Call it the perfect penny-pinching storm. Holiday bills are in the mail at the same time that many of us are resolving to save more money in 2013. Congress continues to prove how worthless it is and it appears we're going to drive right off the proverbial fiscal cliff, meaning our taxes will go up. And to top it all off, a recent report shows we live in one of the most expensive ski towns in the country, just dollars behind Aspen and Vail.

But whether you're a low-budget local or you're here on vacation and quickly running out of cash, it turns out there are plenty of low-cost and no-cost entertainment options for those looking to save a buck.

Swaner Nature Preserve

Albert Einstein once said, "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. And no place makes that easier to do than the Swaner Nature Preserve near Kimball Junction.

This community treasure boasts 1,200 acres of open space and miles of recreational trails and is a refuge for all kinds of wildlife. Onsite you'll find the EcoCenter, which offers interactive exhibits, programs an innovative theater and stunning views designed to inspire a deep respect for the natural world.

The activities include self-guided tours of the building, which features a deck out into the wetlands and an observation tower; an exhibit hall with displays of habitats found on the preserve, watersheds, and preserve restoration and management; a wetland-themed indoor-climbing wall and self-guided nature walks and snowshoe tours in the winter on the Wetland Discovery Trail.


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(Snowshoes can be rented for $5.)

Admission is free, but a small donation is requested. For directions, or to learn more, go to www.swanerecocenter.org.

Sledding

In a town full of mountains, it's not hard to find a hill with a little slant to it. And there's much fun to be had seeing how fast you can get down that hill while sitting on a piece of plastic.

Some starting points include Matt's Flats at Round Valley, which isn't so flat when you're taking it on a sled. The hill next to the ice arena at Quinn's Junction is nice because the outside lights come on when the sun goes down, making night sledding practical. Willow Creek Park is perfect for families with little kids. And for the ultra extreme sledders, try the Iron Canyon hiking trail, where a natural luge-type track forms each winter.

Olympic Park

The path to greatness might not be free, but being inspired by those on it is.

The Utah Olympic Park showcases Olympic athlete training year-round, and it's free to watch them train. In the winter months, bobsled, skeleton and luge athletes can be seen sliding down the track and Nordic ski jumpers regularly train on the hills at the park.

While watching the country's next gold medalists train, stop by the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, home to the Alf Engen Ski Museum. This world-class facility boasts interactive touch-screen displays, videos, a virtual-reality ski theater, games, 2002 Olympic Winter Games memorabilia and artifacts and much more.

Admission is free.

More information can be found at www.OlyParks.com .

Furburbia

Perhaps I'm easily entertained, but I could spend hours (and often do) watching my newest dog explore his surroundings. Stanley's innocence and exuberance never cease to amaze me. He is positively beside himself with joy at the sight of a flower, a snowflake, a leash, a treat, another dog, another human, a tree, a trail, a stick, a ball and pretty much any other noun you can think of.

In short, dogs provide endless amounts of amusement. If you don't have one, or need to spice up your own mutt's life a little, volunteer to foster a dog or puppy at Furburbia. Located at the Tanger Outlet Mall, this animal-rescue group is always looking for canine and feline foster homes. The concept is pretty simple: Furburbia provides all the supplies, you provide a temporary loving home to an animal in need.

Can't keep a pet overnight? No worries. You can still make a difference by volunteering to walk dogs as they await adoption. Visit www.FOAUtah.org to learn more about these volunteer opportunities.

Stein Eriksen Lodge

As one of the most luxurious hotels in Park City, Stein Eriksen Lodge doesn't exactly evoke possibilities for the budget conscious. But it does offer several distractions that don't cost a thing, like Stein's elaborate trophy case.

Located in the hotel's lobby, this custom case was designed for Stein's 80th birthday and it houses his gold medals from the 1952 Oslo Olympics, his 1954 World Cup medals, and the medal from when he was knighted by the King of Norway. Vintage photos and other memorabilia also hang in the case, which is valued at over $50,000.

If that's not enough to keep you busy and in the black, well, my house needs a good cleaning, Stanley's always up for a walk, and my driveway is buried under several inches of snow. Participation in any of these is free! Take your pick.

Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley. If you have a story idea, please e-mail her at sabordog@aol.com.