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.
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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*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.