I’m wobbling on a paddleboard in a geothermal hot spring hidden beneath a limestone mound covered in snow. It’s the dead of winter at Homestead Crater in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain State Park, yet I’m in a ponytail and bikini, trying to stay afloat. The sun shines through the 10,000-year-old crater’s top. Alongside me, half a dozen yoga enthusiasts are also in tree pose on stand-up paddleboards, in what might be the Midwest’s oldest yoga studio. I’m here because I saw a photo of the crater in a magazine.
One of the reasons we travel is to experience the other, the different, the new. For me, 20 years ago that meant hitchhiking in Thailand and skinny-dipping in Tel Aviv. Nowadays, I prefer adventures of varying intensity. I’ve come to Park City because it offers a sliding scale of excitement, from artisanal chocolate tastings and sundrenched après ski microbrews in Adirondack chairs, to impromptu bobsled test drives and downhill skiing or snowshoeing through trails forested in Rocky Mountain maples and white firs.
At the moment, I am seeking out tamer wintry thrills – steadying myself on a stand-up paddleboard as Cindi Lou Grant, our wavy-haired instructor with a warming smile and soothing vibe, instructs.
“Paddleboard yoga is more about connecting with nature and the playful side of yourself,” she says to our tottering class. “You’re encouraged to fall in the water. It feels good. It’s fun.” One of my less-flexible cohorts belly flops into the healing waters, as if on cue.
Homestead Crater was formed when the melting snow on the Wasatch Mountains seeped deep below the earth’s surface, heating the water. As warm water percolated up, it deposited minerals on the surface (which accounts for the earthy scent), eventually forming the limestone deposit it is today – a spot for warm stretching, reflection and an unintended splash or 12 into the 35 C mineral water.
I manage to remain steady and mostly avoid too much splashing around. And as I tuck into child’s pose at the end of my ancient crater yoga session, hip flexors finally loosened, mind opened, ponytail starting to nicely air dry, my smile is as wide as the crater’s top.
Since I nailed stand-up paddleboard in an ancient crater, I figure, why not also hurl myself down the Utah Olympic Park’s Sliding Track for a thrilling-cum-terrifying 63-second bobsled ride? (Oh for the salad days of bungee jumping and one night stands.)
The Wasatch Mountain range – a stunning backdrop for the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge events in Olympic Park during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games – is visible from the airport in Salt Lake City. It grabs you from the moment you touch down. The powder on the nearby slopes is so ski-worthy the state trademarked the term “greatest snow on earth.” (It’s even on their licence plates.)
Today, the spirit of the Olympics endures as we tourists pack ourselves into bobsleds like sandwiches in a picnic hamper. You know the feeling of being at the top of a roller coaster just before a 90-degree drop and realizing you’ve made a terrible life decision? Add helmets and ice to that equation and you’ve got Olympic bobsledding. (Thankfully, professionals hop in the back and pilot the head-jarring, “I can’t believe they let tourists do this,” runs.) I actually loved it. I felt alive, and nobody died.
Air, snow, water, ice. Breath in, breathe out.
I’m glad I saw that photo of a crater and booked my ticket. I wonder what I’ll do next weekend.
The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Utah. It did not review or approve this article.
Where to stay
The ski-out/ski-in Stein Eriksen Residences are contemporary luxury rentals with mountainside views, ski butlers and beds full of what seems like 1,000 pillows. Starting at U.S. $627 steineriksenresidences.com
Where to eat
Deer Valley’s Veuve-branded yurt, Apres Lounge, looks as if Ralph Lauren designed it and features the Champagnes of Veuve Clicquot – plus situation-appropriate white truffled popcorn for snacking.
Fireside Dining is set around the five massive fireplaces at Deer Valley’s Empire Canyon lodge, which by night morphs into fire-cooked buffet stations, offering oozing raclette cheese and roast leg of lamb. deervalley.com/dining/wheretoeat/firesidedining
What to do
Utah Olympic Park is where you can barrel down the 2002 Olympic track in a bobsled, generating up to five times the force of gravity. utaholympiclegacy.org
Homestead Crater: The only warm scuba diving destination in the continental U.S. that is also home to yoga sessions, swims and exotic winter snorkeling. parkcityyogaadventures.com/paddleboard
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