Arizona is for Snowbirds

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Snowbowl, with a base elevation of 9,200 feet and peak elevation of 11,500 feet, has two day-lodges on site, Hart Prairie and Agassiz. Both offer dining and a sport shop but Hart Prairie also offers equipment rentals and the Ski & Ride School with programs for adults and children. While snowboarding lessons have been most popular in recent years, there’s been a resurgence in requests for ski lessons, especially as the rise of twin tip, parabolic, and shaped skis have given the sport a new, hipper image.

So what can you expect to encounter during a day carving up the slopes? Snowbowl includes 50 acres and two lifts for beginners. Dave recommends Hart Prairie as an excellent place to start. Sunset lift is perfect for intermediate skiers and boarders while Agassiz lift offers 1,981 vertical feet for those at a more advanced level. Skiers will also find tree skiing, a favorite among locals. Sunset Terrain Park, open to skiers and snowboarders, includes fun boxes, rails, spines, hits and new features each season. A short hike into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness rewards recreationalists with “legendary backcountry and open bowl skiing,” says Dave. Renowned ski photographer Kevin Zacher shot photos for Transworld Snowboarding magazine in the Kachina Wilderness backcountry a few years ago. Backcountry permits are required and can be obtained from the Coconino Forest Service (the Forest Service sets up shop at Agassiz Lodge during ski season on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 11 a.m.).

Dave says Snowbowl is a family-friendly resort and encourages parents to begin to teach children how to ski at an early age. Dave says he’s heard skiers say Snowbowl offers some of the most consistent terrain but urges everyone to be cautious and safe.

When asked what’s the best time of the season to ski Snowbowl, Dave smiles. “Whenever you’re out on the slopes,” he says, “it’s a good day.”

Arizona Snowbowl is located on Snowbowl Rd. off Hwy. 180, seven miles northwest of Flagstaff. Call 928-779-1951 for information or visit

Usually opens mid-December and stays open through mid-April 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (no night skiing)

Unlimited season passes range from $29 for children under 7 to $699 for adults. All-day lift tickets are less than $50 (exact price yet to be determined at press time)

The park offers skiing, snowboarding, backcountry skiing, equipment rentals, and lessons

Overnight lodging available at Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins on Hwy. 180 at the base of Snowbowl Rd.

The Flag­staff Nordic Center

Twenty-five years ago, a local resident opened the Flag­staff Nordic Center, nestled in a pristine pocket of forest along Hwy 180 north of Snowbowl Road. The center has changed hands over the years; Arizona Snowbowl owned it for a time, and for the past four years current owners Wendell and Jennifer Johnson have referred to it as their “labor of love.” The Nordic Center features 35 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails as well as a big meadow ideal for sledding, tubing, snowball fights, and building snowmen. The couple has invested in trail maintenance, including new equipment to keep trails groomed, instructors, and a new kids’ program that will debut this season. Last season, visitors came from as far away as the Ukraine, and Wendell says each year he meets guests from Phoenix and Florida who’ve never even seen snow.

“I think the biggest surprise for people is how groomed the trails are,” says Wendell. “It’s like a big white highway running through the woods. The trails are also groomed for skate skiing – many are 16 feet wide rather than just single tracks.”

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