Recreation & Outdoors

Arizona Spring Training Road Trip: Flagstaff and Grand Canyon

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Baseball is an American icon, so it only seems fitting that when you’re in the vicinity of another great American icon – the Grand Canyon – you take a look. During Arizona Spring Training fans join big-league travelers from all over the world to see the Grand Canyon. You’ll hear visitors speaking French, German and Japanese, and if they find out that you’re a baseball fan, they might ask you to explain the game. So get out of the city for a day or two and discover the amazing experiences that Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon offer. You’ll be batting a thousand with your family and friends.

Step up to the plate: Grand Canyon National Park

The funky mountain town of Flagstaff makes a perfect basecamp for your Grand Canyon visit. You don’t have to raise the mound to see into the depths of the Grand Canyon; you can catch a glimpse of the canyon from the chairlift at Flagstaff’s Arizona Snowbowl resort. Or take the 90-minute drive to stand at the edge of the amazing abyss for some of this planet’s most picturesque views. By spending the night in Flagstaff after your return from the Grand Canyon, you’ll be able to experience a million points of light in the sky over the world’s first “Dark Sky City.”

Hit it out of the park: Lowell Observatory

Step out onto the balcony of your Flagstaff hotel room to be wowed by the night skies or visit Lowell Observatory where Pluto, formerly known as a planet, was discovered. Don’t know that story? Well, you’ll hear all about it at Lowell Observatory, where you can view the Sun or other stars through a specially equipped solar telescope, jump on the Pluto Tour and see one of the most famous telescopes in history — the Pluto Discovery Telescope or experience Discovery Channel programs. Open 10 am to 10 pm every day but Sunday when the doors close at 5 pm.

Knock the cover off the ball: Flagstaff Foodie Scene

Recently called “one of the most dynamic new food destinations not only in Arizona but the country,” Flagstaff boasts young, innovative chefs who are opening fresh new restaurants right alongside of old favorites. Go Major League at time-tested faves like Brix, awarded “Top 95 New Restaurants in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler in 2007 or Cottage Place just voted best overall restaurant in Flagstaff by local readers of the Arizona Daily Sun. As for the new side of things, check out the forest-to-table meal at Coppa Café where Chef Brian Konefal forages in the surrounding Coconino National Forest for mushrooms, greens and edible blooms. The young chefs at Shift Kitchen + Bar bring their experience from the cutting-edge Denver culinary scene. Or simply belly up to the bar at one of Flagstaff’s fun hangouts like Majerle’s Sports Grill owned by Dan Majerle, retired Phoenix Suns NBA player.

Grand Slam: Four National Parks and Monuments

Your Arizona Spring Training Road Trip to Flagstaff has bases loaded with three National Monuments along the route to home plate, Grand Canyon National Park. Hike to cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument, only eighteen minutes from historic downtown Flagstaff. Discover lava flows and other unusual geologic formations at Sunset Crater National Monument. Drive through a desert landscape to 800-year-old pueblos at Wupatki National Monument.

Extra Innings: Flagstaff Ale Trail

Extend your Spring Training vacation by venturing down the Flagstaff Ale Trail. Drink beer and relax in this mountain town becoming known as the craft beer hub of the Southwest. With the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail map in hand, you’re sure not to miss any of the seven Flagstaff frothy experiences. Each brewhaus is housed in a historical building, so you’ll get a taste of Arizona history right along with tasting the many award-winning stouts, ales and lagers.

A special note to Chicago Cubs fans: take a selfie with real live bear cubs in the background at Bearizona, a 160-acre animal park.

Get more information about Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon at www.flagstaffarizona.org

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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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The Road to Rio Runs Through Flagstaff

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In August 2016 the world will be watching elite athletes battle to bring home gold in the summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. #RoadToRio is already trending on social media as these athletes ramp up their training for the Olympics. But before they head to Rio, many of these athletes will travel to Flagstaff as part of their training and preparation for the games.

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Climb Your Way Through Flagstaff

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Whether it’s your first time climbing up a wall or you enjoy the thrill of taking a massive whipper; Flagstaff is sure to suit your climbing needs. From multiple indoor climbing gyms scattered throughout the city to dozens of outdoor locations, the wall is calling your name. Flagstaff and the surrounding area feature incredible outdoor climbing spots during the warmer months when the rocks are dry and the sun stays out to play longer. For the cold and wet snow season, Flagstaff offers multiple climbing gyms with constantly changing routes and climbing levels.

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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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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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