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A national park reveals its winter secret: skiing.

Most people know Bryce Canyon as a place of red rock spires set against a crisp blue sky. But superimpose on that familiar desert landscape a layer of clean white snow, and you'll have one of the most unusual terrains found anywhere--and, for cross-country skiers, one of Utah's best-kept secrets.

Some 1.3 million tourists visited Bryce Canyon last year, but only 10 percent of them went during the winter. That averages out to about 1,000 visitors--the bulk of them skiers--a day. That's not a lot of traffic when you consider that the 35,000-acre park has 7.5 miles of marked trails--and countless more that are unmarked--around the canyon and the rim.

Many skiers keep to the canyon's rim. More adventurous visitors can descend on snowshoes into the canyon itself on days when the trail isn't too icy and the snow isn't too deep. You can borrow a pair of snowshoes, free of charge, from the park's visitor center.

If you're a night-owl, plan to ski the canyon's rim during the full moon on February 6, when the lunar light will afford you a view of the ghostly spires below. Or, if you prefer the company of many strangers, visit on Presidents' Day weekend (February 13 through 15), when there will be cross-country ski races, kids' footraces, ski archery, and a snow sculpture contest.

Although the park's lodges are closed during winter, most motels in the area are open at off-season rates ($30 to $40). Closest to the park is Ruby's Inn, whose Nordic Center's 15-plus miles of groomed and set track connect with the park's trails. For information on lodging, call the Garfield County Travel Council at (800) 444-6689.

Bryce Canyon National Park is 260 miles south of Salt Lake City. Admission costs $5 per car or $3 per person, good for seven days. For information, call (801) 834-5322.
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Title Annotation:Sunset's Travel Guide; Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Author:Jarvik, Elaine
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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