For many transplants to Arizona, the holidays are synonymous with snow. And snow equals skiing.
So, it may be a bit harder to get geeked up about the ski season when it’s 70 degrees outside, but it’s time for Valley downhill skiers and snowboarders to rejoice.
The snow is falling. The ski lifts are opening.
It may be one of the state’s best-kept secrets, but Arizona has four ski resorts on more than 1,000 skiable acres within a half day’s drive of our balmy home.
Dust off that snowboard. Wax those skis. And check out Arizona’s downhill skiing and riding options:
SUNRISE PARK RESORT
(800) 772-7669 or
Details: Owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Sunrise is Arizona’s largest ski area with 65 trails on 800 skiable acres with about 250 to 300 inches of snowfall seasonally. The ski slopes run down three mountains: Sunrise Peak, Apache Peak, and Cyclone Circle.
Sunrise has 10 lifts, including double, triple and quads, that reach a top elevation of 8,000 feet. The ski runs have an 1,800-foot total vertical drop and the terrain is rated 20 percent advanced, 40 percent intermediate and 40 percent beginner.
For the single-plankers, Sunrise has a snowboard park with a half pipe, implanted wood and metal rails and a special events area with beginner to advanced jumps.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The park opened over the weekend with limited terrain; the season usually runs through mid-April.
Lift tickets: $17 to $39, with discounts for juniors (12 and younger) and seniors (65 to 69). People 70 and older ski for free.
Directions: Take state Highway 87 north to Payson. From Payson, take state Highway 260 east to Show Low. At Show Low, continue on state Highway 260 through Pinetop-Lakeside and McNary to state Highway 273. Turn right on 273; Sunrise Park Resort is four miles south, and the Sunrise Ski Area is three miles past the lodge.
(928) 779-1951 or
Details: The resort, which averages 260 inches of dry powder seasonally, has 32 trails on 130 skiable acres with an elevation of 11,500 feet and a 2,300-foot total vertical drop. Five chair lifts — two triples, two doubles and a surface lift — provide access to terrain that is rated 37 percent beginner, 42 percent intermediate and 21 percent advanced.
Snowbowl’s Terrain Park, on the Northstar run near Sunset lift, is designed for intermediate and expert snowboarders. The park features obstacles such as halfpipes, kickers, spines and railslides. Boarders are required to wear safety leashes at all times.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; the season usually begins in mid-December and runs through mid-April. Opening day to be announced.
Lift tickets: $19 to $42, with discounts for juniors (8 to 12) and seniors (65 to 69). If you’re celebrating a birthday, or you’re 7 and younger or 70 and older, you ski for free.
Directions: Take Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff. From the I-17 and Interstate 40 junction at the south end of town, go north 1.8 miles on South Milton Road (I-17 becomes Milton Road and Milton Road becomes Route 66). Proceed under the train bridge and follow the curve to the east. At the first stoplight, turn left (north) onto Humphreys Street (state Highway 180). Proceed on Humphreys for 0.6 miles to Fort Valley Road. Turn left on Fort Valley Road (Highway 180) and go 6.8 miles to the Arizona Snowbowl exit.
MOUNT LEMMON SKI VALLEY
(520) 576-1321, (520) 576-1400 or
Details: The ski area, which averages 160 to 175 inches of snow seasonally, has 18 trails on 70 skiable acres with a peak elevation of 9,157 feet, a base elevation of 8,250 feet and a 900-foot vertical drop. The area has two double lifts and a surface lift that serve terrain that is 30 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate and 30 percent advanced.
Mount Lemmon sets up a terrain park for snowboarders featuring half pipes, rails and jumps. The area also offers rentals and full-service ski school instruction. Hours: Times vary. Typically open Friday through Monday from mid-December to early April. Opening day to be announced. Lift tickets: Single-day lift ticket prices are $12 to $28, with special discounts for juniors younger than 12, seniors older than 65 and military personnel.
Directions: Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive about 30 miles to the Ski Valley turnoff. Turn right and drive one mile to the ski area. The roads are paved and suitable for passenger vehicles. After snowstorms, snow tires or chains may be required.
WILLIAMS SKI AREA
(928) 635-9330 or
Details: The ski area, which averages 150 inches of snow seasonally, has seven trails on 30 skiable acres with a peak elevation of 8,150 feet, a base elevation of 7,500 feet and a 600-foot total vertical drop. A 2,000-foot Poma lift and a nylon rope tow serve the 30 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate and 20 percent advanced terrain.
Snowboarding is allowed in the ski area but there is no terrain park or special facilities for boarders.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Opening day to be announced.
Lift tickets: Single-day lift ticket prices are $13 to $25, with school discounts available. Groups of 10 or more who call ahead can receive 10 percent off their ticket price.
Directions: From Williams, take Fourth Street about 1 1 /2 miles from the edge of town south to the ski area sign. Turn right and drive 1 1 /2 miles to the day lodge and parking area. Williams is 30 miles west of Flagstaff on Interstate 40.