Stacey Wittig

Stacey Wittig’s adventures have led her up the Inca Trail in Peru eating fried caterpillars, across the plains of Spain enjoying steamed barnacles, and through the vineyards of Cinque Terre sipping Chianti Classico. “The Grand Canyon State is a remarkable place to call home,” declares the wandering writer, who writes from her home in Flagstaff.

Flagstaff Snowplay

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Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid singing the Jingle Bells song. Just when I thought that my dream would never be realized in Arizona, Windmill Ranch south of Flagstaff on I-17 at Exit 328 started offering exhilarating sleigh rides through the snow – in a two-horse drawn sleigh (sigh!) You’ll be transported – laughing all the way – to a hidden campsite in the Coconino National Forest for hot cocoa around a toasty campfire. And then you’ll be jingled o’er the fields back to the rustic ranch.
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Leaf Peeping Flagstaff Style

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The answer to the question, “Are the trees turning in Flagstaff yet?” is an emphatic “Yes!” The combination of a wet summer (the twelfth wettest dating back to 1898 according to local weather expert Lee Born,) dropping temps and shorter days makes for great fall-foliage viewing from now until late October. The colors start changing first in the high country where right now the vibrant contrast of aspen trees crowned in flaming yellows set against the dark green of spruce and Ponderosa pine keeps your finger firmly glued to the shutter of your camera or smart phone. The color show continues when foliage at lower elevations turn later on during the month.

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Surprising Spring Adventure

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The mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona, located in Southwest USA has one of the best spring seasons going. I’ve lived all over the Rocky Mountains, but Flagstaff captured my heart with its remarkable springtime. With over twenty Flagstaff spring seasons under my belt, you can count on me to call out the following five things that make Flagstaff’s spring surprising.

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Six Flagstaff Kicks on Route 66

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Six Flagstaff Kicks on Route 66

You’ll Kick Yourself if you miss these Route 66 Secrets

Since all you Flagstaff Route 66 aficionados are so well-versed on the Mother Road’s “Must-See” spots – like the Museum Club, Galaxy Diner and the Flagstaff Visitor Center – I’m here to tell you about lesser-known gems that you’d kick yourself if you missed. As a travel writer, I’m always looking for hideaways that earn bragging rights, and I want to slap myself silly if I learn about one AFTER I’ve left the place. With the following six insider secrets, you’ll score impressive photo ops, backstories and much to crow about.

Mother Road Brewing Company

Stationed on a lost portion of Route 66, this locally-owned craft brewery is off the beaten path. The original Route 66 followed the railroad spur (Mikes Pike) that serviced Flagstaff’s Riordan Lumber Mill. The reroute took place when an underpass was constructed to facilitate congestion caused by families moving west during the Dust Bowl at what is now Milton Road.

Discover that original alignment of Route 66 by walking or driving south on Beaver Street from the Flagstaff Visitor Center to Phoenix Avenue. Follow Phoenix Avenue west to Mikes Pike, and you’ll be tracing the original route of the Mother Road, John Steinbeck’s name for Route 66. Turn left onto Mikes Pike and go one block to Mother Road Brewing Company. The family-friendly taproom, located in the 1920s Milum Building, serves beer with Route 66 inspired names such as “Lost Highway Black IPA’ and “Gold Road Kölsch Style Ale. http://www.motherroadbeer.com

Mother Road Brewing Company

Route 66 Passport: Get Stamped Along the Mother Road

Not many peeps are aware of the 90th Anniversary edition of the Arizona Historic Route 66 Passport, but you’ll be “in the know” when you ask for one at the Flagstaff Visitor Center in historic downtown. The commemorative document reveals where in Arizona you can collect stamps for your secret Route 66 passport. http://azrt66.com/things-to-do/route-66-passport

Dog Haus: Undercover Backstory

Just when you thought that the Eagles hit “Take it Easy” was inspired by songwriter Jackson Brown’s experience on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, here comes the backstory. According to an interview with local entertainment producer Matthew Ziegler, Brown revealed, “The image of that girl driving a truck was an image that came from east Flag(staff). … It wasn’t really a flatbed Ford. It was a Toyota truck, and it was pulling out of Weinerschnitzel.” The drive-thru has since changed its name to Dog Haus, but you could reenact your own version of the hush-hush story by checking out who’s slowin’ down to take a look at you while you wait for your dogs or breakfast burritos. In case you don’t know them by heart, here’s the words to that iconic road trippin’ song penned by Brown and Glenn Frey:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me
http://www.flagstaffarizona.org/route66

Miz Zip’s: Serving Route 66 Motorists Since Elvis was a Teenager

This Route 66 roadside diner has been in the family since 1952. There’s a selfie photo op with the sign outside that flaunts a Route 66 crest. Inside, historic memorabilia and western bric-and-brac adorn the walls. Miz Zip’s clientele is mostly locals, many sporting cowboy hats and boots. So you’ll experience a slice of cowboy life served up with that slice of homemade pie, a specialty. Bring cash or check since this hole-in-the-wall does not accept credit cards. http://www.yelp.com/biz/miz-zips-flagstaff

Western Hills Motel Neon Sign

This is my favorite neon sign along all of Arizona Route 66. The feet on the team of horses trot as they pull the covered wagon, which, of course, makes the spoked wheels go round and round. How fun is that? Get out of your car to make the most of this photo op and try out the video mode on your camera to capture the motion. The sign shares the address, 1580 E Route 66, Flagstaff with Agave Mexican Restaurant, which gets dos thumbs up from this travel correspondent.

Route 66 Neon

Phoenix Avenue Route 66 Mural

If you don’t know where this almost block-long mural is located, you could easily drive right past it. Decorating the south wall of the Lumberyard Brewery at 5 South San Francisco Street, it is worth the stop to get out and view the detailed mural. The mural depicting classic cars, Flagstaff’s historic Indian Pow Wow and local Route 66 icons, makes this a great selfie backdrop to document your Route 66 exploits. After capturing your selfie, turn around and get a shot of the historic Downtowner Motel sign across the street.

If you’re not so well-versed on the more familiar “Must See” Flagstaff Route 66 spots, then check out the mountain town’s 66 Kicks on Route 66.

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Epic Spring Skiing

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Arizona Snowbowl has the elevation to break up the springtime sparring match between warm sun and mountain snow. With a base elevation of 9,200 feet above sea level and a summit elevation of 11,500 feet, the snow resort’s extreme altitude at will beat the heat in any early spring “sun vs. snow” contest. We Flagstaff locals expect to be skiing and boarding through spring break and into the second week of April.

As far as I’m concerned, spring skiing delivers the most epic of ski experiences. I can’t wait to break out my light, windproof ski jacket and head out into the Arizona sunshine. While skiing, I push its elastic cuffs above my elbows to get an early start on the summertime tan. There’s a euphoric feeling that you get when nippy breezes off the snow hit skin warmed by the mountain sun. Or the sense of freedom you get while flying down Upper Ridge in your favorite T-shirt, shorts or tank top.* Makes you want to exclaim, “Best life ever!” to the others riding the chairlift with you. BTW, Arizona Snowbowl is the only place in the world where you can see the Grand Canyon from your seat on the chairlift.

I love the way my skis grab in the smooth, buttery spring snow. I don’t have to work so hard to control my speed – the heavy snow does that for me. I love mushy bump skiing that seems oh, so forgiving. Maybe I prefer Arizona spring snow because I learned to ski in Minnesota where your edges were the only thing that held you to unyielding, icy slopes. I fell hard in love with spring skiing during the decade that I lived in Colorado mountain towns. Now after twenty ski seasons in Flagstaff, I’ve learned that springtime is prime ski time here as well.

Snowbowl Open

Boarders and skiers alike can show off their moves in Arizona Snowbowl’s three terrain parks which are less dependent on spring conditions. Just in case the snow starts losing the spring battle against the sun, Arizona Snowbowl’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system will kick into gear. It’s the same snowmaking system as used at the Sochi Winter Olympics and the upcoming Olympics in South Korea.

For lunch and après ski, I hang out on the sundeck at Agassiz Lodge surrounded by fellow fun lovers. Café 9500 outdoor bar and grill – guess how it got its name –is a convenient place to refuel. Blackjack Black and Bleu Cheese Burger staves the crave, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s named after my favorite run, Blackjack. Speaking of runs, don’t miss the ego snow on Lower Lava and make sure to let you skis run on the recently opened 40-acres of terrain served by the Humphreys Peak Quad Chairlift – even if it’s an intermediate area, you gotta say you rode the newest lift in Arizona.

Springtime is costume time at Arizona Snowbowl. You can flaunt your throwback 1970s neon one piece or dress in black leather as the ski bikers do. Off the record, on the last day of the season, or the weekend day closest to the last day of the season, some revelers ski or shred in skimpy beachwear, or no beachwear at all, to celebrate the last run of the year. The unauthorized traditional rite of spring follows the same vein as Cardboard Classic at Steamboat Springs or Telluride’s pond skimming.

However, what is sanctioned on the final big bash of the season is live music on the Agassiz sundeck, kegs of beer and fun in the Arizona sun to say farewell to another ski season.

Although lifts open at 9 a.m., I recommend that you wait until 10 a.m. to let the crusty springtime snow soften up a bit. Rentals, guest services and ticket windows open at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8:00 a.m. on weekends and holidays.

Arizona Snowbowl is located fourteen miles from historic downtown Flagstaff, two hours from Phoenix and 70 miles from the Grand Canyon. Established in 1938 – only 24 years after Arizona became a state, for goodness sakes – Arizona Snowbowl is one of the longest continually run ski areas in the country.

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Check for springtime specials.

*Make sure to bring an outer layer to put on in case the sun slides behind clouds. Always check the weather and bring appropriate water and wind resistant layers. Sunscreen and sunglasses or goggles are must-haves. Wind can be especially challenging at Arizona Snowbowl.

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