Best of Utah 2009: Active Life | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2009: Active Life


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Steiner Aquatic Center

Man, do we have it easy or what? Even residents of big-name cities like New York City and Portland have a hard time finding a clean, affordable place to swim. Most folks have to settle with the crowded YMCA or shell out serious dough for a fancy gym membership. Not us, though. We have Steiner, an easily accessible public facility equipped with not one but two pristine pools—a 25-yard indoor and 50-yard outdoor water paradise. Everyone’s welcome, from masters sharks to weekend warriors and seniors who say their water-aerobics classes are a great way to feel young again.
645 S. Guardsman Way, Salt Lake City, 801-583-9713,
2. Jewish Community Center
3. Cottonwood Heights

Sil Lum Gung Fu Club

If you celebrate the Chinese New Year, you’ll definitely want to start it off right: with a good lion-head dance to scare off all the bad demons that were holding you back the previous year. Lucky for you, the West Valley Sil Lum Gung Fu (“Kung Fu” to Westerners) Club puts on as many as 60 Lion Head dances, mostly in February. The club takes the rigorous traditional dance to venues throughout the Salt Lake Valley, where the ornamental lion heads dance to a frantic drum-and-gong beat. Check the Website for details—and, if you ever dreamed of being a dancing lion head yourself, you might want to check out joining the Gung Fu Club. That way, you can get your kicks through a time-honored martial art and folk dance.
4690 W. 3500 South, West Valley City, 801-712-2745,

Neighborhood House/337

In its 114-year history, Neighborhood House kept its energy focused on providing day-care services for children and adults—which didn’t leave much time to communicate its mission to the public at large. When board members learned about the famed 337 building and the nonprofit that spiraled out of it, they decided to join forces and bring art into a nontraditional space. The result: a group of urban artists spray-painted external garage doors attached to Neighborhood House in a juried exhibition designed to benefit all parties involved: the children, the adults, the artists and the caregivers. And, in keeping with the spirit of the original 337 building, the doors will be painted over again and again in what will hopefully become an annual collaboration.
1050 W. 500 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-4589

Delta Snow Goose Festival

In the community of Delta, the locals say goodbye to winter by welcoming back thousands of elegant snow geese during the annual Snow Goose Festival. Take a gander at gaggle upon gaggle of these impressive birds as they make their noisy, honking landing in Delta every year near the end of February. The locals plan a variety of events around the homecoming that are worth checking out while you’re in town, but the main attraction is the birds. So, if you’re new to town and not sure of your bearings, don’t worry—it would be pretty hard to miss the thousands of regal (if obnoxious sounding) birds blotting the sky and splashing in Gunnison Bend reservoir and its surrounding lakes, ponds and wetlands.

Physics Building Observatory, U of U

Boldly go where few have gone before. On Wednesday nights, when the sky is clear, University of Utah physics students open the observatory on the roof of the South Physics Building for stargazing parties. They set up two telescopes so you can view stars and even distant galaxies. Hosts Paul Ricketts and Cierra Blair cheerfully fill the gaps in your astronomical knowledge. Dress for weather conditions. Bring a thermos of coffee on a cold night. The Physics Building is adjacent to Kingsbury Hall on the lower campus, just off 100 South. Take the stairs to the roof.
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 801-587-7223,

Celebrating its 70th season, Alta has modernized with fast lifts and more comfortable lodges. Still, Alta feels like a place people come to ski rather than to model the latest mink-trimmed Bogner. Lift tickets remain inexpensive (relatively speaking) and there are free beginner-skiing afternoons. Alta averages 500 inches each year of dry powder manufactured nowhere else in the world but the Wasatch. (Last year, it totaled 700 inches.) In-bounds experiences include everything from blue groomers to a run called Eddie’s High Nowhere that requires entering an “experts only” gate and traversing an outcropping while clutching a rope before hiking to the top of a steep crevice. Snowboarders, alas will have to take their skiing friends’ word for it. Alta remains skiing only—snowboarders couldn’t handle the chutes.
Little Cottonwood Canyon, 801-359-1078,
2. Snowbird
3. Deer Valley


In the competitive world of Salt Lake City belly dancing, it’s difficult—and perhaps dangerous—to pick a favorite. Shahravar, however, stands apart. Far from a staunch traditionalist, she never fails to surprise with her selection of unusual songs, props and costuming. It’s this kind of innovation that is turning the dance orientale into a uniquely American art form—and hers is a belly that audiences are always happy to see.

Pilar Pobil

Every June, Spanish artist Pilar Pobil opens her gorgeous Avenues mansion for a three-day soiree of catered food and guest painters. Although you have to pay $15 to get in—it goes to charity—there’s far more than sipping wine and munching on snacks while you jostle for standing room in her garden. It’s not just the artwork hanging in every conceivable nook and cranny of the garden and outside walls that’s something to behold. It’s the extraordinary way artwork mixes with sprays of flowers and resplendent bushes in the fading summer light to form the perfect balance of art and nature. An art gallery never smelled so sweet.

Salt Lake Art Center & Salt Lake County Jail’s A.C.E Exhibit

From prison walls to gallery walls, inmates at the Salt Lake County Metro Jail are finding an artistic opportunity in, of all places, the lockup. Inmates’ good behavior is rewarded by being able to take part in a special six-week-long art program, thanks to a partnership with the Salt Lake Art Center. The program, started in 2007 by curator Jay Heuman and co-taught by Annie Kennedy and Rick Nast, has given inmates a chance not only to learn the art basics but to receive a background in art history, styles and theories, all culminating in a final project done on a simple theme. The resulting works provide sometimes jarring, yet poignantly simple and beautiful, displays of the artists’ understanding of their own challenging lives.
20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-328-4201,

WabiSabi Mardi Gras Fashion Show

Ever been interested in the high fashion of bottom-bin thrift clothing? Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of D.I couture? Well if so then you simply must make a trip to Moab for the fabulous WabiSabi Mardi Gras Fashion Show. Held every year on Feb. 24, Fat Tuesday, the event pulls together local artists to design the most eye-popping and uniquely bizarre fashion styles all culled from Moab’s WabiSabi thrift store collections. The event promises a chance to savor the most cutting edge fashions of the recycled aesthetic along with one hell of a Fat Tuesday party. The proceeds from the event go to support numerous great southern Utah charities from the Moab Free Health Clinic to the Living River’s conservation efforts.
411 Locust Lane, Moab, 435-259-9114,

Sorensen Unity Center seed exchange

The more you think local, the more the idea of vegetable gardening makes sense. Those who have embraced this idea are part of a “growing” community. At the end of January, an event sponsored by the People’s Market allows enthusiasts to share their favorite heirloom seeds with other gardeners, and to pick up unique specialty items that aren’t likely to show up in a garden shop or on a supermarket shelf. Not only can you eat locally, you can eat things you’ve never even heard of before.

The Little Red Riding Hood Century Ride

Whether you or the woman in your life are a seasoned cyclist or just beginning to get your feel for two wheels, this all-female “Little Red” is the perfect place to begin. It begins in Cache County’s Wellsville and wends its way through lovely rolling hills and long flats through the verdant Cache Valley. Sponsored by the Bonneville Cycling Club every year on the first Saturday in June, the ride’s ultimate length is a tad more than a true century—104 miles. But there are several distances in between for women of all skill levels, including 35-, 45-, 62- and 80-mile legs. Last year’s ride was cold and wet, but the event is always a blast, and there weren’t many serious complaints. Register on the BBTC Website.

Springville Art Museum

Who knew that nestling in the sleepy heart of Springville is one of the largest collections of Russian art in the good old U.S. of A? Springville Art Museum, run by longtime director and Russian and Utah art specialist Vern Swanson, boasts enormous, sprawling canvases that celebrate social-issue narrative painting at its best. Swanson believes Utah’s artists, who tend to have a more relaxed dedication to landscapes, can only benefit from the Russian masters. While it’s hard to see any cross-fertilization between communist agit-prop and a splendid Timpanogos landscape, it’s fun to imagine.
126 E. 400 South, Springville, 801-489-2727,

Hill Aerospace Museum

Yearning for the good old days when the commies were the bad guys and we had them in check with nuclear missiles and B-52s? Return to those Cold War days at the Hill Air Force Base Aerospace Museum where you can get up close and personal with a thermonuclear bomb and an ICBM or two, then stroke the bellies of yesterday’s war planes. Load the kids into the car and take Interstate 15 to Roy. The museum is open seven days a week, every day of the year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s—and it’s free. Afterward, conclude your nostalgia trip with Dr. Strangelove on DVD with a brace of Twinkies and a cream soda.
Hill Air Force Base, Interstate 15, Exit 338, Roy, 801-777-6868,

Black Gold Cattle Company Testicle Festival

There are festivals to celebrate every peculiar culinary taste known to man, so why not a celebration of noshing on what once swung proudly beneath a bull? Rocky Mountain Oysters are on the menu every spring in Woodruff, where visitors have a chance to sample deep-fried bull gonads—call it a “sack lunch.” These may not be everyone’s cup of tea(bag), but proceeds go to charity and the event provides countless opportunities for sophomoric punning. What, you thought we’d be above such nonsense? Nuts to that.

The Sugar Bowl

The U’s defeat of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl could not have gone unnoticed by BYU fans. As sweet as the Utes’ victory was, however, it could easily taste bitter in a Cougar’s mouth. A surprising number of Cougs, however, had the class to cheer on their familiar nemesis Jan. 2 rather than succumbing under the Crimson Tide. While such folks—whom KSL 5 reporter Paul Nelson dubbed “BYUtes”—often justified their support as a calculated response to the arcane vagaries of BCS politics regarding the Mountain West Conference, we prefer to see it as good sportsmanship mixed with regional pride—and perhaps even reason to hope for a more congenial future.