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The Nordic Center, which ranges in elevation from 8,000 to 8,700 feet, usually opens at the beginning of December and remains open until the middle or end of March with an average of 20 feet of snow each year (but don’t mention the 2005-06 season to Wendell – the center was only open in March due to lack of snow). The center offers 90-minute lessons for first-timers as well as ski and snowshoe rentals and sled, tube, and clothing sales. Last year Wendell began offering the Kid Ski Exchange Program, in which parents who buy boots, poles and skis have the option to exchange the equipment for bigger sizes for a nominal fee as their children grow. For those whose children walk on all fours and bark, keep in mind dogs are allowed on all 10 miles of snowshoe trails and one ski trail.
The Nordic Center hosts several popular events throughout the season, including ski and snowshoe races on Jan. 18; a classic ski race on Feb. 1; and Eat, Drink and Ski Merry on Feb. 8, in which skiers and snowshoers enjoy a three-course meal with wine spread out over a one-mile trail. A skate ski race is also scheduled for Feb. 22.
So what about the notion that cross-country skiing is for older folks with funny accents? Wendell quickly dispels such notions. With a two-mile downhill run, he says the Nordic Center offers “speed and thrills” for those looking for it. If you really want fun, rent a pair of skate skis – Wendell compares skate skis and classic skis to mountain biking vs. road biking. And is it true that cross country skiing gives you much more of a workout than downhill skiing?
“You really do set your own pace with cross-country skiing,” he says. “It can be hard or it can be easy if you do it properly and learn how to glide. And just remember, out here there are no lift lines.”
The Flagstaff Nordic Center is located 15 miles north of Flagstaff along Hwy 180 – the parking lot sits at mile marker 232. Call 928-220-0550 for information or visit www.flagstaffnordiccenter.com
• Usually open the first of December through March
• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with night skiing on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m.; special events held throughout the season
• Season passes range from $100 for children to $565 for families; day passes range from $12 to $50 for a package that includes instructions, passes, and equipment rentals
• The center offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tubing, and snow play
Sunrise Park Resort
Owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe and nestled at the base of three peaks in the picturesque White Mountains of eastern Arizona, Sunrise Park Resort just might offer the most diverse wintertime activities in the Southwest. Not only does the park offer 65 trails spread out over 800 acres, there’s also opportunity for ice fishing, sleigh rides, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and tubing. It’s no wonder more than 180,000 visitors, most heralding from Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, flock to the resort each year.
The White Mountain Apache tribe began developing Sunrise Lake in the 1960s and decided the area needed winter activities. Sunrise ski area opened on Christmas day 1970 with one mountain: Sunrise Peak. Sunrise Park Lodge opened in 1972 (a fire delayed the original opening, which was supposed to coincide with the ski area) and by 1983 the park had added Apache Peak and Cyclone Peak to the mix. Today the resort includes five day lodges, restaurants, two equipment rental shops, a terrain park for skiers and snowboarders, eight chair lifts, and one high-speed quad. Bill London, the resort’s operation manager who’s worked at Sunrise for nearly 20 years, says the trails are a decent mix of difficulty. “I’d say we’re about 40 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, and 20 percent advanced,” estimates Bill. “The terrain park offers something for all levels of skiers and snowboarders with rails, jumps, fun boxes, and some odd obstacles like a propane tank.”