Southern Utah

It’s early morning and bitingly cold in the high country of the southern Utah desert. A recent weather system stalled overnight above the three-mile-wide amphitheater at 10,000 feet, delivering more than a foot of snow. Feeling awakened and charged from the drive south, I pull my boots on and pack my backcountry gear quickly in anticipation of riding a new location. We know our window is short—down here in the desert, there’s rarely enough snow to ride on this red rock maze of hoodoo voodoo. It’s real-life folk magic and we can’t say if or when it’s going to be good again.

I listen closely to the hypnotizing sound of my splitboard in motion. Gliding, skating, each stride bringing me farther across the plateau. The morning sun reflects pixelated light rays off the snow, warming my body. Cliffs and steep mountains made of soft, sedimentary rock extend far below me, interlaced with hoodoos that jut into the sky. 

The Paiute people say the hoodoos were formed by the Coyote God punishing the Legend People (To-when-an-ung-wa). The Legends were notorious for drinking all the water and eating all the food the animals rely on to make it through hot summers and cold winter months. Coyote, the trickster, petrified the Legends, turning them into these stone columns. The geologic forces of weather and erosion have worn them away to the point that they now just look like towers of rock and no longer like statuesque cursed beings, but they cast forceful shadows on the fresh blanket of snow. With respect to the desert lands and a deep consideration of the Native tradition, I seek permission from the gods in the sky: Please don’t put a spell on me and turn me into a stone. Let me ride freely, leaving this place for others to experience the magic…

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