Last Updated: 16th Feb 2011

<p>by &#8211; <a href="/people/060ff9ffdd0b7a0d613dfa816e329482">Alex McCarty</a>, Tour Manager, North America</p> <p>The name of the US state of Utah comes from the Southern Ute Indian word meaning &#8216;higher up&#8217;.</p> <p>Much of Utah, millions of years ago, was buried under an ancient lake and when the earth’s tectonic plates shifted, the water receded revealing some of the most dramatic landscapes anywhere in America.</p> <p>Utah is home to the most National parks in the US, including <a href="/contikipedia/articles/bryce-canyon-national-park">Bryce Canyon</a>, <a href="/contikipedia/articles/zion-national-park">Zion</a> and <a href="/contikipedia/articles/monument-valley">Monument Valley</a>, but is also a highly sought after destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, mountain biking and skiing most of all.</p> <p>Provo is perhaps the most popular skiing destination in Utah and nestled in the Wasatch Mountain range it&#8217;s no wonder Salt Lake City was awarded the hosting duties of the 2002 Winter Olympics which had a great impact on the economy of the state, bringing more renown to the winter resorts of Utah.</p> <p>The Great Salt Lake has the world&#8217;s second highest rate of salinity behind the Dead Sea, and is a remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville that thousands of years ago receded due to plate tectonic activity. It is this lake that the city is named after, but remains of little interest to citizens and visitors alike.</p> <p>Of greater effect may be the Mormon Tabernacle and Temple which is the official headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, which boasts over 8,000,000 faithful, most of whom live in the US, and of those about 75% of the 2.3 million population of the state reside in and around <a href="/contikipedia/articles/salt-lake-city">Salt Lake City</a>.</p> <p>Additionally, Park City, Utah, plays host every winter to the world famous Sundance Film Festival. Began by Robert Redford in the early 1990&#8217;s, the festival marked a resurgence in independent filmmaking not seen in the industry since the 1970s, and has since been a reckoning force in the film business. The event usually lasts a little over 2 weeks between January and February.</p>