Nine ways to celebrate your inner snowman.
For many Utahns, winter is a time to snuggle up in sweaters and fend off freezing temps. For others, it’s about bundling up and heading out to mingle with a community of your ilk, celebrating winter’s grip. The demand for fringe and destination festivals has boomed in recent years. From Burning Man-style bonfires to outdoor sports to gatherings of friends to mark the season, Utah winters abound with community events and holiday productions. Here are nine festivals that cross the state and are well worth the trek, offering community connections, a chance to commune with nature and the opportunity to give to charity. Go, get out and play, and avert FOMO.
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
(Feb. 17-19, 2018)
Winter camping, anyone? This Southern Utah festival has us dreaming of carved hoodoos dusted with snow. Bryce as a festival setting boasts some of nature’s best architecture and diversity. The three-day celebration goes on, regardless of weather, catering to outdoor lovers of all stripes. One of winter’s best-kept secrets, the event includes kayaking, snowshoeing, ice fishing, archery biathlons, kids’ camps, leather making and nature photo workshops. Book your reservations. Ruby’s Inn, 26 S. Main, Bryce Canyon, 866-866-6616.
Park City Snowfest
(Dec. 16-31, 2017)
Park City Snowfest provides wild winter outdoor recreation with plenty of festival perks. Multi-generational crowds show up for 16 days of holiday activities, including “Santa Comes Down Town Lift,” a torchlight parade and New Year’s Eve fireworks. Immerse yourself in sound with a generous calendar of DJs, acoustic duos and energetic musicians playing funky après beats. Get your festi-feet dancin’ at the ugly sweater party, or try out s’mores and making snow angels with the kids. Ski patrol is on hand, with costumed cowboys, and daily musicians—just oodles of things to do. This event turns 55 this year, so, if you’re into tradition, celebrate! 435-649-8111.
Bluff Winter Solstice Festival
(Dec. 21, 2017)
If you’re looking to play with fire and soak up local tradition, ring in the Solstice near Bear’s Ears Butte. Bluff’s Solstice celebration commences with a light parade and climaxes with a bonfire of burning animal totems. Locals spend days designing intricate animals of willow and sage for the festival. Past bonfires have included representations of mammoths, herons and bison. Locals and visitors cheer around the bonfire, while many await the magic hour to gaze upon the brilliant glow of sunrise on the bluff. Rock the Solstice like the Ancestral Puebloans: Stay and appreciate Native American culture, monuments and history. Local artists present their works, along with classes where you can learn how to make your own animal totem. Utah Canyon Country, 800-574-4386.
DNR State Parks WinterFests
Wasatch Mountain State Park (435-654-1791), East Canyon State Park (801-829-6866) and Bear Lake State Park (435-946-3200) host a trifecta of winter festivals. You can free your spirit snowmobiling and tubing at East Canyon (date TBA), or on January 20, snowshoe and rent fatty bikes at Wasatch Park. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway, live it up at Bear Lake State Park on January 27 and stand with Common Ground charity that provides year-round outdoor rec. Take the monster plunge and dive into frigid waters, or dip your net for cisco fish with the sunrise cisco disco. Plenty of product demos are available for all ages. Find lodging options on the park’s website. Marina fees waived for Bear Lake festival-goers.
Moab Skinny Tire Festival
(March 10-13, 2018)
Grab your National Park pass and channel your inner Armstrong to celebrate Spring 2018, all while passing through Utah’s iconic national parks. March’s cooler weather makes it perfect for road biking and body conditioning. You’ll ride through Deadhorse Point, Arches National Park, Colorado River Corridor and the River Portal Route. Moab’s festival showcases true environmental stewardship and community support by promoting leave-no-trace events and supporting charities. Registration fees range from $150-$190, with $25 going to cancer-survivor programs. Bonus: you can ship your own bike there and have it reassembled. Aarchway Inn Hotel, 1551 U.S. 191, Moab, 435-259-2599.
Banff Mountain Film Fest
(Feb. 15-March 5, 2018)
Need to be inspired by pioneering outdoorsmen and -women? The Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity has you covered taking its extreme adventure and sport films on the road. With screenings set in Logan, Ogden, Orem and Salt Lake, you can view, front and center, ground-breaking expeditions, without boundaries or gender bias. Get involved, feel alive or maybe submit your own radical reel. Be part of a global audience. Stay tuned for 2018 dates and featured films. Utah State University, 435-797-3264.
Delta Snow Goose Fest
(Feb. 23-24, 2018)
Cheer on the 3,000-mile journey of majestic snow geese as they descend on the Clear Lake Wildlife Area. The whoosh of wings and deep chattering of 10,000 migrating fowl provide the perfect location for a camera or video shoot. No need to trek into the wild to seek out wildlife—the birds come to you in just a couple hours’ drive from the city. Gather to celebrate with arts & crafts, a wild goose chase, skeet shoots and water plunges. Dress warm, stock up on hot toddies, and share a spotting scope with a Division of Wildlife Resources biologist. There is plenty to discover in Delta and at the Gunnison Bend Reservoir—including Little Sahara Sand Dune—so mark your calendar for this engaging event that’s free for all ages. At press time, the date is tentative. Gunnison Bend Reservoir, 435-864-4316.
Northern Utah Winter Faire
(Dec. 1-3, 2017)
Here, you’ll find a gathering of creativity and play that brings a winter fairytale to life with some unconventional costuming. Now in its fourth year, the faire pays tribute to bygone times with medieval sword fights and armed combat. Attendees deck themselves out in elaborate costumes portraying beloved characters. It’s a great way to blow up your Tumblr with cosplay photos. Fans can visit with Santa and participate in dancing, arts, crafts, classes, quests and more. Why hold out for summer festivals when you can get thee hence anon? Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 1100 West, Farmington.
Alta Torchlight Parade
(Dec. 31, 2017)
Alta’s mountain runs make this year-end celebration worth a festival mention. Join the parade. Grab your glow sticks, headlamps and torches and jump on the lift to ring in the New Year. Create memories as the glow descends the mountain like a wild flow of energy, meeting up with crowds on the plaza. All ages buzz around fire pits with hot cocoa and adult beverages. Bonuses include one of the area’s darkest skies in which to gaze at stars, easily accessible with a quick canyon drive. Bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight, all while nestled in the mountains as outdoor dance parties, fireworks and fun blow up all around you. Auld Lang Syne, my friends. Alta Ski Area, Little Cottonwood Canyon, 801-359-1078.