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Snowy adventures in Utah's red rock country.

The southwest corner of Utah is known for rocks of gnarled nobility, for skies that would bring fortunes if they could be hammered into jewelry, and for summertime temperatures that are, well, on the warm side.

In winter, a different land emerges. Temperatures drop. The rocks' red shoulders wear a cloak of white. But the sky's flawless blue remains.

As a winter destination, this part of Utah is by no means an Aspen or Lake Tahoe. But there are three downhill ski resorts--one new this year--and trails for cross-country skiing. Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks allow you to explore them in solitude.

Getting there: be winter-ready

St. George, the region's largest city, is a 7-hour drive from Los Angeles and a 10-hour drive from Phoenix. You'll find lodging in St. George, Cedar City, and the locales mentioned below, nearer the parks. If you're going primarily for downhill skiing, you can use Brian head as a base, then branch out for day trips.

Bring warm clothes: daytime temperatures range from 15 [deg.] to 25 [deg.] at Brian Head, 50 [deg.] to 60 [deg.] at Zion. If you don't have snow tires, bring chains.

Winter highlights in southwest Utah

Mount Holly and Elk Meadows, Box 511, Beaver 84713; (801) 438-5030.

About 1-1/4 northeast of Cedar City, these two smallish adjoining ski areas lie 20 miles east of Beaver on State Highway 153. (State 153 is closed in winter from U.S. Highway 89.) Mount Holly has three intermediate and six challenging runs carved into a northwest-facing ridge. Prices are $14 for an adult full-day ticket, $10 for ages 12 and under.

In its first season, Elk Meadows has 13 gentle runs leading from a southwest-facing bowl through stands of pine. Cross-country ski trails have been cut, and a lodge is set to open this winter. Condominium rates start at $65. Prices of $18 for an adult day ticket and $12 for ages 12 and under allow you to ski at Mount Holly as well. A free shuttle travels between the two resorts.

Brian Head, Box 8, Brian Head 84719; (801) 677-2035 (ski information); (800) 572-9705 or 722-4742 (condominium reservations).

Now 20 years old, this ski resort east of Cedar City is Utah's southernmost and its loftiest: the top chair lift stands at 11,000 feet. More than 300 inches of powder fall annually, with skiing lasting into May. About 75 percent of the runs are for beginning and intermediate skiers. To get there, take Interstate Highway 15 north to State Highway 143. (The route through Cedar Breaks National Monument is closed in winter.)

Prices are $18 for an adult full-day ticket. $12 for ages 12 and under; lessons and equipment are available. You can find lodging at 2 hotels and 14 condominiums; rates start at $50.

Brian Head is also a cross-country skier's haven, with 22 miles of marked trails and access to nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument. Though the monument is officially closed from October to May, its meadows offer fine cross-country skiing.

Bill Murphy's Brian Head Cross-Country Ski Center (Box 65, Brian Head 84719) offers equipment rentals, group and individual lessons, and guided cross-country tours through Cedar Breaks and Brian Head. Call (801) 677-2012 from 9 to 5 Sundays through Thursdays, 9 to 7 Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays.

Duck Creek. On State Highway 14, about 30 miles southeast of Cedar City, this area offers cross-country skiers 8 rails that run toward Cedar Breaks and views of Zion National Park.

Nearby is Meadeau View Lodge, a homey bed-and-breakfast inn. Ask lodge owners Gabby and Harry moyer for trail suggestions. We liked the 5-mile round trip on Cedar Breaks Road from State 14 north into Cedar Breaks, the 6-mile round trip to Zion Overlook, and the 2-mile aspen-lined trail along Duck Creek.

For reservations, call (801) 682-2495 or write to Meadeau View Lodge, Box 356, Cedar City 84720. Rates: $45 to $55.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah 84717; visitor center, (801) 834-5322.

An average 100 inches of snow falls annually on the limestone amphitheaters at Bryce. You can drive through the park and walk to 10 view points, but you'll see more from the trails. Start at the visitor center (open daily from 8 to 5), 4 miles south of State Highway 12, where you can get maps and day-use or camping permits; you can also borrow showshoes.

For snowshoes, a good trek is the 1-mile Bristlecone loop leading to Promontory Overlook. Novice cross-country skiers can enjoy the Paria Ski Trail, a marked 5-mile loop. The more adventurous can attempt the steep 3-mile Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop or 8-mile Fairyland Loop trails; these aren't marked though, and because snow conditions at Bryce can change quickly, you should check with rangers before starting.

Closest lodging is Ruby's Inn, 2 miles north of the park entrance; rates start at $30. You can rent cross-country skis here ($10 a day for full package). For reservations, call (801) 834-5341 or (800) 528-1234.

Zion National Park. Springdale 84767; visitor center, (801) 772-3256.

Snows blanket Zion's higher plateaus, but down on the canyon floor, spring begins earlier than almost anywhere else in Utah, letting you hike on most of the lower trails.

You can get trail suggestions at the visitor center (open 9 to 5 daily). We recommend Canyon Overlook (1-mile round trip), Weeping Rock (1/2 mile), Emerald Pools (2 miles), Gateway to the Narrows (2 miles), Watchman (2-1/2 miles).

Eight motels in nearby Springdale have rooms at reduced winter rates ($30 and up); there, too, a 55-year-old farmhouse has been restored into a bed-and-breakfast inn: Under the Eaves ($35 and up), Box 29, Springdale 84767; (801) 772-3457. For more information, writer call or call the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, Box 111, Springdale 84767; (801) 772-3457.
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Date:Jan 1, 1986
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