I’m floating in a hot spring with scuba divers gliding through the water 50 feet below. Steam billows from the mouth of a limestone crater overhead, spewing a gray fog into the Utah winter.
Hot-spring pools are nothing new in ski country. Hot-spring pools inside a 55-foot-high limestone beehive-shaped limestone dome, however, are. Which makes the Homestead Crater, in Midway, a unique après-ski endeavor.
Opened to the public in 1996, this geothermal hot spring first became popular in the early 1900s among miners, who used its therapeutic waters to ease aches and pains. Today, Park City–area skiers do the same. Maintaining a temperature of 90 degrees, the water is warm, but not hot. Full submersion is not only possible, but recommended, and visitors can scuba dive and snorkel in addition to soaking. An intro to scuba class is a popular way for first-timers to try out the sport.
The limestone dome that encases the crater was formed from mineral deposits thousands of years ago. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust as you enter through a rock passage. “When you walk through the tunnel, you’re expecting to see a mine,” says Charlie Jensen, Homestead’s director. “Instead it opens up to bright-blue water.”
While deep, the crater is relatively small—400 feet in diameter. Snorkeling equipment is available to sneak a peek at scuba divers. Also keep a lookout for a turtle statue set on a rock ledge 30 feet down. The turtle’s eyes are backlit—a creepy effect.
Be forewarned: Amenities are few. But the crater’s originality offsets its spartan environment. During a recent visit, my 9-year-old drifted through the water with mask and snorkel, reporting on the activities of the divers. I had to drag her out to go home. This is not unusual. “We have the most unique swimming pool in the U.S.,” Jensen chuckles.