Cheers from thousands of Olympics fans no longer reverberate through Soldier Hollow in Utah's Wasatch Mountain State Park. But on a brisk winter day, it's easy to imagine the roar of the crowds as you ski through the finish area the way Olympian cross-country skiers did three years ago.
Many trails through this usually sun-drenched bowl on the back side of the Wasatch Range were reconfigured after the Olympics to add more terrain for beginning nordic skiers. With a total of 31 kilometers (19.25 miles) of groomed track, though,you can still find plenty of variety ― and a good workout. And while the chance to test your skills on Olympic courses used for nordic ski races and biathlons is reason enough to plan a visit, trails lacing through stands of scrub oak, cottonwood, and an occasional apple tree from a forgotten orchard provide their own reward of winter beauty.
As you skate-ski or glide along the 5-kilometer Pony Express trail, watch for the winter wildlife that calls Soldier Hollow home. Coyotes prowl the hillsides and frequently dart across trails; overhead, red-tailed hawks wheel circles while scanning the hills for lunch.
Pack your own lunch and picnic in one of the two trailside warming huts opened last winter, or head back to the rock-and-timber day lodge with its casual seating, warming fireplace, and paper cups of hot chocolate.
Kids aren't overlooked at Soldier Hollow. A cross-country terrain park, where they can ski over humps and tabletops of snow or through curves, instills valuable skills while generating its share of laughs. There's also a 1,200-foot-long inner-tubing park adjacent to the trail system where kids and adults can enjoy a ride.
For a pre- or post-ski meal, stop at Genulies ($$; lunch Mon–Sat, dinner Wed–Sat; 734 West 100 South; 435/657-0609), in Heber City. The Reuben, served on thick slices of marble rye, is tasty and filling. And if you've earned it, treat yourself to a Rocky Mountain brownie, a confectionery wonder with alternating layers of brownie cake and cream cheese topped by marshmallow and fudge.
Soldier Hollow (2002 Soldier Hollow Lane; www.soldierhollow.com or 435/654-2002) is open 9–4:30 daily; call ahead for snow conditions. Ski trail passes $17, $9 ages 12–17; ski rentals $18, $12 ages 12–17; tubing $15 ages 7 and above, $9 ages 3–6.