Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Cross country skiing: Exploring a hidden treasure at Bryce

February 1, 2010, 10:30 am

The winter scenery in Utah's highest-elevation national park will take your breath away. But, unlike the summer months, you can't count on another visitor being around to take your picture with the famous hoodoos in the background.

The park is pretty quiet in the winter months, but visitors seeking even more solitude can click into a pair of cross-country skis and glide along the Bryce Canyon rim for a unique experience.

"The canyon is fantastic and even more beautiful in the winter with the snow on the cliffs. There was no one around; we felt like we had the place to ourselves," said Paul Corvi of San Francisco, who visited the national park in January with his wife, Rosalinda.

The Corvis were on a winter drive from their residence in California to Arizona to visit family and had thrown their cross-country skis in the van just in case they found somewhere to use them. They inquired about skiing while visiting Zion National Park, but were told their best bet to cross-country ski a national park in Utah was Bryce.

The Corvis are among many guests who are amazed to hear about the possibility of gliding through the forest on the rim of Bryce Canyon.

"A lot of folks are surprised by the snow in general when they arrive here in the winter," said Mark Hnat, deputy chief ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park. "They think we are so close to the desert and so close to lower elevations that we wouldn't get enough snow for skiing."

In fact, the snowfall at Bryce varies so much from winter to winter that there are some years when skiing can't be accomplished at the national park. But, more often than not, there is enough snowfall to sneak at least one touring trip in each year.

When snow is less than a foot deep, the Fairyland and Paria roads are the only possible ski routes in the park, but there is also a groomed track for skiing at the nearby Ruby's Inn in Bryce Canyon City. If you show up at Bryce and don't have skis, but are enticed to take a turn, rentals are available at Ruby's Inn.

There are no permits required for day skiing, but if you plan on spending the night in the backcountry on skis, a permit is needed.

The ski trails are pretty obvious unless there has been a serious dump, and it is best to follow the existing track when possible. People are allowed to venture off the beaten path if they like, but don't get visions of playing slalom racer in the hoodoos.