Flagstaff's Snowbowl and Winterfest
Text by Howard A. Sheldon
If Phoenix or Tucson is your idea of Arizona, then majestic Saguaros, balmy weather and desert dry lakes fit that vision. But most people don't realize that Arizona's visitors and year-round residents enjoy skiing and other snow sports during the winter months. In fact, Arizona has some of the best winter skiing in the Desert Southwest!
Flagstaff's elevation of 7,000 feet usually cools off early in December and snowstorms soon blanket the San Francisco Peaks in white. From then on, it's only a matter of time before the Arizona Snowbowl opens for the winter ski season.
The San Francisco Peaks -- the home of the Arizona Snowbowl -- are located in the north-central portion of Arizona, about 14 miles from downtown Flagstaff. The peaks are the remains of an extinct volcano and are considered sacred by many Native American tribes in the area. Before the volcano blew its top, the San Francisco Peaks were thought to have been over 15,000 feet high. This would have made them the tallest mountains in North America.
The Snowbowl -- one of the 10 oldest continuously operating ski areas in the country -- is perched on the flanks of Agassiz Peak, the second highest of the San Francisco Peaks at 12,340 feet. The area encompasses more than 700 acres and has a 2,300-foot vertical rise. The longest ski run is 2 miles.
While riding the ski lift, you are in the shadow of Humphrey Peak, which at 12,633 feet, can be quite humbling. Look out toward the northern horizon and you'll see a spectacular vista of the Grand Canyon's North Rim.
Some skiers say that the best thing about Snowbowl is its lift-accessed backcountry. The backside of the mountain is a free-skier's dream. Featuring terrain comparable to Mammoth and Taos, it's considered one of the best backcountry skiing areas in the Southwest.
To access these areas, you will need a backcountry permit from the Coconino National Forest Service. If you decide to forego the permit and get caught (which is probable) fines start at $100 for the first offense and increase progressively for each subsequent offense, up to $10,000. It's just not worth skipping the backcountry permit.
The entire experience at the Snowbowl is a delight for the body and spirit. The atmosphere is friendly and hospitable. The management is currently completing new ski runs to open next year. We received a tour from the two members of the snowmobile ski-patrol, B.J. and Angelo, who were very knowledgeable and professional. They are a real asset to the mountain and its skiers.
If you are a skier, and you live in the Southwest, don't pass up the chance to ski the Arizona Snowbowl or you will have missed something extraordinary.
The Important Details
SEASON: Mid-December through Mid-April (snow permitting) 9 am 4 pm, operational daily.
Hart Prairie Lodge (9,200 ft.): Food and Beverage, Bar and Entertainment, Ski School, Rental Equipment, Ski Repair Shop, Lift Tickets, Rest Rooms, Public Phones, Sport Shop, First Aid, Lost and Found, Outdoor BBQ, Guest Services, Administration, Free breakfast served weekdays at 8 am / Weekends and Holidays at 7:30 am.
Agassiz Lodge (9,500 ft.): Food and Beverage, Bar, Lift Tickets, Sport Shop, First Aid, Restrooms, Outdoor BBQ, Public Phones.
Parking is available for over 1,000 cars near the ski area (chains or 4wd recommended). There is also parking at the bottom of Snowbowl Road.
7 miles north of Flagstaff on Highway 180, 7 miles to ski slopes on Snowbowl Road. MAP
PHONE NUMBER: 520-779-1951
WHERE TO STAY
There are hotels and motels in Flagstaff, with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list. Click Here. (Rates, availability and reservation online)
Camping & RV Parks
The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce is proud to promote the community by celebrating winter in the mountains during the 22nd Annual Winterfest Flagstaff. Entertaining events from art shows to college basketball games to festivals of food and drink take place throughout the month of February. This year’s title sponsor is Flagstaff Coca Cola with additional sponsorship provided by Arizona Snowbowl and McCoy Motors.
2008 activities will appeal to everyone in the family. Whether you’re a visitor or a local resident, you will find activities to fill a warm sunny day or a cold snowy night. Snows in December and January have left a good base on the ground and the Arizona Snowbowl and the Nordic Center are geared up for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
Bundle up and take friends and family sledding at the new Wing Mountain Snow Play Area, located about three miles past Snowbowl Road. There is now a dedicated area for younger children with smaller hills.
Many Flagstaff restaurants offer Winterfest specials. Take time to patronize them. Share tea with nationally recognized author Diana Gabaldon or have dinner in honor of Robert Burns.
First Friday Art Walk on February 1st is a great evening celebration of the arts. Stroll through numerous boutiques and art galleries beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Historic Downtown.
February is a wonderful month to assist many Flagstaff charities. The annual outdoor Snowball Slide for the Assistance League, Bowling for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Denim and Diamonds Gala for the American Cancer Society are all slated to happen during Winterfest.
The city’s year-round area cultural attractions, such as Lowell Observatory,
the Museum of Northern Arizona, Coconino Center for the Arts and Riordan Mansion
are all offering special events during the month. They range from “Playthings
of the Past” exhibits at the Pioneer Museum to the continuing Therizinosaur
dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona.
Winterfest Source: http://www.flagstaffchamber.com
Snowbowl Info: http://www.arizonasnowbowl.com/
DIRECTIONS TO THE ARIZONA SNOWBOWL
The Arizona Snowbowl is located 7 miles northwest of Flagstaff on Highway 180. To get here, simply turn right on Snowbowl Road and continue another 7 miles.
The Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins are located on Highway 180, at the base of Snowbowl Road.
DIRECTIONS TO SNOWBOWL FROM I-17
Once you reach Flagstaff, continue north on Milton Road for 3 miles. Milton will go under the railroad tracks and the road will bear to the right. Take a left at the first stop light (Humphreys Street). At the third stop light (Hwy 180), turn left. Continue 7 miles to Snowbowl Road and then turn right. The resort is 7 miles up Snowbowl Road.
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