Sunday, February 17, 2013

Flagstaff, Arizona


Skiing and pine trees in Arizona? Oh yes. I spent the day following Ben, the ski patrol guy, and Kyle, a base jumper on his off day, through beautiful, dense forests on the steep hills of the Arizona Snowbowl ski area.

And sometimes you get lucky. My first ever day skiing in Arizona turned out to be an epic day. A day that stood out even in the minds of the locals, who had not seen such snowfall in recent years. Two to three feet of lightweight powder snow!

Me, in a happy mood!

Arizona Snowbowl

Arizona Snowbowl is located north of Flagstaff, on the road towards the Grand Canyon. This part of Arizona is on a high plane, the city itself is at 6,900 feet, and the ski area runs from 9,000 feet to 11,500 feet. Had the weather been better I could have also hiked to Agassiz Peak (12,356 feet) or to Humprey's Peak, Arizona's highest mountain (12,633 feet).


The ski area has a few beginner/intermediate lifts and runs near the base at the Hart Prairie Lodge, but for most serious skiers, it really has one lift. The Agassiz chair lift, an old chair lift that takes you from 9,500 feet to 11,500. At a very slow pace. But it does bring you to a perfect place.

Ski lift. Note the "no foul language" sign.

There are plenty of paths down, from straight down to far right and far left. Narrow trails and forest runs. The forests are very dense, so be careful when skiing through them. There are no cliffs, but be aware of "tree snakes", horizontally laying tree branches and trunks, just under the snow.

Avalanche beacon tester station

The Upper Volcano run, one of the trails from Agassiz chair lift

At the top of the ski lift there is also an option for hiking upwards and to the skier's right, to an area called the Upper Bowl. At the time that I was there, the area was closed, but was accessible if you convinced the ski patrol to join you for safety. Luckily, the ski patrol was quite enthusiastic to join us for some powder skiing. Inquire within the patrol hut.

With the ski patrol, you can break the rules

It is also possible to go further out and ski back to the road on the other side of the mountain. Doing this requires a permit from the rangers, who hang out in the bar at the base from 9:30am to 11:30am. (The rumor says that they hang out there the whole day, but I did not find them when I went looking.)

The bar at the base

Views from the lift


I did not see any other tourists, foreigners, or even out-of-state visitors on the mountain. There were plenty of students from North Arizona University at Flagstaff, however. I figured Kyle - one of the students - would know about afterski and bars in town. Funnily enough, while Kyle has been into base jumping for a couple of years, as he had turned 21 only a couple of days ago, he did not have much to say about the bar scene. Oh well, it is good that the U.S. laws keep the kid away from dangerous pastimes, like going to bars!

But I also run into the owners of Collin's Irish Pub on the ski slope, and visited their bar downtown later in the evening. This seems like the most active bar in town, and they also have some food on the menu. I recommend the Whisky-soaked bread pudding for dessert.

Avalanche safety course practice

Practical Details

The trail map for the ski area is here. A day ticket costs 55 $.

The start of the road to the ski area

On a snow day, you'll need chains or 4wd on the road to the ski area.

There is no accommodation in the ski area. You should stay in Flagstaff, 15 miles away. There are plenty of varying hotel and motel options. I stayed at the Hampton Inn, a Hilton chain hotel for 60 $ per night plus some points. Their prices include breakfast.

Arizona is my fifteenth state that I have skied in Northern America.

The ski area is between Flagstaff and Grand Canyon

Photo and video credits (c) 2013 by Jari Arkko

1 comment:

  1. I was actually up skiing during this same storm cycle. I may have rode the lift with you. Snowbowl can be a very fun mountain when conditions are good.