Cold weather is here — and lots of it — along with the early signs of cabin fever brought on by the feeling that there's nothing to do when temperatures drop.
Actually, Utahns and visiting guests are lucky in that there is a whole list of "things to do," many available only in a winter wonderland — among them skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
So, for those looking for ideas, here are a few:
This card is full. Individuals can do one or several activities, all with Olympic ties.
Among them are running ski gates, surfing in a halfpipe, racing the bobsled course, pushing a puck in hockey, sliding on the
belly for skeleton, throwing a stone on curling ice, sliding on skis on a cross-country course, and for a twist, shooting a rifle to make it a biathlon event.
There are four ski resorts in Utah offering gates and timing equipment for side-by-side racing. They are Brian Head, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbasin.
Individuals pay a fee, slide into the start gate and race for bronze, silver, gold or platinum medals.
Several resorts have halfpipes, but some skill on a snowboard is required.
There are a number of cross-country centers in Utah, but to add shooting, the only site is the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue in Midway. There are also tracks at Solitude, Bryce Canyon and in Park City, as well as a number of other ski areas.
The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation grooms hundreds of miles of packed tracks that are ideal routes for cross-country skiers.
The Ski Utah website gives information on conditions at cross-country centers, and the Division of State Parks and Recreation offers free maps and information on the location of groomed trails.
The track at the Utah Olympic Park offers bobsled rides and skeleton training throughout the winter. Reservation are required.
Skating rinks around the state offer everything from learn to skate or playing hockey lessons. The Utah Olympic Oval, once called "The Fastest Ice on Earth," gives skaters a chance to try speed skating. A number of rinks also offer curling instruction.
Utah is said to offer some of the best snowmobiling in the country because of its heavy snowfall and light snow.
The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation grooms more than 1,200 miles of trails throughout Utah. All of the trails lead to large expanses of open play fields as well as take riders into some incredibly beautiful country.
For those who don't own a machine, there are a number of rental operations scattered around the state. Some even offer guide service to novice riders and those unfamiliar with the area. The yellow pages are a great place to start looking for snowmobile operations.
Those going into the backcountry should check with the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center and should at all times carry avalanche safety equipment. Numbers for updated forecast conditions are 888-999-4019 for Utah areas and 800-648-7433 for the snowmobile hotline.
For information call 800-OHV-RIDE or visit www.stateparks.utah.gov
Winter fishing is a unique experience and, for some, as enjoyable if not more enjoyable than summer fishing. A good, solid sheet of ice allows anglers to go wherever they choose. All that's required is a hole in the ice, light fishing gear, warm clothing and patience. Oh, and a license. There's nothing quite like sitting in the center of a large reservoir on a sunny day, with not a hint of a breeze, no noise and a wonderland of white.
Streams and rivers are also running lower in the winter, which helps to concentrate fish.
Winter tackle is a little lighter than summer gear. That's because fish are a little more lethargic. Bites are less aggressive, more of a nibble than a strike. The catch rate can be as good and, in some cases, better than in the summer.
And, better yet, time of day isn't as important. In the summer, fish tend to hit best early and late in the day. In the winter, dinner hours are all hours.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offers a weekly report on fishing and ice conditions statewide. The Web address is www.wildlife.utah.gov/fishing
Tubing is nothing like it used to be. Now there are three sites in Utah were tubes and riders are pulled up the mountainside and then released down long, well-groomed and sometimes twisting routes.
The three are Soldier Hollow in Heber Valley, Gorgoza across from Jeremy Ranch and the hill at Brian Head Ski Resort.
Those who prefer to pull their own sleds or tubes need only find a slope only slightly longer than the radius of a tube. Nearby canyons and some parks offer sledding and tubing slopes.
Here again, before venturing on very steep slopes in the backcountry, it would be wise to check on avalanche conditions.
Utah has become a special place for birds, especially for such riveting figures as the bald eagles. It is estimated that as many as a thousand eagles fly from the North into Utah to winter.
A great place to see the majestic birds, bald and golden eagles, is along the eastern shores of the Great Salt Lake, which would include Bear River, Farmington Bay and Ogden bird refuges.
Hundreds of eagles arrive at the bird refuges about the same time as the snow. They come to feed on fish and waterfowl.
One of the best bird-watching sites in Utah is along the causeway to Antelope Island. Thousands of birds use the island's habitat and use it as a stopover on northern and southern flights.
For information on walking tours and birding locations, visit the Wasatch Audubon Society site at www.wasatchaudubon.org, the Ogden Nature Center at www.ogdennaturecenter.org and the Bear River Bird Refuge site at www.fws.gov/bearriver
Climbing walls are just what the name implies — a place where people can literally climb the wall.
Today, there are a number of climbing centers in Utah attracting everyone from elite climbers as well as beginner and novice climbers, and according to center managers, an increasing number of families.
Climbing walls come in various heights and difficulties. When climbing indoors, there are anchored ropes attached to a harness worn by the climbers. The other end of the rope is held by a second person. In case the climber falls, the rope stays secure and the climber is held suspended in place. The message instructors try to convey early on to new climbers is that even if they do let loose of the wall, all they need to do is relax and enjoy the feeling of weightlessness, "because you're not going to fall."
Each of the walls is dotted with handholds of different shapes, sizes and colors. On beginning routes, the holds are larger and easier to grasp and stand on. On more difficult routes, the holds are smaller, thinner and more difficult to reach.
For a list of indoor climbing centers visit www.indoorclimbing.com/utah.html
There are, in Utah, more than 130 museums giving information and presenting displays on various subjects, ranging from prehistoric to pioneers to modern times.
Many of the smaller communities throughout Utah have established museums related to their area. These would include such towns as Panguitch, Fairview, Brigham City, Heber, Hyrum, Layton and Parowan.
Then, of course, there are the larger sites like those at universities, those that focus on ancient history and those that focus on dinosaurs.
The Union Station Museum in Ogden, for example, has the world's largest and most historic locomotives, more than 100 Browning firearms, antique autos and precious gems.
The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi offers the world's largest display of mounted dinosaurs.
The Utah Museum of Natural History on the campus of the University of Utah offers paleontology exhibits that include mounted skeletons, a fossil mammal exhibit and an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient tribal cultures.
Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine Visitor Center presents a look at the history of mining and an overlook into open pit mining today.
There are also several museums under the umbrella of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, including the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park, which features among other things 18 life-size dinosaurs; the Anasazi State Park in Boulder, with a restored early dwelling; the Iron Mission State Park in Cedar City, which tells of the communities ties with iron; and the Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore, once the capital of Utah.
The objective hasn't changed. That is, knock down as many pins as possible with each roll of the bowling ball. Everything else, however, has.
There's no need to be embarrassed over math problems. There are no more pencils and scoring sheets, only buttons and a computer program that can add scores, show standing pins and, with the option on, advise the bowler where best to stand and release to pick up remaining pins.
New technology in bowling balls has also been credited with the fact that scores are higher these days.
And, for the young and the novice bowlers, bumper guards can now be put in place in front of the gutters so there are no more scoreless rolls.
Some centers have even gone to more colorful lanes. On cue, the main lighting system is turned off and bowlers roll in darkened conditions, illuminated only by strobes, neon and black lights, and all done to the sound of amplified music.
Look in the yellow pages for a bowling center nearby.
Winter is an excellent time to view wildlife. Often, larger animals like deer, moose and elk are pushed to lower elevations because of deep snow. It is a time, too, when animals congregate in large herds.
One of the very best viewing areas is Hardware Ranch east of Hyrum. There, in the winter, hundreds of elk gather in open feeding areas. The managing agency, the Division of Wildlife Resources, offers sleigh rides out into the midst of the gathered elk.
Antelope Island is another viewing site. On a leisurely drive people can see large herds of buffalo, an occasional coyote, a few antelope and maybe a deer. And, if they're lucky, a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
At the Middle Fork Wildlife Management Area near Huntsville, there's a good chance of seeing wintering elk, deer and moose.
On occasion it is possible to see Rocky Mountain goats at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. If there's snow on the ground, however, finding the white goats can be difficult if not impossible.
Deer and elk also winter along the road in Indian Canyon near Duchesne. Some of the best viewing is January through March.
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For those who wish to get out of town and into a little warmer weather, consider Utah's national and state parks in the southern area of the state.
Popular state parks to the south include Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab; Dead Horse Point near Moab, Edge of the Cedars near Blanding, Escalante Petrified Forest near Escalante, Goblin Valley north of Hanksville, Goosenecks near Blanding, Gunlock near Hurricane, Kodachrome Basin near Cannonville and Quail Creek, Snow Canyon, Sand Hollow and Gunlock near St. George.
All of Utah's national parks are in the southern section. They include Bryce, Zion, Canyon Lands, Capitol Reef and Arches.