Sanpete County may not have any developed lift-served ski resorts though it even had one of those at one time, but the terrain on what locals call the Manti Mountain makes it a popular winter sports area.
Large tracts of open meadows in the summer turn into snow-covered slopes in the winter, making the areas east of the county, especially Fairview Canyon, ideal for snowkiting, snowmobiling and backcountry skiing,
Snowkiting is a cross between skiing, snowboarding and kiteboarding, and has increased in popularity in the last 10 years. Riders use kites, wind and snow to glide and jump, sometimes using the kite to help move them and sometimes as a parachute when they take air.
"The snow and wind conditions on Skyline Drive are excellent, and it has mindblowing terrain," said Brian Schenk, who moved to Sanpete County with his wife Heather and owns a kiteboard outfitters business. "It’s ideal."
The couple have organized the 2012 U.S. Open Snowkite Masters, scheduled Feb. 3 through the 5, which brings both experienced snowkiters and beginners together.
"It’s a great time for people to check out the sport," said Heather Schenk, a five-time U.S. Women’s snowkiting champion. "They can come and meet the pros, and we will also be doing a couple of intro clinics, where beginners can try a trainer kite."
Kites will be provided for the clinics, but participants will need to have their own skis or snowboards. For information, log on to www.sanpete.com.
Snowmobiling is also popular on the canyons east of U.S. 89 in Sanpete County. Places such as Ephraim and Mayfield Canyon are among the most popular.
"Sanpete County has some of the best snowmobiling in the state," said county travel director Kevin Christensen. "On the Wasatch Front, the mountains are rocky and jagged, not really made for snowmobiling. But Sanpete’s mountains, the Wasatch Plateau, are relatively flat on top. You go up 10,000 feet and there is lots of snow, rolling and steep hills and Utah State Parks and Recreation keeps trails groomed to get you there.
Utah Snowmobile Association president Brian Howarth called Sanpete County one of Utah’s best-kept secrets for snowmobiling.
"Sanpete is an area that’s unique because you have basically all types of riding," he said. "There’s such a diverse range of riding. It appeals to all people. Once you get on top of the mountain, you realize how beautiful it is. It’s wide open and you can see for miles."
The annual Skyline Snow-Riders Fairview Canyon Family Ride is scheduled Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information, call Darlene Mortensen at 435-3353 or log on to www.sanpete.com.
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