As a winter storm took aim at Arizona on Monday, the state’s skiing/snowboarding industry couldn’t have been happier after hearing the forecast of cold, wet weather.
“If we get even half of the snow they’re expecting, we’ll be in good shape,” said Paul Bestenheider, food and beverage manager at the Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area in Williams.
More than 2 feet of snow is expected to fall across much of northern Arizona by late today. The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff issued a winter storm warning, effective through 8 p.m., for the Mogollon Rim, the Kaibab and Coconino plateaus, the Grand Canyon and Yavapai County.
Heavy rain also was anticipated in the Valley.
At Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains, a promising forecast led management to hang out its “Open” sign, effective this Friday, with the only unknown being how many runs would be skiable. In the week previous, the resort received 2-3 feet of snow.
Elk Ridge employees also were optimistic the latest round of storms would allow them to open all nine of their ski and snowboard runs.
But at Arizona Snowbowl, near Flagstaff, the mood was far more cautious.
“It’s a waiting game — a very anxious waiting game — that we’re playing now,” sales and marketing director David Smith said.
It appeared Smith’s wait would be over very soon, as the Weather Service was forecasting as much as 40 inches of snow to fall on Snowbowl (base elevation 9,200 feet) by early Wednesday.
In the deserts of south-central Arizona, including the Valley, the only snow in the forecast would be seen atop Four Peaks. But through Thursday, 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected, with 3 inches possible in the foothills.
By Monday afternoon, sprinkles were falling across much of the East Valley; as of 5 p.m., gauges in the Usery Pass/Las Sendas area of Mesa had taken in 0.08 inches. Overnight totals were expected to measure less than a quarter-inch.
“Wednesday and Wednesday night are when the real significant accumulations come in,” said Austin Jamison, a meteorologist at the Weather Service’s office in Phoenix. “We could see a lot of places with an inch-plus (of rain).”
Along with falling rain would be dropping temperatures. Not until Sunday is the daytime high expected to break into the 60s.
Monday’s high was 53 degrees, 14 below normal and only five degrees above the date’s all-time low.
At Mesa Riverview’s Ski Pro shop, Monday’s gray clouds were filled with silver linings.
“Usually after the first snow is when we start seeing people come out of the woodwork,” assistant manager Bryan Scott said. “So, we’re getting everything stocked up and ready to go.”
Despite the down economy, neither at Ski Pro nor on the mountaintops were there predictions of a dire season, either through pristine runs going unshredded or a lack of customers buying gear.
“We’re expecting a bigger year,” Smith said. “Many families may not choose to go to some of the bigger destinations that they visited in the past. Instead, we’re expecting that they’ll come to resorts that are closer to home.”
Added Scott: “Business has been slow, but not that slow. People are expecting us to have these price-busting sales with 50 percent off. We’re not going out of business — we’re here to stay.”