Bryce in winter looks just like the calendar photos of "Bryce in Winter."
No trick photography here. No filtered lenses.In real life the colors are just as they are on the calendars. Bryce Canyon National Park is brighter than a child's crayons: red and yellow spires, white snow, blue sky.
President's Day weekend is an especially festive time to visit. That's when the Garfield County Travel Council and Ruby's Inn sponsor the annual Winter Festival, with cross-country ski races and clinics, ski archery competition, snow sculpture contest, children's events, park tours, photography clinics, a dance and an archaeology presentation. This year the archery competition is set for Feb. 17 and the 10K cross-country race will be Feb. 18.
You don't have to confine yourself to the festival. Any winter day is a good day at Bryce. Cross-country skiers can usually find snow from December through mid-March. Annual snowfall averages 95 inches. If there is even an inch of snow you can ski at Bryce Canyon.
Most of the area's lodges and motels stay open during the winter - sporting off-season rates. Some motels have fireplaces and hot tubs. A room for two runs about $35 a night. Recreation is a bargain, too. There's no charge to ski on 25 kilometers of groomed track at Ruby's Inn Nordic Center. Ruby's Inn lodge, store and restaurant are just over a mile from the park's north boundary and their track connects with miles of ski-packed trails in Bryce National Park. There, the skiing is also free.
Whether you are on skis or on foot (you can borrow snowshoes, free, from the visitor's center in the park) you won't want to miss the park's Rim Trail. Views abound.
If you have snowshoes or skins for your skis, you'll definitely want to take one of the steep trails to the bottom of the park. One good trek starts at Fairyland point. It's an 8-mile loop (don't be confused, there's a Fairyland ski loop on top, too) winding down, down, down through the fanciful formations.
The scenery that you admired from the rim is even more striking from the canyon floor. Harsh winter sun streaks the rocks. Then the wind blows clouds across the sky, and shadows turn the sandstone from yellow to purple.
You can glide for hours along the canyon floor, alone except for the birds that sweep and float along the canyon's edge.
If it's your first time, you'll wonder why you never came to Bryce in the winter before. "Bryce in winter is a well-kept secret," says Jean Seiler, who does marketing for Ruby's Inn. "A lot of people don't even know the park stays open after November."
Ruby's Inn acts as a clearing house for reservations and rates for lodging in the area. It can also tell you about snow conditions. Call toll-free: 1-800-444-6689. "If the skiing isn't good that means the hiking and mountain biking are," says Seiler.