Winter holidays in Arizona not only mean snow and hot cocoa, but, most importantly, skiing and snowboarding on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.

Arizona Snowbowl, a winter resort that celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012, is one of the country’s longest operating ski areas. Inside the lift-accessible boundaries of its 777 acres lies beautiful and diverse terrain for all ability levels.

Located only minutes from vibrant and historic downtown Flagstaff, and an easy two-hour drive north of Phoenix, Arizona Snowbowl is the only resort that offers views of the Grand Canyon from the top of its Agassiz Chairlift.

The high altitude of the San Francisco Peaks combined with the arid climate of the high desert creates the perfect environment for above-average bluebird days. Eight out of ten days at Snowbowl are filled with sunshine.

Amenities for All Ski Levels

With 2,300 feet of vertical drop and a top elevation of 11,500 feet, Snowbowl welcomes skiers and riders of all levels to enjoy more than 40 trails, as well as bowl and tree skiing.

Beginners are invited to check out two surface conveyors that take any fear of heights out of the learning experience. Group lessons with Snowbowl’s professional instructors – some of who are bilingual – are offered for free, in addition to the lift tickets and rentals for everyone ages 8 and up. Snowbowl’s Slide to Success program offers first-timers three days of gradual terrain and proper progression.

Parents with kids ages 4–7 can enjoy the SkiWee or MiniRider programs, allowing for some adult time on the slopes while children are taught some “pizza” and “French fries” moves on the slopes. Snowbowl is proud to be the resort for Arizona families to learn to ski and ride!

Intermediate and advanced skiers enjoy acres of tree and bowl skiing as well as the best terrain park in Arizona. Rails, boxes and jumps are placed along Sunset Chairlift, and fun events are scheduled throughout the winter season. In 2013, Arizona Snowbowl was voted “The Best Play-in-the-Snow Destination” by the AZ Central website travel editors. 

Snow in the Grand Canyon State?

You may ask yourself, “How is it possible to ski in Arizona for more than 120 days?”

Arizona Snowbowl’s high elevation and low humidity produces an ideal snowmaking environment. Thanks to 30 fully automated and computer-controlled snow machines – the same SMI Super Polecats that are being used for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – enough snow can be made overnight to cover a one-mile stretch of Route 66, all four lanes, with a foot of snow.

At Snowbowl, expert snowmakers begin operation in the middle of November preparing trails for the winter season. At least 60 percent of the trails are anticipated to be open by mid-December, with a goal of 100 percent of terrain being opened by Christmas, with or without natural snow. So, as you may well imagine, Snowbowl snowmakers are busier than Santa’s elves!

Life Beyond the Lifts

Although known as the “winter capital of Arizona,” due to its amazing skiing and snowboarding options, Flagstaff has much more to offer visitors than a day on the slopes. With the San Francisco Peaks as your backdrop, you will want to hit the historic downtown area and trek through locally owned shops, boutiques and restaurants. Search for treasures crafted by resident artists, taste a locally brewed craft beer or simply relax at one of the town’s unique dining establishments.

The streets are lined with art galleries and funky stores, which stay open late for the First Friday ArtWalk each month, when you can meet artists and browse their works from 6 to 9 p.m. Since its inception, First Friday ArtWalk has grown into an event that showcases the best and brightest of Flagstaff’s vibrant art scene. The streets are filled with a mix of local hipsters, families and world travelers taking in the sights and sounds. During the holidays, festive decor sets the mood for the season throughout the pedestrian-friendly downtown area.

Snowshoeing, Snow Bike Riding and Cross-Country Skiing

For snowshoeing, snow bike riding and cross-country skiing adventures, obtain a trail pass at the Flagstaff Nordic Center. The Nordic Center has unveiled their new fleet of Surly Pugsley bikes, and these fat tire snow bikes are available to rent all winter long, regardless of snow conditions. When the trails are open for skiing, there will be 25 kilometers of multi-use trails groomed and ready for your winter biking adventure as well.

Seeing Stars

When the sun goes down, you’ll understand why Flagstaff was recognized as the world’s first “International Dark Sky City.” Flagstaff’s low light pollution and commitment to enforcing stargazing-friendly lighting restrictions make it the ideal destination to explore the night skies. Lowell Observatory is the perfect location to do this. It’s open certain evenings for telescope viewing and special celestial presentations.

Travel Tips & More

Remember to dress warmly here; layering is important. The nights are cold, with temperatures warming up during the day, and snow is always a possibility. With so many places to see and things to do, consider an overnight stay at one of several local bed & breakfasts or hotels in the area. There is also a great selection of restaurants throughout town.

For more information, call (888) 300-1255, or stop by the Flagstaff Visitor Center, located in the historic train depot, One E. Route 66. The friendly staff is always willing to offer suggestions and recommendations. Open Monday–Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Christmas and New Year’s Day).

Brought to you by the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau, (888) 300-1255, www.flagstaffarizona.org/winter.