Seven Tips for a Great Winter Trip to Flagstaff, Arizona

Spring is nearly here, but there’s still time to enjoy a winter trip to Flagstaff.

skiers riding ski lift

If you’re planning to get your last fix of skiing, sledding or just bundling up for cold weather, keep a few tips in mind to get the most out of your visit to Arizona’s winter wonderland.

Know Before You Go

Between the winter information hotline, winter recreation map and the Winter Wonderland Webcam, you can make a virtual visit to Flagstaff before starting your car. Dial 1-844-256-SNOW to find out about conditions at your favorite attractions. If you prefer maps, you can download the free winter map at flagstaffarizona.org or drop by the Flagstaff Visitor Center (1 E. Route 66), which is open Monday–Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The map is a collaboration of many agencies including the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Arizona Department of Transportation, and the Coconino National Forest. The year-round webcam can also give you a glimpse of locations near the downtown area and the San Francisco Peaks -- the Lowell Observatory is my favorite view.

Drive for the Conditions

Winter driving can be a bit tricky. Roads can be slippery, and you might even have trouble seeing the lane markings. Slow down and consider chains for your vehicle, especially if you don’t have four-wheel or all-wheel drive. Allow a little extra time to reach your destinations and be prepared for possible delays. If you’re going to take it slow, I also recommend spending the night. It takes quite a bit of stress out of enjoying the snow when you’re not rushing to do everything in just one day.

Pack Right for a Winter Trip to Flagstaff

I live in the Phoenix area, which makes it hard for me to get my mind around how cold a winter trip to Flagstaff can be. So I take no chances: When I head north, I have all my winter gear -- sweaters, gloves, insulated jackets, snow pants, hats, blankets and scarves. That’s not just for having fun in the snow, but also for weathering any potential emergencies or traffic delays. I also make sure my gas tank is full and that I have a few gallons of water. I double-check that my cell phone is charged and that I have flashlights and extra batteries (I’m also partial to my solar-powered LED camping lanterns, which go everywhere with me). It’s also a great idea to pack a first-aid kit including any medications you might need.

Leave No Trace

There’s nothing like a thick layer of snow in the forest. Keep it looking like a postcard by cleaning up after yourself. If you brought it in with you, pack it back out to leave no trace. That goes especially for snow toys. People sometimes leave them behind, which really spoils the view in addition to being bad for the environment. It’s amazing how all the broken and abandoned sleds can pile up, as you can see in this video. I always keep a few trash bags in my car so I can make sure trash and recyclable items wind up in the right place.

Respect the Local Residents

When I see a place to play in the snow, I’m always eager to park and get right to it … especially since I don’t want to make my 4-year-old daughter walk too far. But I still make sure to park in places that are safe, legal and courteous. I don’t park anywhere that will block a driveway, an entrance or an exit. We only use designated snow play areas, and we never park on the highways – never on I-17, I-40 or 180 – avoiding citations and just simply being safe and responsible.

Have a Plan

People from all across Arizona look forward to a winter trip to Flagstaff for their fix of snow. You might have your heart set on enjoying all that Arizona Snowbowl offers, but know there are so many other options to get that snow experience. So be flexible -- if you want to burn calories, a day of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at the Arizona Nordic Village might be perfect. Looking for more outdoor options? Try building a snowman or tubing at Flagstaff Snow Park. I also like taking a walk or run around Buffalo Park; half the fun is watching peoples’ dogs cavort in the snow.

Get Into the Local Flavors

During my visits to Flagstaff, I start my day with a cappuccino at one of the locally owned coffee houses like Macy’s on Beaver St. When evening rolls around, I switch into dinner mode. Flagstaff will surprise you with its variety, from barbecue places to Korean restaurants (both of which work really well to warm me up after a long day in the snow). Flagstaff is also full of craft beer options, and many of them are walking distance from each other in the downtown area. And that’s another advantage to spending more than one day.

About the Author

Justin Schmid

Justin Schmid is a longtime Arizona residents who loves uncovering overlooked activities and destinations. He started blogging in 2008 to chronicle a list of adventures that have taken him from New Zealand to Norway. Justin is an unbelievably adequate cyclist who lives in Scottsdale with his wife and daughter. Discover more about Justin’s adventures at http://www.wanderingjustin.com/blog/.

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