Bryce Canyon Winter Festival great article from last spring

56 JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2010 Nordic family escape
By Lori LeeBryce Canyon
Winter Festival
y son is holding a bow and
arrow, pulling the string back
like he knows what he’s doing,
pointing it at the target across the fi eld of
snow. I’m a little proud. He looks capable
and engaged, his little 8-year-old arms
all snug in his puffy coat while he eyes
down the view and lets the arrow fl y.
To participate in the biathlon at the Bryce
Canyon Winter Festival at the mouth of
Bryce Canyon National Park each February,
one must fi rst take the archery clinic.
There is no charge and the classes fi ll
fast, but that’s what the festival is about:
families, learning, promoting Nordic
skiing, biathlon and winter recreation.
For the past 24 years, Ruby’s Inn and a
host of Utah volunteers, including wellknown
sponsors like REI, Wasatch Touring,
Dixie National Forest, Bryce National
Park and Red Feather Snowshoes, have
made this a vibrant Winter Festival. The
yearly schedule is fl uid, but clinics like
Beacon Rescue, Cross-Country Skiing for
Beginners, Watercolor Painting, Astronomy
Through the Ages, Archery and Morning
Yoga commonly fi ll the docket. Ranger-
guided snowshoe treks and, of course, the
biathlon races bring families year after year
to play in a land with 30-50 kilometers of
groomed trails and gorgeous overlooks
into Bryce Canyon itself. And, believe
it or not, there is no charge for anything
but the races, and the race fee is only
$10. What a wonderful way to intro-
duce my kids to new types of winter
fun, exercise and the national parks.
Saturday, we jockey for position during
clinic sign ups. We take a Nordic ski
clinic — learning how to get into the
skis, how to turn in them, how to ski
in them — then we head out across
the tundra. Falling occurs, giggling can
be heard, the clinic is full of people
from beginners to intermediate skiers.
Absorbed by our skiing, we nearly miss
the archery clinic (which we sneak into),
then hit a snowshoe trail or two inside
Bryce. The biathlon racers are prepping
and getting ready for tomorrow’s race.
On Sunday afternoon, the kids beg out
of another activity — they’re tired after
the previous day’s excursions on Nordic
skis and snowshoes — so my man and
I steal away to Bryce Overlook, don our
snowshoes and drop a mile into Bryce’s
most well-known trail: Under the Rim.
The clean, white, snow parts beneath
our snowshoes as we make shortcuts and
slide down the powder fi elds into the
giant, colored amphitheatre. The orange
spires and hoodoo circles surround us
and hold the snow like bright-colored
soldiers standing above, below and
around each corner. The snow swallows
any sound and during winter crowds are
non-existent. The silence of just the two
of us in this magic world angling our
snowshoes, fi nding our path, sitting in
the snow to talk before returning to the
chaos of kid-energy, holds the reward I
look for when I visit our national parks:
magnifi cent beauty, experience and awe.
To tell you the truth, it wasn’t all easy-
peasy bliss. The kids showed a bit of
laziness. Eleven-year-old Rylee had to be
carried up the trail; her feet, still in snow-
shoes, fl opping down her dad’s back. The
challenge of trying to discourage them all
from watching too much TV in the motel
room and seeking creative food choices
(buying boxed chicken from the store
and cooking it in the microwave) because
there is only one restaurant in the area
during the winter. In frustration, I fi nally
stormed from the motel room announc-
ing I was going to go cross-country ski
without those lazy, TV-loving buggers.
In hindsight, those are all part of the
great memories that make up the story
and cause me to smile: kids will be kids,
parents are motivators, families overcome
challenges on vacations, and really,
if the kids had wanted to snowshoe
Sunday afternoon, my man and I would
not have had that long, peaceful and
private snowshoe. Let the kids watch TV!
Though exploring Bryce Canyon seems
like a natural summer endeavor, winter,
especially during this annual winter
festival, is a hidden gem of an excursion.
The stunning geological panoramas
blaze even louder in the snow. With the
right winter clothes and a warm, sunny
day, it’s every bit as pleasant — for the
whole family. And, it’s all about family:
the joy, the memories, the microwave
chicken, the clamoring to sign up for
clinics, the tired kids, the escapes with
someone special and watching my son
pull back that bow to the full extent of
his little arms to let that arrow fl y. May
his arrows always go swift and far.
For information on the 2010 Winter Festival,
which will be held February 13, 14 & 15,
contact Ruby’s Inn at or
800-468-8660. Rental gear is available for
those who need it. All events are free unless
indicated. Ruby’s Inn provides affordable
lodging in the center of all the events.

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