in on this sacred practice. Willow Heights is a relatively easy beginner trail with one of these notable and worthwhile destinations.

The trailhead is located only about a third of a mile east of Silver Fork Lodge on the north side of the road. As you hike, you’ll find yourself meandering for three quarters of a mile through aspen groves, rising less than 700 feet in the process. The best part of the whole trail, though, is Willow Heights, the beautiful alpine lake at the end. This makes for a perfect place to spend the night and an even better view to wake up to the next morning. Keep a lookout for moose and other local wildlife.

As is usual in our local canyons, remember that you’re in a watershed area, so always be sure to camp at least 200 feet from the water and trail, pack in what you pack out, and don’t bring your dogs along for the hike.

2. Lone Peak Cirque via Jacob’s Ladder

All around, this is a tough one. Right off the bat, the Jacob’s Ladder trailhead is tricky to find (including clear directions in this article would simply take up too much room). Once you do arrive at your destination, you’ve got quite the hike ahead of you. At more than six miles long and more than a mile (5,650 feet) in elevation gain, this destination is for the experienced backpacker only.

The trail starts out in relatively bland frontcountry but then explodes into a wonderful alpine haven after 9,000 feet. Every time I visit, I can’t help but think I’ve been transported into the Sierras. Camp in the pine trees that arise at around 10,000 feet and enjoy the night surrounded by serene wilderness. Wake up the next morning to finish the hike to the summit, or just lounge about and watch climbers as they ascend the renowned 600 foot granite faces. I’ve honestly never been to a place so close to home that I love so much. Easily my personal favorite hike and backpack trip in all the Wasatch.

Final note: As we move later into the year, it is important to note that most, if not all, trails in the Wasatch are growing more and more technical. As temperatures drop and snow falls, it would be completely foolhardy to not bring appropriate insulation and food, as well as proper tools for traveling on snow. Additionally, please do not travel in the backcountry without knowledge of the terrain through which you are traveling, especially if there is a risk of avalanches. We are very lucky to be living so close to such an amazing locale, let us do our part to keep it clean and keep ourselves safe to experience it another day.




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Stop to see the sunset

Sunsets over the Salt Lake Valley are one of my favorite parts of living here. The warm oranges and deep pinks blending in the sky are enriching, and basically any place you are in the Wasatch Range will be absolutely breathtaking as the sun goes down at night. Some of my favorite places all have stunning vantage points.

There are two ways to fully grasp the beauty of a sunset: one is to face the sun as it goes down, revealing unforgettable silhouettes, and the other is to have your back to the sun and see the colors that come alive in the scenery behind you. In the Wasatch, both live up to the full potential.

Shoreline Trail

My top spot to see the sunset is on the Shoreline Trail, where you can catch the silhouette of the Utah Capitol Building and a small shimmer of the Great Salt Lake. It always puts a smile in my face as I see the sky light up with such vibrant colors.

Snowbird Resort

My second favorite place to catch the last rays of sun is at Snowbird Resort. The best spot is either at the top of the tram or at the base. As the light begins to fade, it bounces around Little Cottonwood Canyon, bringing out all the beautiful colors of the rock. If you have a chance to experience this, I would highly recommend it.

Mount Olympus

The next-best location to see the sunset is at the base of Mount Olympus. From this point of view, you can see why the peak gets its name from Greek mythology. The huge rock face of the mountain and the surrounding cove truly lets you see the best shades of reds and oranges.



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Embrace your inner mountain goat with three Wasatch hikes

When I was a kid, my dad used to call me a mountain goat (it’s more endearing than it sounds).

We used to go on hikes all the time, and I’d easily run over the rocks and rubble of the trail to be the first to get to the top. My hiking boots, or hoofs, moved fast and smooth over any landscape (and my hair was just about as scraggly as my hoofed mammal friends).

Now, 10 years later, I’m a little less spritely but no less of a hiker. I love to hit the trails when I can, especially in the Wasatch. It’s a short drive from Salt Lake City that’s quickly rewarded with beautiful landscapes. Winding roads lead up aspen-filled canyons. Wildflowers coat the hillsides. And blue skies meet green pine trees as your feet meet the dirt trail.

To help you explore just how neat this nature is, I’ve compiled a list of the top three hikes in the Wasatch, best experienced by channeling your inner mountain goat, of course.

1. Bell Canyon

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 4.6 miles round-trip

Location: Mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon

This trail is fit for any hiker because there are so many options. First, there are two different trailheads. The one to the north inclines gradually while the one to the west shoots about 90 degrees uphill (you can guess which side is my favorite). Both meet at the Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir, a small and scenic lake. If you’re anything like me and find yourself with an overwhelming compulsion to fish whenever you happen upon a body of water, you’re in luck. The reservoir is stocked, and you can catch-and-release some nice cutthroat trout.

After that, to paraphrase Robert Frost, two roads diverge yet again, and you have to choose your own damn path. For an easygoing hike, I suggest walking the perimeter of the lake. It’s peaceful and fairly level. It’s also a fun place to watch a sunrise or sunset over Salt Lake Valley.

For the more adventurous folks, head up the path to the north of the reservoir to get to the waterfall. Be prepared, the trail inclines quickly and you need to carefully follow the signs. A friend and I once got lost temporarily on the hike. It was early spring and there was still some snow on the ground. To keep ourselves occupied until our group found us, we had an epic snowball fight — which is another great part of this trail. If you’re willing to get a little muddy in the early months, you can hike it most years from May to November.

I know you’re a mountain goat now, but once you reach the waterfall, don’t get too close to the edge. The rock can be slippery and the perch is pretty high up. Just sit back and enjoy the exceptional Wasatch scenery surrounding you. When you’re done, head back down the same way you came up.

2. Albion Meadows

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 3 miles round-trip

Location: Little Cottonwood Canyon

Do you know the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are”? Well, this hike is kind of like that, except it’s more of a “Where the Wildflowers Are” with no scary monsters.

The best time to head up to Albion Meadows is June through August, when red Indian Paintbrush, blue Wasatch Penstemon, and small yellow sunflowers pepper the hillsides. But the hike, nestled next to Alta Ski Area, is really a fun retreat anytime when there’s not snow.

The wide, meandering trail generally rambles along, with the exception of a couple steep spots — thankfully the view makes it so it doesn’t feel like exercise. Everything is lush and green, with denser patches of pine trees the higher up you get. At times the trail opens up for a wide view of mountain peaks; at others it navigates tightly through the forest with an all-around magical experience for both hikers and bikers.

The Albion Meadows trail connects to a couple hikes, notably Cecret Lake and Catherine’s Pass. If you’ve got the time, make a day of it and explore some of these options. This area is also prime moose country, so keep your eyes peeled (it is a distant relative of the mountain goat, after all).

3. Silver Lake

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 0.8 mile loop

Location: Big Cottonwood Canyon

OK, so maybe some people don’t call this a hike — there is, admittedly, a boardwalk. But you can join me in telling those people to shut up. Silver Lake, situated by Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort, is a relaxing place to take a Sunday stroll, get out of the city, or escape the summer heat.

Maybe it’s because I’m neurotic, but I always have to start by heading to the right, counterclockwise around the lake. You can do as Fleetwood Mac says and ‘go your own way,’ but my route leads you directly into the action (as much action as possible for this mellow hike, of course). There are tall willows on this side where you can sometimes spy a moose.

After a few hundred yards, before the boardwalk wraps tighter to the lake, you should see a dirt trail leading up a small hill. Follow this, and you’ll stumble into what I like to call Utah’s own “Avenue of the Giants,” where tall aspens tower overhead — perfect to visit in the fall when the leaves turn yellow. You can either keep following this path to reach another small lake or turn back to finish the loop around Silver Lake.

There are plenty of benches along the trail to unwind and watch wild ducks move across the water. Double bonus: You can fish here, too.




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Camping in your Wasatch backyard

Camping is one of those great outdoor activities you can do year-round. Granted, it takes a little bit more experience and perseverance in the colder months, but it won’t be any less worth your while. Take a look at these three Wasatch campgrounds that show you some real outdoor hospitality.

Spruces Campground

Season Dates: May 27—Oct. 10

Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Spruces Campground is far enough away that you can feel like you’re experiencing the great outdoors but close enough to home that if you get scared of the dark it’s not a long trip back. The campsites are all nestled in a grove of shady spruce trees.

Spruces also has access to many trails, including Donut Falls. One of the great things about Spruces is that it stays open later than others, making it perfect for a Labor Day or Columbus Day getaway. It is also an optimal place to camp if you prefer to glamp rather than camp, as there are flush toilets in the outhouses and all the roads and parking areas are paved.

Albion Basin Campground

Season Dates: July 22—Sept. 4

Albion Basin Campground sits at the very top of Little Cottonwood Canyon at 9,500 feet and overlooks the Alta and Snowbird ski resorts. Albion Basin sees a flourish of flora and fauna in the summer months and is famous for being an Eden from June through July and eerily gorgeous in the fall as the aspens begin to change color. There are also several hikes easily accessible from the campground.

Redman Campground

Season Dates: June 17—Sept. 4

Another popular Big Cottonwood Canyon camp area is Redman Campground. Because Redman is up the road from Spruces, it offers a little bit more solitude and a lot less traffic. Redman has much to offer to the eager outdoorsy college student. Nearby recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, and fishing, offer plenty of options for family fun or some solo adventure.




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