Skiing in Arizona? Really.

Arizona Snowbowl skiers get ready for a day on the slope in Flagstaff

When you think Arizona, many think sunshine, cactus, and desert, but what about snow?

Little do people know the state of Arizona is home to three ski locations in the winter season.

 Although it may not be the ideal location for the best winter terrain it is proving to be a convenient and cheap place to ski to many locals and college students residing in Arizona.

 “I don’t think many people realize that Arizona actually has places to ski. Because I live in Scottsdale and go to school at the University of Arizona I think it is really convenient to take a cheap weekend trip up to one of the mountains with my friends,” Andrew Goodwin of Scottsdale said.

 The top three ski locations in Arizona are Arizona Snowbowl, Sunrise and Mt. Lemmon. All three of these destinations make for weekend get away trips.

 

According to the Arizona Department of Tourism and Travel the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff is the most popular snow destination of the three ski areas featuring 40 ski trails. Officialst said that they get thousands of calls each year regarding Snowbowl. Because the area gets a lot of snow each year it has becomest the most popular ski mountain in the state.

Arizona Snowbowl estimates a 2013 average of 150,000 skiers and hopes that number will double in years to come.

Conflicts have arisen though this season with the current use of wastewater to make man-made snow at Arizona Snowbowl. Many environmentalists tried to appeal the waste being used as snow but ultimately a federal appeals court let it pass in favor of bringing more money into Arizona and keeping the ski season runnng longer.

Dave Smith, the director of sales and marketing for Arizona Snowbowl, said the resort started using the wastewater forman-made snow in late December. “The system has been running great and the snow is much better and more consistent,” Smith said.

In terms of the man-made snow lengthening the ski season Smith said the they can now predict the season better and start making snow in early November and then let the weather run its course.

Tucson local Vanessa Gruenenfelder White is not bothered by the waste being used for snow. “I’m not particularly bothered by it. I understand that reclaimed water is relatively safe if not consumed.”

Sunrise, also a very popular ski spot, is in Greer about 200 miles out of Phoenix. Not only does Sunrise offer 65 ski trails but it also offers cross-country skiing courses.

“Don’t expect a grand resort but Sunrise is definitely my favorite spot in Arizona,” Goodwin said.

Mt. Lemmon, located in Tucson is the southernmost ski area in the United States. Mt. Lemmon offers 22 ski trails but the mountain does not offer grooming  so often times the terrain is changing. The weather on this mountain is so mild many people just ski in a sweater and jeans.

The Department of Tourism and Travel said that this mountain is popular for Tucson residentswho can come and go as they please because the mountain does not have many restrictions.

With many people not thinking of Arizona as a ski destination how do the various mountains market to future skiers?

To start lift tickets are a fraction of the price compared to surrounding areas in Colorado and Utah.

Consider an average lift ticket in Arizona cost around $40 daily, and compare that to a $119 lift ticket to ski in Aspen.

Smith, the director of sales and marketing at Arizona Snowbowl, says that their mountain has just started to reach out to surrounding states to market skiing. “Right now we mainly just marketing in the state and have just recently reached out to the Las Vegas area.”

With the ski season just now hitting full force from December to April skiers have an option of three great locations in Arizona. Check out the virtual map for more information regarding costs, directions and pictures for each mountain.

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