Coconino National Forest
|Skiers in Kaibab National Forest|
From rugged to finely groomed, Coconino and Kaibab National Forests in northern Arizona offer some suprisingly fine skiing.
The Snowbowl Ski Area is the big draw at Coconino National Forest . Snowbowl is primarily a downhill facility of 8 novice, 14 intermediate, and 10 advanced runs. Wing Mountain, a short 8 miles from Flagstaff, boasts over 17 miles of free cross-country trails. Drive another 8 miles on 180, and you'll find the Flagstaff Nordic Center with 25 miles of trails. On a clear day you can see to the Grand Canyon.
The Mormon Lake Ski Touring Center, 28 miles south of Flagstaff, has over 18 miles of trail in a forested region of volcanic mountains and lakes. Be sure to stop in at the lodge, and chow down on steak in a saloon atmosphere.
Like a crusty sandwich, Kaibab National Forest is the the bread around Grand Canyon National Park. On the South Kaibab, there are approximately 21 miles of marked ski trails. The Spring Valley Cross-Country Ski Area has three possible loopsfrom beginner to advancedon interesting combos of old logging roads and forest trails. Two developed snowsport facilities offer skiing not to be sneezed at. Bill Williams Ski Area may not be expert class, but it's pleasant nonetheless, with good views and short lift lines. Oak Hill began life as a dedicated downhill ski resort; now, ignominously, its two-thirds tube slopes. And there's a cross-country trail to Keyhole Sink that begins off of historic Route 66.
In the remote North Kaibab, primitive roads do double duty as primo ski trails. It may even be possible to track your way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Now there's a destination.
Wing Mountain Cross-Country Ski Trails
Eight miles north of Flagstaff, at the end of a short spur road, the US Forest Service has marked over 17 miles of cross-country ski trails for free visitor use. No mechanized grooming is provided but tracks are usually skied in soon after a storm. Though the trails follow gently rolling terrain for the most part, a few of them have enough gradient to add some zest. Powder-covered hillsides adjacent to the trails provide opportunities for practicing your telemark or finding a little additional downhill excitement. Both novice and experienced skiers will find plenty to enjoy at Wing Mountain.
Location: 9 miles north of Flagstaff on paved and plowed roads.
Access: Drive 8 miles north from Flagstaff on US 180 and turn west (left) on FR 228B. It's 1 mile to a cinder pit parking lot.
Attractions: Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sightseeing, photography; no snowmobiles.
Facilities: Marked trails, parking area.
Season: Mid-December through March depending on snow.
Snow Report: For a report on skiing conditions at Wing Mountain call the Peaks Ranger District Office.
Road Conditions: US 180 is paved. FR 228B is graveled. Both are generally plowed, but they can be hazardous in winter. Travel time is usually around 30 minutes.
Flagstaff Nordic Center
Forty kilometers of groomed trail just a short drive north of Flagstaff provide excellent cross-country skiing over the foothills of Arizona's highest mountain. Both diagonal stride and ski-skating tracks are provided, as well as access to powder-covered slopes for telemarking. The views are great too, with the San Francisco Peaks and the other high peaks of Northern Arizona providing a backdrop. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Grand Canyon 60 miles away.
Trails range from novice to advanced, but 90 percent are intermediate. Full moon tours, ski races, and clinics are scheduled. Rentals and instruction are available. A youth ski league with instruction is also available.
Location: 16 miles north of Flagstaff on paved and plowed roads. Elevation is 8,000 feet.
Access: Drive 16 miles north from Flagstaff on US 180 and look for the Flagstaff Nordic Center signs at mile marker 232.
Attractions: X-C skiing, great views, learn to ski; no snowmobiles.
Facilities: Groomed trails, day-lodge/restrooms, refreshments, rentals, ski school, pro shop, youth ski league.
Season: Mid-December through March (if there's snow), hours 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.
Snow Report: For current conditions, call 520-779-1951.
Road Conditions: Roads are paved and generally plowed, but they can be hazardous due to winter conditions. Travel time is usually around 30 minutes.
Mormon Lake Ski Touring Center
Located a short drive south of Flagstaff in a forested region of volcanic mountains and lakes, the Mormon Lake Ski Touring Center offers over 30 kilometers of groomed trail for novice, intermediate, and advanced skiers. The trails crisscross the lower slopes of Mormon Mountain and border the shores of Mormon Lake, the largest natural lake in Arizona. Fees are moderate at this family style facility which also offers rentals, instruction, and moonlight tours. A limited number of cabins and rooms are available at the nearby Mormon Lake Lodge. The Lodge also features a cafe, western steak house, and saloon.
Location: 28 miles southeast of Flagstaff on paved roads.
Access: Drive south from Flagstaff 20 miles on Forest Highway 3 (Lake Mary Road) to the FR 90 intersection. Turn west on FR 90 and drive 8 miles to the Mormon Lake Village. The Ski Touring Center is on the right side of the road.
Facilities: Groomed trails, lodge/restrooms, restaurant/cafe, rentals, ski school, retail shop, lodging.
Season: Open dates depend on snow. For hours and ski report, call the Ski Center at 520-354-2240.
Road Conditions: Roads are paved and generally plowed, but they can be hazardous due to winter conditions. Travel time is usually around 45 minutes.
Snowbowl Ski Area
Offering exciting runs down Arizona's highest mountain, the Snowbowl Ski Resort is a full-service downhill ski area. Four chair lifts provide access to 32 trails with a maximum rise of 2,300 feet. There are 8 novice, 14 intermediate, and 10 advanced runs. The resort offers rentals, lessons, and childcare. A shuttle bus to the lifts is available from the resort's welcome station at the bottom of the mountain and from some lodging facilities in Flagstaff. The Snowbowl usually opens in early December and remains open until mid-April.
Location: 14 miles north of Flagstaff. Elevation ranges from 9,200 to 11,500 feet.
Access: Drive 7 miles north of Flagstaff on US 180 to the Snowbowl Fort Valley Center, then either catch a shuttle bus or drive 7 more miles to the lodge and lifts.
Attractions: Downhill skiing, day lodge/meals, sightseeing, photography; no snowmobiles.
Facilities: Chair lifts, day lodge/restrooms, snack bar and restaurant, pro shop/rentals, ski school, first aid room, accommodations.
Season: December through mid-April, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The main chair lift remains open as a scenic sky-ride in summer. (Call for schedule).
Snow Report: For more information, call 520-779-1951.
Road Conditions: Roads are paved and generally plowed, but they can be hazardous due to winter conditions. Chains may be required, especially for the last 7 miles. Travel time is usually around 30 minutes.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication