UTAH (ABC4) — Utah is known to have ‘The greatest snow on earth,’ attracting skiers and snowboarders to its mountains, but that’s not all this state has to offer during the winter months.

This list presents activities ranging from skijoring (skiers being pulled by dogs or horses) to wintertime swimming that may surprise even the most seasoned Utahns.

Snow Animal Tours

Rider T.J. Simmons (L) races down Harrison Avenue as skier Greg Dahl airs out a jump during the 74th annual Leadville Ski Joring weekend competition on March 6, 2022 in Leadville, Colorado. – Skijoring, which has its origins as a competitive sport in Scandinavia, has been adapted over the years to include a team made up of a rider and skier who must navigate jumps, slalom gates, and the spearing of rings for points. Leadville, with an elevation of 10,152 feet (3,094 m), the highest incorporated city in North America, has been hosting skijoring competitions since 1949. (Photo by Jason Connolly / AFP) (Photo by JASON CONNOLLY/AFP via Getty Images)

It turns out, you don’t need to go to Alaska to ride in a dog sled. Dog sledding is offered right here near Park City through All Seasons Adventure and Bear Ridge Adventures.

Another option for horse lovers or skiing lovers alike is the annual Skijoring competition in Heber City. The event takes place in January involving a horse and rider pulling a skier through obstacles in the snow. You can register to compete, volunteer, or enjoy this unique event as a part of the crowd.

For a slower-paced but equally adventurous activity, grab (or rent) your snowshoes for Sundance’s Night Owling event. This guided snowshoeing tour uses live owls to call for and find owls in the wild.

Ice Castles

It’s likely you have heard of Midway’s Ice Castles by now, but did you know they opened for the first time before Christmas this year? These castles have been a popular attraction for the last 12 years, with slides, tunnels, sculptures, archways, and even sleigh rides. You can even book a private alcove in a castle for your fairytale proposal or special occasion.

Astronomy Activities

Take a night star tour at the Compass Rose Lodge Observatory in Ogden Valley. The Huntsville Astronomic and Lunar Observatory, also known as the HALO, offers a star walk tour for astronomy lovers. On the tour, they provide telescopes, including a 16-inch aperture Ritchey-Chretien style telescope and an 11-inch Celestron Edge11 HD, for a memorable and educational experience.

For Christmas music fans, the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City has a unique event that strays from its typical focus on astronomy and rock bands. The planetarium is known for its laser shows that have lights and visuals perfectly synced to music, and for this season, it is Christmas-themed. This event is great for families and friends alike and keeps you out of the cold.

Homestead Crater

In Utah, swimming is not reduced to a summer-time only activity. The Homestead Crater, located in the Midway area, is open year-round for swimmers, divers, snorkelers and adventurers. The crater is filled with 95-degree water and engulfed in a cave-like structure, providing the ideal conditions for winter-time swimming. According to Utah Crater, it is the only warm water scuba location in the continental United States and they offer scuba certification for first-timers. Make sure to book online prior to arriving as the crater does require a reservation to attend.

You might also be interested in swimming in local hot springs, such as the Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville, Meadow Hot Springs near Fillmore and Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe.

Christmas Light Show at Hogle Zoo

(Image Courtesy of Utah Hogle Zoo)

A long-standing Utah tradition, ZooLights at the Hogle Zoo, introduced a new element to its annual event this year. On December 27, the zoo is hosting a Neurodivergent Celebration where the light show will exclude all strobing and flashing lights and music will be turned down to provide the best experience for families with high-sensory needs. The light show will continue on select dates throughout December, but keep in mind that most of the animals will be sleeping or out of site. If you would like a more traditional zoo experience, the Hogle Zoo offers $5 tickets when purchased online every weekday for the month of December.

If you would like to find more winter activities, you can view the Utah Office of Tourism’s wintertime activity list.