Posted by: Luke Schtele, Deputy Press Attaché
Utah is my home. I was born in the high desert valleys where the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau come together and form awesome rock formations and pristine alpine lakes. I spent most of my childhood in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. The jagged mountains of the Wasatch Range always watched over us, as if they were giants protecting those below. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the mountains for comfort and orientation until I first traveled to the Great Plains of the United States and realized I did not have the mountains to determine which way was up or down, north or south. I still seek mountains or hills in every country I visit or live in to feel at “home.”
Utah natives are not the only ones who enjoy the mountains of Utah. Four million visitors come every year to ski in what is called “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Utah’s winter wonderland includes 14 ski resorts where skiers, snowboarders, and those who come just for the après-ski, can try arguably the best powder skiing in the world. Utah’s mountains and snow are no longer a secret outside of North America since hosting the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. The world descended on Salt Lake, including 68 Ukrainian athletes that competed in 11 sports. The quaint former mining village turned ski town, Park City, is the heart of Utah’s ski country. In Park City you will find some of the best ski runs by day and bars and restaurants at night. Park City also plays host to the most important film festival in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world, Sundance. January at the Sundance Film Festival is the time to go to see and be seen and rub elbows with Hollywood stars on Park City’s Main Street.
Salt Lake City is Utah’s capital, largest city, and world headquarters of what is popularly known as the Mormon Church. Salt Lake is unique among large cities in the United States. It is surrounded by towering mountains on three sides of its valley and a large terminal salty lake to the north, the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake, in its saltiest point, has a salinity level of 27%. For comparison, the world’s oceans have a salinity level of 3.5%. Bathers come to float in the lake, but birds come in much larger droves. The wetlands of the Great Salt Lake are habitat for millions of migratory and shore birds. As a kid growing up near the lake, I remember riding my bicycle to its shore to look across the expanse of the dead inland sea and watch the pelicans, cormorants, grebes, and seagulls flying above or lounging on rocks. One of my favorite spots in all of the United States, and a place I must go to each time I travel home to Utah, is Antelope Island. The island is the largest in the Great Salt Lake and has been turned into a state park. One can hike or bike the island’s trails and see pronghorn antelope, American bison, bighorn sheep, and if you are lucky, a bobcat. There are also beautiful bays with unique white oolitic sand beaches. Oolitic sand is made from concentric rings of minerals from the lake that surrounded a tiny pellet of brine shrimp fecal matter to form the grain of sand. Access to the island is easy, just drive on over from the mainland via a 7 mile (11 km) causeway.
The wonders of Northern Utah are very different from the beauty of Southern Utah. Five U.S. National Parks are located in Utah’s red rock country. Arches National Park is home to the highest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. Impressive towering red, pink, and cream stone monoliths loom over the Virgin River in Zion National Park. Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks feature narrow slot canyons, gigantic rock domes, and whimsical sandstone hoodoos respectively.
One breath of fresh mountain air or glimpse across the red sandstone plateaus and you will know why Utah chose the slogan, “Life Elevated.”