When you think of Arizona, you probably envision the blazing sun, tall cacti, and a constant need for air conditioning. That’s certainly the image that comes to mind for anyone who hasn’t visited the state. While the southern half of Arizona is certainly a desert, there are mountains, forests, and even snow to be found further up north.
Skiing in Arizona might sound like a myth. However, there are several amazing ski resorts to explore throughout the state. They don’t see as much snow as other well-known skiing areas, but if you live in the region and want to beat the heat, or if you’re visiting during the winter months, it’s worth taking a look at the best ski resorts in Arizona.
1. Sunrise Park
The largest ski resort to explore in Arizona is Sunrise Park. It’s also one of the best options in the region and can provide you with a ton of winter fun when conditions are right. The resort is located in the eastern portion of the state, which makes it a fun destination for anyone living in the metropolitan regions of Phoenix, Tuscan, or Flagstaff.
The resort sits in the White Mountains, which have snowfall during the winter months. The resort’s base is just over 9000 feet, and if you make it to the top, you’ll enjoy amazing views of the surrounding areas from 11,000 feet above sea level. The views are unreal and you can get a good mix of bright blue skies and nearly endless views on a clear day. There’s also plenty of powder after a fresh storm.
The resort can be accessed by six different lifts scattered across the mountain. There are a variety of runs for all ability levels, with a good beginner hill and plenty of intermediate and advanced terrain. My personal favorite runs are any of those to be found on Cyclone Circle. You can also head to the top of Apache Peak for the best views on the mountain. It’s very rarely crowded there as well.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many dining and lodging options at or around Sunrise Park. It’s simply too far away from any sort of major town or destination. Be sure to make plans ahead of time so you’re not left with a long drive home after a great day on the snow.
Another great ski resort is the Arizona Snowbowl. This is one of the most accessible ski resorts in Arizona due to its proximity to the city of Flagstaff. Within about a half-hour of leaving the city center, you can put on your gear and head up a lift to catch some fresh turns in the winter. It’s also only about 2.5 hours north of Phoenix, which is why many people who live down there make the trip up to ski at Snowbowl every winter.
This resort is stunning, largely in part to the large Ponderosa Forest. It also gets some high-quality snow when the flakes start to fall. A high elevation and low moisture mean you can expect quality powder and plenty of fun if you catch a day right after a storm. You’ll want to pack your sunscreen as most days are bluebird here, meaning they are bright and sunny.
Arizona Snowbowl has eight different lifts that provide access to the solid terrain the resort has to offer. Beginners will love the slow pace and easy groomers on the Hart Prairie or Aspen lifts while intermediate skiers should explore Humphrey’s Peak or Grand Canyon Express. If you’re an advanced skier and want a challenge, check out the upper bowl of Agassiz Peak where you can hike to some double diamonds and find powder stashes all season long.
Being close to Flagstaff, you can take advantage of the many lodging and dining options around the resort. If you want more of a nightlife after you ski, this is well-worth checking out. It’s also a fun resort to explore in the warmer months because they keep a few of the lifts open for summertime activities.
The Ski Valley at Mt Lemmon is another excellent ski resort in Arizona. In fact, many consider it one of the best in the state. This one is closer to the desert regions of the state than you might imagine. That makes it perfect for anyone living in or visiting the Tucson area during the winter months. It’s actually the southernmost ski area in the United States, so you can write that off your to-do list if you’ve been exploring several options.
This resort doesn’t always see a huge amount of snow, but for a ‘desert’ ski area it can provide you with your only option for turns. It’s set in the Santa Catalina Mountains, which make for an absolutely beautiful backdrop. It’s also a cheap resort, so if you’re looking to save some money on the slopes this is the way to go. If you’re over 70, you can even sleep for free.
There isn’t a ton of terrain to explore at Mt Lemmon, but you will have access to nearly 200 skiable acres with a 950-foot vertical drop. The highest point on the mountain sits just under 10,000 feet, and there are 21 different runs to explore. It’s a great family mountain and a good option for beginners. A unique and interesting winter destination in Arizona that’s definitely worth exploring.
Arizona may have plenty of desert, but it has a lot of good snow as well. If you want to ski in the state, the above resorts will provide you with excellent slopes all throughout the colder parts of the year. Just figure out what you want and head to the place that best matches your preferences.
Do you ski in Arizona? Where do you like to go and why? Let us know below!