Desert dwellers who never have considered snow Utah's greatest attraction have found new expression of a simmering disdain for the state's official "Ski Utah" decorative license plates.
Some Moab residents have enthusiastically embraced "Ski Moab" T-shirts, a local artist's parody on the ski theme and northern Utah's panting pursuit of the winter Olympics.The T-shirts, by Dutch Walker, integrate desert elements with snow: a fat-bellied petroglyph figure in full ski gear racing down the snow-capped slope of Delicate Arch while an incredulous mountain goat gazes from below.
Above the scene are the words "Ski Moab." Below, "Petrolympics 1988-89."
Walker, who copyrights his work under the pseudonym "Rock Hart," created the logo with Eric Witte, another local artist, during one of those dog days of July, when snow is only a happy thought.
"Eric suggested the idea, which I immediately loved because it was so absurd," said Walker, who began designing comic T-shirts based solely on petroglyph themes last month. "I immediately envisioned it, I knew what it would look like on the T-shirt and I loved it. Delicate Arch is the most well-known arch, and just the idea of somebody skiing down Delicate Arch was just so off the wall, I just loved the idea.
"It's like being down in Yuma and saying `Ski Yuma,' or `Ski Death Valley,' " he said.
Walker's car has "Ski Utah" license plates, which feeds a mild cynicism he feels about northern Utah, shared by others involved in Moab's tourist trade.
The artist believes that, as far as the northern end of the state is concerned, Utah ends at Salt Lake's southern border.
"See, how I look at it, Utah is around Salt Lake someplace and I'm over here," Walker said. "I know it's Utah, but I really don't think about (it being) Utah until I get around Salt Lake.
"They can say what they want to over there; we'll be what we want to over here," he said. "I'd just as soon Moab be in Colorado anyway."
One thing Salt Lake does not have is the Indian rock art on sandstone walls.
Walker incorporated into his "Ski Moab" T-shirt what he considers the most humorous and colorful of the petroglyphs, the Kokopelli, along with a trademark desert sun symbol seen on all but two of his designs.
A flute-touting backpacked figure pecked into numerous rock panels throughout the Four Corners region, the Kokopelli is widely believed to have been an ancient Indian fertility symbol.
"I chose this one because he was a fat one," Walker said. "The idea of a fat little roly-poly Kokopelli skiing down the arch just tickled me."
By mid-July, Walker was selling the "Ski Moab" T-shirts from a tepee he erected on Main Street to entice tourists looking for local novelties.
Of his 13 designs - featuring petroglyphs mostly in settings in Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, the Slickrock Bike Trail and Moab - "Ski Moab" was the biggest seller among locals and also impressed foreign buyers, Walker said.
"Many Germans and French have bought my T-shirts, and I love the idea my T-shirts will be seen in Stockholm and Hamburg," he said.
Recently the tepee came down, mainly because of searing heat and thunderstorms that dictated an erratic operating schedule.