Plenty of people are busy planning their annual summer vacations to Bryce Canyon National Park. Others are already packing.
The annual Bryce Canyon Winter Festival is being held on Presidents Day weekend at Ruby's Inn, just outside of the park, and will be bustling with activities.
As the highest of Utah's national parks ranging from about 8,000 to more than 9,000 feet Bryce Canyon National Park is most often considered as a place to escape the summer heat, but the elevation also makes it a place to try winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Snow conditions can be sketchy some years, but there is usually enough to enable participation in winter activities. And Ruby's has added an ice skating rink to the mix this year.
Bryce Canyon officials allow skiing and snowshoeing in the park, but skiing is prohibited under the rim of the canyon. Grooming is not done in the park, but trails are typically broken by other skiers. Camping is allowed throughout the year at Bryce, but lodging facilities in the park are closed. Ruby's Inn not only provides lodging, but also has cross-country skis available for rental.
The keystone events of the Winter Festival occur on Presidents Day when a 2KM kids cross-country ski race and a 10KM free technique race are held on the groomed track at Ruby's Inn. Children who aren't quite ready for the ski race can compete in Kids Snowboot Races in several age divisions.
Another popular ski-related event is the archery 6KM biathlon, being held on the 19th this year. Got no archery equipment or never pulled back a bow? No worries, an archery clinic held on the 18th will be enough to prep anyone for the biathlon and a limited amount of archery equipment is available.
The wide-ranging and family-friendly activities of the festival include yoga sessions, kayaking demonstrations on the indoor pool, snowshoe tours, watercolor courses and photography workshops.
There is plenty to do at night as well.
The world-famous "Night Sky" of Bryce makes it one of the best places on the globe to observe stars, constellations and planets. The National Park Service provides two programs during the Winter Festival that are always packed.
"Bryce Canyon is the best place to see the stars any time of year. However, the cold and dry air of winter makes our world-class night sky especially beautiful," said head Dark Ranger Kevin Poe, who will present "Dark Wars" Dec. 18, followed with a telescope viewing event.
If you always had a hankering to learn Western dance styles, or just want to have fun watching the kids learn, head to Ebenezer's Barn and Grill on the 18th. After learning the basics, tear up the dance floor starting at 8 p.m.
Dawn Meehan is the featured guest speaker of the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival. Meehan will share her tales of competing in the television series "Survivor, South Pacific" Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Red Canyon Rooms.
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
Here's a taste of the events being held during the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival at Ruby's Inn, Feb. 18-20. New events will be added and more information on the existing events will be added leading up to the event and can be found online. On-site registration will be in the Red Canyon Rooms.
Basic morning yoga • 9 a.m.-10 a.m. daily. Open to everyone, from beginner to experienced yoga practitioner. Basic yoga is an introduction to Anusara Yoga, breathing techniques and beginning poses. Wear comfortable exercise clothing. Please bring your own mat and props if you have them. Bonnie and Larry O'Neil will teach the class. Bonnie is the Director of Fitness at the Cliff Spa at Snowbird, and has been a yoga practitioner for over 23 years. Larry is a Life Coach and has taught yoga to all levels for the past 11 years.
Kayaking demos • Feb. 19-20 Half hour sessions 10 a.m. to noon. First session limited to adults. Charlie Butler, co-owner of Wasatch Touring, along with his wife Karen and friends will help you stay afloat.
Crafts for kids • Check at registration.
Snowshow tours • 10 a.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Joe Rechsteiner of the Dixie National Forest will lead these tours into the ponderosa forests surrounding Ruby's Inn.
Ski clinics • with Lori Lange. CheckTimes at registration. Lori is former NCAA All-American Nordic ski racer. She has been a Nordic ski coach for Mount Bachelor Ski Foundation and Park City Nordic Ski Club.
Photo workshops • Lloyd Eldredge/Scott Eldredge, check at registration.
Photo contest • Details will be announced. The contest will include a category for video testimonials/commercials that can be used on Ruby's website and Facebook.
Watercolor classes • Brian Thayne will teach the basics of watercolor painting. Brian will do a watercolor demo on Saturday in Ruby's Inn Lobby. Stop by and watch the master at work. He will also have artwork displayed in the lobby. Brian will offer watercolor classes: one for adults and two for kids. The kids class is limited to 35 per class (one on Saturday and one on Sunday). For the kids classes, please sign up for only one class so everyone has an opportunity to paint. Brian's paintings reflect his world travel.
Archery biathalon •($10) Clinic Feb. 18, Race Feb. 19. Open to all ages and abilities. Entrants must participate in the Archery Clinic or demonstrate proficiency in archery. $10 entry fee includes a long sleeve T-shirt. Register Saturday from 2-8 p.m. or before 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. The kid's race for 12 & under starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday. The 6KM competition will follow. Limited equipment is available for use. Bring your own if you have it. Awards ceremony will be held in the Red Canyon Room at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Kids snowboot races • Feb. 20. Fun for kids. Bring your kids to the archery range area. Make sure they are wearing boots so they can run in the snow. This very short, fun race will be divided into several age groups.
Western dance instruction and family dancing • Feb. 18., 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Ebenezer's Barn and Grill. Fun dances for the whole family include Virginia Reel, Western Round Dance, Texas Two-step Round dance, Western Line Dance, and Country Swing. Family dancing starts at 8 p.m.
Guest speaker • Dawn Meehan from "Survivor, South Pacific." 8 p.m. in the Red Canyon Rooms. Meehan lives in Provo and teaches at Brigham Young University.
Bryce Canyon National Park events
Feb. 17 • 11:30 a.m.-noon, geology talk (Sunset Point or Visitor Center if weather is bad); 2-4:30 p.m., snowshoe hike, Paria View, must sign in at Visitor Center by 1:30 p.m.; 7-9 p.m. Astronomy: "Astronomy thru the Ages" and stargazing with telescopes.
Feb. 18 • 11:30 a.m.-noon, geology talk (Sunset Point or Visitor Center if weather is bad); 2-4:30 p.m., snowshoe hike (Paria View, must sign in at Visitor Center by 1:30 p.m.); 7-9 p.m., Astronomy: "Dark Wars" with Kevin Poe and stargazing with telescopes.
Feb. 19 • 11:30 a.m.-noon, geology talk (Sunset Point or Visitor Center if weather is bad); 2-4:30 p.m., snowshoe hike (Paria View, must sign in at Visitor Center by 1:30 p.m.)
Feb. 20 • 11:30 a.m.-noon, geology talk (Sunset Point or Visitor Center if weather is bad).