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Insider's Guide To Arizona Snowbowl

Insider's Guide To Arizona Snowbowl

New Grand Canyon chair is first high-speed at Arizona Snowbowl. (Arizona Snowbowl/Facebook)

The words “Arizona” and “snow” appear incongruous, but the upper third of the state is high enough to bring those terms together – at Arizona Snowbowl.

Looming above Flagstaff (itself at 6,909 feet), the state’s top ski and snowboard mountain beckons desert-dwellers and I-40 travelers alike to check out what a little elevation – 9,200 at the base -- can do to overcome the “it’s-a-dry-heat” mantra down below.

Travel. Mountain base is short drive from Flagstaff; traffic can be heavy on weekends. Buses run from in-town for $2.50. On Wednesdays and Thursdays-Sundays, Phoenix folks can pick up a 5 a.m. Desert Snow shuttle for the three-hour ride to Snowbowl. Parking splits into a lower lot, where novice trails predominate, and upper lot.

Tickets. Retail adult price at window is $75, non-holiday, with half-day at $59. Ages 7 and under or 70 and over ski and ride for free. Online purchases cut the price even more – and bypass often long lines at resort’s windows. Snowbowl is part of the PowerPass network, too.

Arizona Snowbowl

Trails. The mountain divides nicely between all green in the renowned novice Hart Prairie area – with dedicated lifts -- and the blue-black terrain higher up. Ski & Ride School specializes on beginner instruction, for adults and kids alike. Hart Prairie is perfect for that. Two terrain parks target less-experienced free-riders.

Advanced skiers and riders can warm up on groomers off Humphrey’s Peak four-seater before hopping the three-pack fixed-grip Agassiz chair for the ride to the top, with midway unloading available. It’s all expert runs off the 11,500-foot summit, with alpine runs in the Upper Bowl and tons of glades on north-facing pitch.

Or, take the new Grand Canyon Express high-speed that stops short of summit so intermediate skiers and ‘boarders can hit the blues right away. The new chair also is expected to relieve long lines at the base.

The advent of snowmaking in the last couple of seasons has smoothed out the vagaries of winter weather in the high desert. Still, it’s important to check the weather before heading up as high winds have been known to temporarily shut down lifts.

Eat. Two lodges serve up on-mountain fare. Hart Prairie has full breakfast and lunch menus, while Agassiz focuses on standard mountain lunch. Outdoor café is another option, with beer and drinks served at each location. Café 9500 at Hart Prairie ups the cuisine with paninis and gourmet burgers.

Down below, restaurants flourish in Flagstaff, home to Northern Arizona University, with college-town sports bars to haute-cuisine and everything in between.

Stay. Nothing on the mountain, but 25 rooms at Ski Lift Lodge at access turn off U.S. 180 are comfortable -- with hearty dinner meals, free breakfast and comp’d ticket. Stay at partner motels/hotels in town and get a free day ticket for next day. Flagstaff has full range of overnight accommodations.

Insider Tip. Check online for ticket and lesson discounts because Arizona Snowbowl has reputation for off-beat, funky discounts on specific days -- Two-for-One Tuesdays, Boomer Thursdays, Carload Days, Family Fridays, and more.

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