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Skiing in the Land of Deserts

by Tori Ward , ROX Travel, Cruise and Resort Specialist

Many people live in Arizona to escape the cold weather, but I love winter! I even declared as much when I arrived in 2004, pushed on by the final gusts of three hurricanes that blew through Orlando in a span of six weeks. When my newfound friends asked if I skied, I naively answered that I didn’t think the lakes were numerous enough to merit dragging skis across the country, and got rid my equipment before leaving the sunshine state. Then, they told me they meant snow skiing – a possibility I had never considered. So, I began to explore the options!

We are fortunate to have two wonderful ski areas in our state. While they don’t boast expert slopes, they do have advanced, intermediate and beginners slopes, and both have areas for snowboarding. They are located in diverse areas of the state, with other activities to enjoy, if you have family members who want to stay warm and dry.

Sunrise Park Resort in Greer, Arizona, located in the White Mountains, is in its 46th year of business. There are a number of lodging options in and around Greer, if the resort conference center is booked. The Pinetop/Lakeside area is about 35 miles from the resort and the resort is about a four-hour drive from Phoenix. Sunrise Park has 65 runs divided into 40 percent each for beginners and intermediates and the remaining 20 percent for advanced skiers. The summit is at 11,000 feet with an 1,800-foot vertical drop. In 2015, the resort enjoyed 115 days of skiing with over 250 inches of snow. They are predicting an opening on November 24 and will close for the season in late March. Cross country skiing is available and the resort recently added a half-pipe. The lift system includes a high speed detachable quad. During the off season, Sunrise offers activities that include zip lines, which operate into the fall months. I was delighted to also find a plethora of antique shops in Pinetop. I bought a beautiful stained glass panel that cost a fraction of what I would have paid in Prescott.

The San Francisco Peaks are always the hallmark for me that winter is coming. I can see the summit from my house and always thrill at the sight of the sun hitting the white crown and setting it ablaze in the morning. In the summer, I frequently visit Flagstaff and the peaks to enjoy hiking in a cooler environment. Arizona Snowbowl, opened in 1938, takes advantage of the 11,500-foot summit to provide skiers with a 2,300 foot vertical drop to the base. Beginners and intermediates have 37 percent and 42 percent of the slopes dedicated respectively to their skill levels. Advanced skiers have 21 percent of the slopes reserved for them. There are six chair lifts at Snowbowl to carry skiers during the winter and it operates during the remainder of the year to transport folks to the top for the amazing views below. The ski season is scheduled to start on November 18 and run until the middle of April, as they have the ability to make snow if nature is less than cooperative. Both Sunrise Park and Arizona Snowbowl offer lessons and equipment rentals if you don’t have your own gear.

Flagstaff has many lodging options from quaint B&Bs to chains. While there, enjoy a meal at Brix, Shift or the Tinderbox – all wonderful dining options. The Riordan Museum and the Lowell Observatory are two options for the non-skiers in your group, or those wishing to enjoy a warmer activity.

EXPERT TIP:

Check the websites of both Sunrise Park and Arizona Snowbowl for the best prices or specials for lift tickets, and don’t forget that Groupon often offers special discounts. Season passes and value packages are offered at both ski areas. Try to go during the weekdays, as the weekends –particularly holiday weekends – are very busy and wait times for the lifts are often long.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Snowbowl: www.arizonasnowbowl.com

Sunrise Park: www.sunriseskiparkaz.com

Victoria “Tori” Ward is a cruise and resort specialist with an interest in traveling and seeing the world since she first began to crawl. For more information on these trips and others, contact Tori at tori@roxtravel.com or 928-254-9968.

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Skiing in the Land of Deserts – ROX Group