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Scenic Skyride at Arizona Snowbowl
It’s the middle of August and 95 degrees in Red Rock Country. But just an hour away from Sedona there’s a spot where you’ll need to bundle up in a jacket, a beanie, and maybe even gloves. When we hopped aboard the Scenic Skyride at Arizona Snowbowl, one of the ski area’s four lifts, it was in the high 70s but when we hopped off the lift it was down to 45 degrees. The 25-minute (each way) ride takes you to an elevation of 11,500 ft. on the slopes of Agassiz Peak, one of the San Francisco Peaks. The views from the ski lift and Agassiz Peak are stunning – on clear days you can see all the way to the Grand Canyon. A Forest Service Ranger is stationed at the top of the skyride to answer questions and point out the peaks – make sure you identify Mt. Humphreys, the highest peak in Arizona at 12,633 ft.
Spend as much time as you’d like taking in the sights and walking along some short trails before riding back to the bottom – we were lucky enough to encounter the dime-size yellow blossoms of the San Francisco Peaks groundsel, an alpine plant found nowhere else. The ride down offers better views than the ride up, but neither is for those afraid of heights. Grab a bite to eat at the Peak Side Café or, if you forgot the fleece, head to the gift shop for summer ski sales. A bit of advice: Choose your footwear carefully. We had a great time counting all the flip-flops on the forest floor beneath the ski lift and even saw a few skyriders coming down wearing only one shoe.
Scenic Skyride at Arizona Snowbowl is located 7 miles northwest of Flagstaff at Hwy 180 and Snowbowl Rd. The ride runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Labor Day, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through mid-October. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for kids ages 8 to 12, and free for kids ages 7 and under. Get two tickets for the price of one on Tuesdays and free rides on your birthday. For more details, visit www.arizonasnowbowl.com or call 928-779-1951.
If you’re headed to Las Vegas or just feel like taking a road trip, the Hoover Dam, located on the Nevada- Arizona border, offers two tours of the inside of the iconic location, much cooler than standing at one of the viewpoints in the baking desert sun. The Power Plant Tour begins with a 70-second elevator ride 530 feet down through the rock wall of Black Canyon and continues with a 35-minute guided tour that includes the Penstock Viewing Platform (the top of one of four 30-ft.-diameter pipes that transport 90,000 gallons of water each second from Lake Mead to the hydroelectric generators) and the Power Plant Generators (pictured at right). The 90-minute Hoover Dam Tour adds the less-traveled Inspection Galleries – see inspection markings on walls, look out air vents, and see a set of stairs reaching into the depths of the dam. Visitor Center admission is included in both tours. It’s free to park in one of the many lots and walk along the edge of the dam but don’t say we didn’t warn you: Bring sunscreen!
A few fun facts about Hoover Dam: It is 726.4 feet tall, weighs more than 6.6 million tons and contains 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete. The first concrete was placed on June 6, 1933, and the last was placed May 29, 1935. It took 21,000 men to build the dam; the average monthly payroll was $500,000. The dam, which backs up the Colorado River and formed 247-square-mile Lake Mead, was built to generate low-cost hydroelectric power for Nevada, Arizona, and California – it creates enough kilowatt-hours each year to serve 1.3 million people.
The Hoover Dam is located 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on Hwy 93. The dam is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas; summer hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the last tour at 5:15 p.m. Power Plant Tour admission: $11/adult, $9/seniors, $9/children 4-16, free to children 3 and under. Hoover Dam Tour: $30/person (tour not accessible to those in wheelchairs). Visitor Center: $8/person, free to children 3 and under. For more information, visit www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/ or call 702-494-2517.