Flagstaff's Snowbowl and Winterfest
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, at an elevation of 7,000 feet, usually cools off early in December, and snowstorms blanket the San Francisco Peaks in white soon after. 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 two 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 this area, 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. We received a tour from 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 & SHUTTLE BUS
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. From there, a privately-run shuttle bus service can take you to the lift area and back down again for a minimal fee, weather permitting.
7 miles north of Flagstaff on Highway 180, 7 miles to ski slopes on Snowbowl Road. MAP
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 reservations online.)
Camping & RV Parks
There are many commercial and Forest Service locations for camping and RVs in and near Flagstaff. For a complete list contact:
Convention and Visitors Bureau
Milligan House at 323 West Aspen Avenue
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001-5399
928-779-7611 ~ Fax: 928-556-1305
"What's Winterfest?" you ask. Winterfest is Flagstaff's 28-day winter extravaganza.
This February festival began 26 years ago as a fun-filled way to introduce visitors to Flagstaff's pristine, mountain wonderland. Since then, Winterfest has grown to include sled dog races, Nordic and Alpine skiing competitions, snowboard and snowshoe activities, snowmobile drag racing and rentals, sled dog play day, stargazing, special children's activities, sleigh rides, concerts, cultural events, and winter workshops and lectures. Flagstaff Winterfest is a production of the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber can be reached at 928-774-4505 for details. A full schedule of events will be published in a variety of forms and locations.
Flagstaff Nordic Center
One may yearn to 'yurt' says Ann Dunlop. "Does it hurt?" I asked. She noted, "Only if you flirt in a yurt with someone else's turf."
WHAT'S A YURT?
A yurt is a round, dome-shaped structure used by the Mongols. A yurt was a modest mobile home about 16 feet in diameter with 10-foot high ceilings constructed of branches and goatskins. Flagstaff's Nordic Center will have a modern yurt set up for February's Winterfest.
Every Friday night of the ski season the Nordic Center hosts a bonfire and great deals! They'll stoke the fire and stay open until 7pm for skiing, snowshoeing and snow biking, and will offer late yurt and cabin check-ins. Grab a thermos of your favorite hot beverage and join us for great deals!
Peak Endeavors, LLC
dba Flagstaff Nordic Center
PO Box 1781
Flagstaff, Arizona 86002
16848 U.S. 180
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Lodge Phone: (928) 220-0550
City of Flagstaff, Arizona
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