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Utah Travel Headlines

Tuesday, January 31, 2006’s Take on Sundance has posted an interesting look back at the just-concluded Sundance Film Festival, with these kickers:

“Park City, Utah, returns to normal as contracts are signed, prizes are handed out and stars head home."

“Steve Carell Comedy, Iraq Documentary Are Sundance's Big Winners”

Read the complete article

Friday, January 27, 2006

Little Moments Make Sundance Magical

The Sundance Film Festival winds down this weekend. It has been a great festival – plenty of razzle-dazzle – and some very good films.

The LA Times ran this interesting précis, which illuminates the core of the Sundance experience:

“It's really the little moments that make a place like the Sundance Film Festival so magical. You're walking down the street minding your own business and suddenly a burly man in a big down parka on a cellphone comes striding toward you. He's dropping the F-bomb over and over into the ear of whatever poor guy is on the other end.

”Just as you begin to think you are witnessing a truly ugly moment in the history of Hollywood thuggishness, you realize: Hey, that guy's Harvey Weinstein, the poster boy for brutish behavior. And you can die happy now. Your Sundance experience is complete.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ski Six Utah Resorts in One Day

ABC News recently ran an interesting story about Utah’s Interconnect adventure tour, which allows advanced skiers to ski six resorts in one day.

“The $175 trip through backcountry terrain, from resort to resort, draws 300 to 700 skiers a year. Every stop along the way gives skiers a chance to sample the unique atmosphere of each of the six resorts,” the article says.

Read the complete story.

Monday, January 23, 2006

St. George Winter Bird Festival

The St. George Winter Bird Festival runs Thursday-Saturday (Jan. 26-29) this week. It provides an opportunity for people to explore and learn about the many birding hot sports in the natural areas of southwestern Utah!

The festival includes field trips, presentations and workshops designed for both beginning and experienced birders. It is centered in Tonaquint Park.

More information: 435-634-5800 or

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Grand Staircase-Escalante’s Great Unknown

Calf Creek Falls
The St Louis Post Dispatch published this interesting travel feature on Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – the scenic, rugged, remote area sandwiched between southern Utah’s national parks and play areas.

The article provides great descriptions of some of the monument’s attractions: Calf Creek Falls, the Burr Trail, and the slot canyons off Hole in the Rock Road.

The article also mentions a problem some have encountered using online travel planning services. The driving directions these services generate sometimes route travelers down the Cottonwood Canyon Road, and sometimes even the Smoky Mountain Road, into the remote, rugged heart of the monument.

The article includes this quote about truck drivers: "Mapquest will route them right through the heart of the monument, and not one has made it - every single one has had to be towed out," said Dave Hunsaker, who oversees the monument for the Bureau of Land Management.

People in rental cars also get into trouble on those roads. They are great roads for high clearance vehicles. During stormy weather you may need four-wheel-drive to get through.

BLM has contacted Mapquest and others, encouraging them to modify their recommended routes through this country. Today I did a quick test, requesting driving directions from Boulder, UT, to Page AZ. Mapquest kept me on the paved highways but MSN’s Maps and Directions routed me down the Cottonwood Road.

The article calls Grand Staircase-Escalante a “grand great unknown.” That’s a pretty good description. It’s a marvelous destination for people who like to explore off the beaten path.

But the 18-wheelers need to beware.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It’s Sundance Festival Party Time

It’s party time in Park City. The Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday and it always brings celebrities, fans and countless parties to Utah’s mountains.

The festival runs Jan 19-29. The latest weather report calls for snow off and on through the rest of this week. Skiing will be great but it may be tricky getting around town to festival events. Support crews will work double time keeping roads open and sidewalks clear. Participants are encouraged to use public transportation as much as possible, and to be patient. The best parking may be over at Deer Valley, where shuttles will take you to the events.

Crowds and traffic problems are an expected part of the festivities. Despite the congestion and weather, events take place with amazingly few problems. People are cooperative and even jovial. Fans are always on their best behavior, hoping they may get to help pull a glamorous actress out of a snow bank.

Grab a copy of the Sundance Film Festival Daily Insider for up to date info.

Is it too late to get tickets? No, there are still tickets available to some screenings. And you may even be able to see sold out shows if you get into the wait list line – there are almost always a few last minute openings.

Many festival screenings and events will be held in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. It is usually easier to get in on the Salt Lake action, and you don’t have to drive up the mountain.

Check the Sundance website for more details.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lake Powell – Bigger and Better

Several positive factors promise to make the upcoming season at Lake Powell one of the best ever. The lake’s level is good now and there has been abundant snowfall in the drainages that feed into the reservoir, so boating conditions will be excellent. And fishing will be spectacular, thanks to an improving food source for the lake’s game fish.

Start making arrangements now if you want to take a houseboat vacation on the big lake this summer. Houseboats will book faster than normal as people become aware of the great conditions at the lake.

Last year’s tremendous inflows raised the lake’s level by some 50 feet, eliminating virtually all of the problems caused during the previous years of drought. The lake level normally drops during the winter and early spring, but it has not dropped much this year. It looks like inflows will be above normal again this season and so the water level will continue to rise. Launch ramps will be in excellent shape and canyons that have not be boatable for some time will again be flooded by lake water.

This link goes to a snowpack report for the drainages above the lake.

Striped bass, smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and other sportfish are plentiful and fat – and getting fatter every day. This summer will bring excellent fishing – perhaps the best ever. The lake normally provides good fishing; now it may evolve into one of the best waters in the US for the species named above, thanks to the accidentally introduction of a new forage fish.

The sportfish in Lake Powell are fierce predators and fishing has been cyclic. The sportfish populations would grow until the predators overrun their prey, then populations of all species would decline until the forage fish have a chance to recover. But a few years ago gizzard shad were accidentally introduced into the San Juan River and they have made their way downstream into Lake Powell. Gizzard shad are prolific reproducers and the adults grow large enough that predators do not annihilate them. As a result, there is plenty of forage in the lake and the sport fish are growing fat.

This newspaper article describes the changing ecology at the lake.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists who manage the Lake Powell fishery expect exceptional fishing this year. Here is their spring forecast.

Yes, it is time to start planning a trip to Powell.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Utah Has Lowest Gas Prices In US

AAA reported today that the average price of gasoline in Utah is lower than anywhere else in the US.

The report said: “The lowest state-wide average gasoline prices in the nation are in Utah at $2.082 per gallon, followed by Idaho at $2.134 per gallon, and Wyoming at $2.149.”

“Statewide average prices are above $2.00 in every state with Hawaii having the highest price in the nation at $2.695 per gallon. States in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions have the next highest average prices. In New York the price is $2.534 today. In West Virginia the price is $2.445 and in Connecticut gasoline is averaging $2.437. Gasoline prices in California, which are often among the nation's highest, are averaging $2.356.”

Read the entire report.

But take a look at the weather report before heading out on that long drive. A major winter storm is expected to hit northern Utah this evening and continue into Wednesday morning. A winter storm warning is in effect for mountain areas. It is expected to dump on our ski areas.

Another storm is lined up to arrive this weekend, and it may push into southern Utah. Ski conditions should be great through the extended period.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Utah Skiing Is Best Ever Right Now

The snow is great, with new powder every 2-3 days. The facilities are superb – Utah’s resorts have never been in better shape. Record crowds showed up over the holidays but they have now gone home. The weather is pleasantly mild. Taken all together, right now is the best time ever to ski Utah’s slopes.

Last year was the best year in Utah skiing history. This is year on track to set another new record. Holiday bookings were up all around, and were up as much as 30% some places. We are on track to see a 3rd consecutive record for total skier days.

Perhaps even better, the quality of the experience on Utah’s slopes has never been better. More skiers, more snow, more facilities, and a better overall experience.

If you want a superb ski experience, get out here now.

On a side now, fire yesterday destroyed some condos at the Hellgate complex at Alta. If you are booked there, contact your agent to find out if you are affected. Here are details about the fire.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Bright Stars at Bryce Canyon

The Dallas Morning News online travel section today features Bryce Canyon National Park, under this headline:

Stars at night are big and bright in isolated Bryce Canyon

Writer Bob Downing notes the excellent stargazing opportunities at Bryce:

“Star-watchers at Bryce Canyon are typically able to view 7,500 stars at a time with the naked eye, three times what would be seen in the rural and dark Midwest.
“People near cities in the Midwest and East are able to see even fewer stars because of the urban lights that blot out sky objects.”

He describes Bryce as a photographer’s dreamland and recommends specific spots for great photos.

Wrote Downing: “This gawkers' park has a spectacular badlands landscape and is bewitching, enchanting and friendly, not intimidating. It's a land of details.”

Read the entire article.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New for Fishermen and Hunters

With the new year, people fishing and hunting in Utah need 2006 licenses. A change in Utah law means that most licenses will now be valid for a year from the date of purchase. In the past licenses have expired with the calendar year, regardless of when they were purchased. Here is more info about that change.

You can buy licenses online.

Fishing is good right now but conditions are not typical for a Utah winter. Very warm daytime temperatures are melting ice on some popular ice fishing reservoirs. Strawberry and other high-elevation waters have safe ice and offer good fishing. Mid-elevation waters may have unsafe ice. Many low-elevation waters are open and boat ramps are usable.

Our trout streams are in good shape and most offer great fishing right now. Conditions are more like late fall that mid-winter. On a warm afternoon it can be very pleasant fly fishing on the Provo, Green or other quality streams. Spin fishers are also doing well right now.

Ask the guys in the tackle shops for the latest info on areas you may want to fish. DWR also offers weekly fishing reports.

Me? I’m going to shove my boat out on Jordanelle Reservoir and troll for tout. It should be really nice, with 51 degree temperatures forecast for Saturday afternoon in northern Utah.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wandering around Behind the Rocks

By Dave Webb

I’m loving this mild mid-winter weather. We’ve got plenty of snow at the ski resorts and on the snowmobile trails but green grass in the valleys. Some northern Utah golf courses are open and playable. And southern Utah is often sunny, with perfect temperatures for hiking and biking. In my opinion, we couldn’t have it better.

During late December the Christmas bustle and a big project at work were significantly cutting into the recreational activities that help me stay sane. I was getting a bit stir crazy and decided I needed a little red rock therapy. I headed to Moab for a few days between Christmas and New Years and had great fun exploring an area known as Behind the Rocks.

Behind The Rocks is one of Utah's last great unspoiled places, where you can wander to your heart’s content. It is located behind the rocky rim southwest of Moab, just a stones throw from town but essentially a million miles away.

Behind The Rocks offers about 50 square miles where there are no trails, no human footprints, no people. You can wander all day without seeing or hearing anything related to humans, except the plumes left by jets high in the sky above.

If you are goal-oriented, intent on hiking to a specific destination, this isn't the place for you. Oh, there are plenty of things to see here - slickrock fins and domes, arches, Indian rock art and ruins, dinosaur tracks - that kind of stuff. But you can't just hike to them. The environment forces you to wander.

Why can't you just hike straight to the neat stuff? No guidebooks, at least that I have found, describe routes to these places. The guidebooks describe what a neat area it is, and give general information about the kinds of things that can be found there, but they don’t describe trails to destinations. Perhaps that’s because there are no trails. The fins tend to block direct movement through the area, spreading hikers out and inhibiting trail formation.

Why is such a scenic, interesting area, so close to civilization, still unspoiled? Because access is extremely difficult. It's darn difficult to get into the area and darn hard to get around once you get in.

If this kind of wild adventure appeals to you then come on, join the Corps of Discovery and start wandering around.

My hike took me through the north portion of Behind the Rocks. The sky was mostly cloudy, the sun breaking through occasionally, and the air temperature was in the upper 40s. Great hiking weather. The absolutely best time to hike here is in early spring and late fall. Summers are very hot with little shade.

You’ll have to backpack if you want to explore much of this area, but backpacking is difficult because there are no reliable water sources. There may be a few potholes with water for short times after storms but there are no springs or streams. Rugged canyons cut into the area and water flows through them, 1,000 feet below you, at the bottom of sheer cliffs where it can do you no good.

We hiked in via the Hidden Canyon Trail, which snakes up the rim, crosses Hidden Valley and then ends on the edge of Behind the Rocks. The trailhead is located off US 191 just south of town. A small sign marks the turnoff. I’m not going to attempt to give specific hiking instructions. If you want to explore this area you need a good map, good scrambling skills and the confidence to go it alone.

Three jeep trails approach the area and can be used for access: the Moab Rim Trail on the northeast, the Pritchett Canyon Trail on the west and the Behind the Rocks Trail on the south. I recommend you hike up these trails – don’t try to drive them. Even veteran jeepers with modified vehicles hesitate to drive these trails because they are so rough. One guidebook said this about the Pritchett Trail: “As the trail grows tougher vehicles should have at least one locking differential, and drivers should be mentally prepared for the possibility of vehicle damage.”

It’s a fun area, great for wandering.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Storms Dump Heavy Snow on Utah

Heavy snow blanketed Utah’s high country over New Years weekend, creating excellent ski conditions. Park City picked up 26 inches of new snow over a 48-hour period. The snow has created a high avalanche danger in backcountry areas. Avalanche control work is performed continuously at developed ski resorts and they are safe. People venturing out of bounds at the resorts or into the backcountry face hazardous conditions.

You can see resort snow totals here.

A little more snow is expected Wednesday. Mild temperatures are expected to continue over the region. Warm temperatures may increase the avalanche danger during the next few days.

Here’s the Utah Avalanche Center’s summary for today for the Wasatch Mountains:

"The avalanche danger is HIGH today especially in upper elevation wind loaded terrain. Human triggered avalanches have the potential to be very large and unsurvivable. With these large avalanches likely, you need to stay out of runout zones as these slides could travel thousands of feet in elevation. People without excellent avalanche and route finding skills are urged to stay out of the high country today."

Always check the current forecast for the area you plan to visit.
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