Bucket List Skiing in Bryce Canyon
I refuse to have a bucket list. It seems so final: you make a list of things you want to see before you die and then, you spend your life checking those things off. What happens when everything on the list has a check next to it? I’m too young to accept the finality of that. However, 10 years ago when I started living in Utah, I knew I had to visit Bryce Canyon in the winter when there was enough snow on the ground to cap the hoodoos with snow, enough snow to go cross country skiing around those hoodoos. The idea of the color explosion of red and pink rocks, blue sky, and green trees with a white blanket was so visually tantalizing. It took 10 years, a move to Arizona, and a new Alpina cross-country skiing set-up from Moab Gear Trader before I finally got to see that desert color explosion.
Bryce Canyon National Park doesn’t allow you to actually ski off the rim and down into the canyon. This is something that my ski partner in exploration, Autumn, and I were rather bummed about until we got to Rainbow Point. It turns out that skiing down any sort of path that is totally packed out from many pairs of hiking shoes and snowshoes is downright terrifying. We bailed off the beaten path at our first opportunity and decided to stray from the trail. We went in the general direction of the Riggs Springs Trail but stayed high.
We were not disappointed. As we cruised amidst the tress we were continually treated to the vast views that the desert southwest and Colorado Plateau are known for. The plateaus, extinct volcanoes, canyons, valleys, and snow covered mountains in the far distance monopolized the view once as we made our way around the point. When we rounded the point though, that was when our view exploded: red, steep, crumbling rocky cliffs; blue skies skidded across with clouds in varying degrees of the white to gray spectrum; snow covering the more flat and less steep parts of the rocky outcrops. We saw the Pink Cliffs in all their glory – not washed out with too much desert sun on a summer afternoon but crisp, pink and orange with all the subtle color variations that don’t actually have names. If you’ve spent enough time watching desert sunsets you start to recognize them by feeling.
Autumn and I decided it was snack time and sat and watched and experienced the view of the pink cliffs. Thank goodness it was a fairly temperate day because it took us about an hour to get up off the snow, break away from the view, and continue our ski tour. That view, man, I don’t know if I will ever forget it. 10 years of waiting to see the red rock, white snow, green tree visual explosion and it finally happened. It was so stunning. I can’t wait to try again.
Alison Holland lives in Flagstaff, Arizona