Skiing Arizona: Phoenix’s Ski Resorts

March 16, 2010

In a desert state and a city where the temperature reaches 38C on an average of 89 days during the year it may come as a surprise that you can ski on real snow, on real mountains, just a few hours from the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

Snowfall in Phoenix itself is extremely rare; the city only averages 5 days per year where the temperature drops below freezing and since records began, snow has only fallen seven times – the last of which was January 2001 (the first snow fall in 22 years).

However, much to the enjoyment of Phoenix’s skiers and snowboarders, there are several ski resorts within a few hours drive which are perfect for a day or weekend trip and should satisfy snow lovers’ cravings for the white stuff.

Arizona Snowbowl is located in the San Francisco Peaks in the Coconino National Forest, just a two hour drive from Phoenix. The ski area offers over 2,300 feet of vertical drop and 32 scenic trails that cover 777 acres and the Arizonan desert climate means the resort also enjoys plenty of sunny skiing days.

Those who prefer their skiing more sedate can visit the Flagstaff Nordic Center, located just seven miles north of Snowbowl. This area offers winter sports fans an extensive network of Nordic ski trails, as well as snowshoeing and sledding. Flagstaff also supports a healthy racing scene with competitions of various lengths held throughout the winter for cross country skiers.

The largest ski area in Arizona is Sunrise Park Resort, located in McNary in the Arizona White Mountains. Owned and operated by the White Mountains Apache Tribe, the areas comprises of eight lifts, and over 13 miles of cross country skiing trials.

And finally, if you want to ski in the most southerly ski resort in the Untied States, head for Mount Lemmon Ski Valley. Though Tucson is more likely to conjure up thoughts of sand rather than snow (several well-known beach resorts are located here) – just an hour’s drive away from the sea there is skiing and snowboarding to be found. The area is small, with a vertical drop of just 290m, 3 lifts and a ski-able area of 200 acres, but despite its southerly location, the resort still manages to open from December to April and the scenic views that overlook the area make Mt. Lemmon a popular ski destination.

Accommodation is available in (or near) all of these winter towns in the form of cabins, lodges and motels. Be warned though – people come here to ski rather than party so if you’re looking for a wild time, a better option would be to stay at a hotel in Phoenix and just commute to the ski areas during the day.