When the calendar page turns to December, images of skiing, sledding and snowboarding dance in the heads of East Valley residents. For those who live by the motto “will drive for snow,” enjoying this winter requires a little more planning. A wimpy winter is in the forecast for northern Arizona this season.
“We’re kind of waiting for it,” says Jessica Stephens of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Knowing exactly where to go when the snow does finally fall in Flagstaff and the surrounding area means more time to play and less time spent searching. With any of these locations, be sure to call ahead. Snow conditions are fickle and can affect hours of operation.
The biggest mistake East Valley residents make when looking for snow in Flagstaff is “pulling off at the first patch they see,” Stephens says.
Snow play: If all you want to do is sled, build snowmen, throw snowballs and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, consider the Wing Mountain Snow Play Area (Milepost 226 on U.S. 180). Facilities include a play area for kids with snow toys, a concession stand and equipment rentals. $10 per carload of five people, $2 each additional person. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Information: (928) 226-0493 or www.snowplayaz.com. Further up U.S. 180 you’ll find Crowley Pit (Milepost 233) and Walker Lake (Milepost 235). Both areas are free.
Downhill skiing: Depending on this weekend’s storm, Arizona Snowbowl may open its 70th season Thursday. The ski area features 2,300 feet of vertical drop. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $48 adults, $26 children ages 8-12 and senior citizens ages 65-69.
Information: (928) 779-1951 or www.arizonasnowbowl.com.
Williams isn’t the first place East Valley residents think of when chasing snow, but more people are discovering it. If the crowds in Flagstaff are a little too much, head west on Interstate 40.
Snow play: Two-hundred-foot runs for tubing and sledding are open at Elk Ridge Ski Area, as are runs for family-oriented skiing and snowboarding. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. $25-$35.
Once in Williams, take Fourth Street south (it becomes Perkinsville Road) and drive about 2 1/2 miles to Ski Run Road. Information: (928) 814-5038 or www.elkridgeski.com.
Ice skating: There are few places to ice skate outdoors (a treat, as any transplanted Midwesterner will tell you). The outdoor ice-skating rink at the Williams Recreation Center, 200 W. Railroad Ave., hosts skate sessions 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sundays and Thursdays and 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $8 adults, $5 children includes skate rental. Information: (800) 863-0546 or williamsfestivals.com.
Cold Weather 101
• You don’t need chains on well-maintained roads, but you should be prepared to drive slowly and give yourself more time for travel.
• Layer your clothing. Temperatures could be in the 20s in the morning and rise to the 40s by midday.
• Always carry a cell phone with you. There is cell phone reception along U.S. 180.
• If you’re heading out on the trails, tell someone where you are going and let them know when you will be back.