To the Mountains and Back: Winter in the Heber Valley

The beautiful Heber Valley is filled with winter activities to enjoy the spectacular views.
The beautiful Heber Valley is filled with winter activities to enjoy the spectacular views. Edgar Zuniga Jr.
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Heber Valley is just 45 minutes from the Wasatch Front, but from the vantage point of the cozy valley, you’d never know it. Nestled in the mighty Wasatch Mountains, Utah’s "Little Switzerland," as it’s affectionately known, is an incredible destination any time of year. But it’s hard to beat the gorgeous mountain valley’s majestic winter conditions. It’s a short drive from some of Utah’s most beloved ski areas, where you’ll find some of the best powder in the world, and it’s even closer to some lesser-known (and less crowded) gems, too. Whether you’re looking for a quick outing in the fresh air or an all-out adventure, Heber Valley in winter has you covered.

Cross-Country Skiing

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Heber Valley is home to some of the best cross-country ski trails in the West.. Wasatch Mountain State Park hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games at Soldier Hollow, so you know it’s world-class. Less than 10 miles west of Heber City, the park maintains a 7.2-mile Nordic track on its golf course throughout the winter. The track includes diagonal stride and skating lanes, and there’s a selection of flat and hillier terrain, both of which afford views of the mountains and the rolling farmland of Heber Valley. Ski rentals are available at the park ($12 per day includes skis, boots, and poles; $15 for overnight rentals). For those seeking a more backcountry experience, there’s also Willow Hollow, just south of Strawberry Valley. Trails aren’t heavily maintained, so skiers should have some route-finding skills. Trails run the entire 10-mile length of the narrow valley.

Snowshoeing

The beauty of snowshoeing is that even newbies don’t need groomed trails—if you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s a fantastic way to explore a winter wonderland. Wasatch Mountain State Park also rents snowshoes ($6 per day or $10 for overnight rentals). The Dutch Hollow Trail system is famous for its mountain biking opportunities in the summer, but during the winter, it becomes a snowshoer’s playground. There’s also tons of more backcountry-style snowshoeing (fewer trail markings and less maintenance, but also fewer visitors) all over the Heber Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The Clyde/Mud Creek area, about 22 miles south of Heber, features 14 miles of hilly, intermediate snowshoeing. There’s also about four miles of easy snowshoeing on the valley floor at Doe Knoll, and the Little Hobble Creek Trail, 15 miles southeast of Heber, accesses tons of winter trails.

Downhill Skiing

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Heber Valley is just minutes from some of the best skiing in North America. It’s less than 30 minutes to Park City, where you can ski Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley, an hour from Solitude, and not much farther to the world-class skiing at the Alta and Snowbird resorts. The valley is also just 25 minutes from Robert Redford’s Sundance resort. The Zermatt Resort in keeping with the "Little Switzerland" theme, offers access to the Park City resorts, as well as Soldier Hollow. Its location in Midway makes it the perfect adventure basecamp for those looking to check out some of Utah’s best resort skiing. Tons of local outfitters rent alpine skiing equipment.

Tubing and Skating

Who doesn’t look back fondly on their childhood days of sledding and skating? Heber Valley delivers on that front, too. The only downside to traditional sledding is having to haul your vessel back up the hill at the end of every run, but Soldier Hollow makes it possible to maximize the fun parts without all the work. This tubing hill, located in Wasatch Mountain State Park, has the longest tubing lanes in the state—not to mention a lift service to tow your tube back up the hill so you can do it all again. The hill is open during the day, though if you just can’t get enough, the lanes remain open for night tubing until 8 p.m., too. Prices for a two-hour session vary throughout the season and based on whether you’re headed there on a weekday or weekend, but range from $20-26 for adults and $12-22 for kids under 12. The hill tends to fill up, so advance reservations are recommended. The Midway City Ice Rink is open in the afternoons and evenings all winter long, depending on the weather. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for kids, and skate rentals are just $3. Seasoned skaters can purchase a season-long pass for the skate rink.

Snowmobiling

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Whether you’re a seasoned motorhead or heading out to explore via snowmobile for the first time, Heber Valley has something to offer. Snowmobiling is a beloved winter pastime in Utah, and it allows visitors to see more of the breathtaking Wasatch than activities on your own two feet. Numerous Heber Valley outfitters offer guided snowmobile excursions in the area, but if you have the knowledge of your machine and the requisite avalanche awareness and equipment, there are tons of opportunities to strike out on your own, too. Motorized use is allowed in much of the nearby national forest. The Little Hobble Creek area, about 15 miles southeast of Heber, offers access to the excellent Murdock Hollow and Strawberry Ridge Trails.

Snorkeling

You read that right: there’s winter snorkeling in Utah, and it’s not the Polar Bear Club. The Midway Utah Resort features the Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring that stays in a constant range of 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s tucked in a 55-foot-tall limestone cave, but you don’t have to rappel down to check out this geological wonder. Once you’ve made your way through the access tunnel, you can take a self-guided tour to learn about the 10,000-year history of this natural spring. If you’re feeling more adventurous, take a swim or a SUP yoga class, or rent snorkeling gear ($5) to explore what’s beneath the surface. Advance reservations are required.

Originally written by RootsRated Media for Utah Office of Tourism.

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