Skiing in the Desert? Discover the Hidden Gems of Flagstaff’s Ski Scene

Ski hill in Flagstaff Arizona near the Snow Bowl | Jake A Sumpter

When you think of skiing, you likely envision snow-capped mountains and chilly temperatures. But did you know that there’s a hidden gem of a ski scene in the desert? Flagstaff, Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of skiing, but this charming mountain town offers a unique winter experience that’s not to be missed. With its high elevation and proximity to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff boasts some of the best skiing in the Southwest. From family-friendly slopes to challenging terrain, there’s something for every type of skier here. And the best part? You can hit the slopes in the morning and be back in town enjoying a margarita in the afternoon – it’s the perfect blend of winter sports and desert relaxation. So pack your skis and head to Flagstaff to discover the unexpected joys of skiing in the desert.

Flagstaff’s Ski Scene – An Overview

Flagstaff is a mountain town located in northern Arizona, just 80 miles from the Grand Canyon. Its high elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level makes it an ideal location for skiing and other winter sports. The town is home to several ski resorts, including Arizona Snowbowl, the largest ski resort in the state.

Skiing in Flagstaff is a unique experience because of the town’s location in the desert. While most ski destinations are surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Flagstaff offers stunning views of the red rocks and canyons of the Southwest. The dry desert air also means that the snow is light and fluffy, making for excellent skiing conditions.

The Best Skiing Spots in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is home to several ski resorts, each with its own unique charm. Here are some of the best skiing spots in the area:

Arizona Snowbowl

Arizona Snowbowl is the largest ski resort in the state and offers something for every type of skier. With 55 trails and eight lifts, there’s plenty of terrain to explore. The resort also boasts the only high-speed six-person lift in the state, which means less time waiting in line and more time on the slopes. And if you’re looking for a challenge, check out the black diamond runs on the backside of the mountain.

Elk Ridge Ski Area

Elk Ridge Ski Area is a smaller, family-friendly ski resort located just outside of Flagstaff. With three lifts and 10 trails, it’s the perfect place for beginners and intermediate skiers. The resort also offers night skiing, which means you can hit the slopes after a day of exploring the town.

Wing Mountain Snow Play Area

Wing Mountain Snow Play Area is a popular spot for families and non-skiers. The area offers tubing, sledding, and other winter activities, making it a great option for those who want to enjoy the snow without hitting the slopes. And with its close proximity to Flagstaff, it’s an easy day trip for those staying in town.

Arizona Snowbowl is an alpine ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks, 7 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. | Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz

The History of Skiing in Flagstaff

Skiing has a long history in Flagstaff, dating back to the early 1900s. The first ski area in the town was established in 1938 on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks. The ski area was run by the Arizona Ski Club and featured a single lift and a warming hut.

In the 1950s, the Arizona Snowbowl was established, and skiing in Flagstaff began to grow in popularity. Today, Flagstaff is home to several ski resorts and is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Skiing Events in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is home to several skiing events throughout the winter season. Here are some of the highlights:

Dew Downtown Flagstaff

Dew Downtown Flagstaff is an annual skiing and snowboarding competition held in the heart of downtown Flagstaff. The event features a custom-built ski and snowboard course, and competitors race down the course to win prize money and bragging rights.

Flagstaff Ski Swap

The Flagstaff Ski Swap is an annual event that takes place in November. The swap is a great place to buy and sell new and used skiing equipment, including skis, snowboards, boots, and more.

Arizona Snowbowl Winterfest

Arizona Snowbowl Winterfest is a family-friendly event that takes place in February. The event features live music, food and drink vendors, and a variety of winter activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

The Ski Culture in Flagstaff

Skiing is an important part of the culture in Flagstaff. The town has a strong ski community, with many locals who are passionate about the sport. And because of its location in the desert, skiing in Flagstaff is a unique experience that’s different from other ski destinations. You’ll find a relaxed atmosphere on the slopes, with plenty of opportunities to take in the stunning desert scenery.

Arizona Snowbowl in summertime in Flagstaff, Arizona | Supitcha McAdam

Tips for Skiing in Flagstaff

If you’re planning a skiing trip to Flagstaff, here are some tips to help you make the most of your visit:

– Dress in layers: While the desert air can be warm during the day, temperatures can drop quickly once the sun goes down. Be sure to dress in layers so you can adjust your clothing as needed throughout the day.

– Stay hydrated: The dry desert air can be dehydrating, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. And if you’re planning to hit the slopes, be sure to bring a water bottle with you.

– Check the weather: While skiing in the desert can be a unique experience, it’s important to be aware of the weather conditions. Check the forecast before you head out and be prepared for any changes in the weather.

Other Winter Activities in Flagstaff

While skiing is the main attraction in Flagstaff during the winter months, there are plenty of other winter activities to enjoy as well. Here are some ideas:

– Snowshoeing: Flagstaff is home to several trails that are perfect for snowshoeing. Rent a pair of snowshoes and explore the stunning winter scenery.

– Ice Skating: The Jay Lively Activity Center in Flagstaff offers ice skating and ice hockey for those who want to take a break from skiing.

– Winter Hiking: The Grand Canyon is just a short drive from Flagstaff, and winter hiking in the park is a unique and unforgettable experience.

Accommodations and Dining Options in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is home to a variety of accommodations and dining options to suit every budget and taste. From cozy bed and breakfasts to luxury resorts, there’s something for everyone. And when it comes to dining, Flagstaff offers everything from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants. Be sure to try some of the local Southwestern cuisine while you’re in town.

Why Flagstaff Should Be Your Next Skiing Destination

Skiing in the desert may sound like a strange concept, but Flagstaff offers a unique winter experience that’s not to be missed. With its high elevation, proximity to the Grand Canyon, and stunning desert scenery, Flagstaff is one of the best skiing destinations in the Southwest. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a beginner, there’s something for everyone here. So pack your skis and head to Flagstaff to discover the unexpected joys of skiing in the desert.

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