There’s awesome riding and skiing in Arizona. Yeah, we didn’t believe that statement either. Arizona is about the last place that comes to mind when you think about skiing and riding the Rockies. We pictured cactus, burritos, and the desert. But roadtripping is all about opening your mind to new experiences.
1st Stop –Arizona Snowbowl
Located up the street from bustling Flagstaff, Arizona Snowbowl opened our eyes to the potential of the Grand Canyon state. First surprise: A forty inch base. Second: Jumping off the lift at 11,500 feet. Third: Killer terrain.
We didn’t get a chance to venture into the backcountry. With temperatures topping out around forty degrees, it was strictly a spring skiing session — in the middle of January. We did find some smooth snow in the trees off the Agassiz lift.
Local’s Tip: Go midweek and stay at the Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins. Only six miles from the and you get a quaint cabin and two lift tickets for the ridiculous sum of $129.
2nd Stop — Sunrise Park
Did you know there’s a large ski area in Eastern Arizona? Neither did we until we trekked out to the White Mountain range to Sunrise Park. Owned and operated by the Fort Apache tribe, Sunrise is slightly bigger than Snowbowl. And definitely less crowded
We spent another bluebird Tuesday virtually by ourselves. By the afternoon, we noticed that not only were the woods untouched, they were chock full of snow. The afternoon consisted of sunbaked powder turns in the trees. How long had it lain there, waiting to be ridden?
Then at the bottom of our fourth or fifth run through more untracked powder, we noticed the signs: Stay out of the Woods. Ahhhh…one mystery solved. We tried to obey, we really did, but when your choices are groomers or virgin tree powder, wat are you going to choose?
Local’s Tip: There’s plenty of lodging in Pinetop about thirty miles away. Or you can stay in the $99 Fort Apache casino and catch a shuttle to the mountain.
3rd Stop – Ski Valley at Mt. Lemmon
Tucson, Arizona is straight desert. It’s thirty miles from Mexico. Cactus everywhere. So we were even more impressed that a ski hill existed here. Of couse, we had to check out the southernmost ski area in America.
Located at 8,000 feet and overlooking Tucson, Ski Valley has about a dozen trails serviced by two lifts. We hit it up on a Thursday…it’s closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so you can time it to hit some big dumps. It’s not unheard of for Mt. Lemmon to get thirty inch dumps.
Local’s Tip: No real deals here. They have a punchcard, but we recommend just getting the half day ticket for $39 so you can say that you rode the southernmost ski resorts.
Any further south and you’re riding Mexico!