After our third day in Taos we drove to Gallup with a dinner stop in Albuquerque. We spent most of Thursday at Canyon de Chelly and then drove to Flagstaff.
So Friday at Arizona Snowbowl was the final day of our Southwest road trip. Liz got a pleasant surprise!
Neither one of us has ever gotten a free birthday lift ticket before. I've only skied my birthday 4 times, but this was my 13th March 29th, though only third with Liz.
With the preceding warm week it was no surprise that Arizona Snowbowl had 100% spring conditions. Although there were clear blue skies, there was a breeze not far above the ski area and it felt cooler than the advertised 42F high. Snowbowl has primary west exposure, so it can take some time for snow to soften.
My other day here was March 31, 2001. That was a Saturday but it was much busier this time. Fortunately the ski area has made significant improvements since then, notably a high speed six pack chair to relieve the pressure on the Agassiz triple. The old triple goes about 500 feet higher than the Grand Canyon Express, but with the day's conditions we only went to the top twice.
The more recent big change was the addition of snowmaking in 2012:viewtopic.php?f=3&t=10394
I saw no snow guns next to any of the runs. I'm sure they were not necessary after Snowbowl got 150 inches natural snow this February.
We got on the mountain at 10AM and Liz said not even eastern ski areas would call what we first skied from the Grand Canyon Express "packed powder."
One more change to Arizona Snowbowl since 2001 is the addition of the Humphrey's Peak lift. This added some much needed low intermediate terrain, and at 775 vertical it's reminiscent of Snow Summit's chair 7. But the key today was that Humphrey's has a southwest tilt, so the sun softened it much faster than the main mountain. So we skied 4 runs there before returning to Grand Canyon Express just before noon. Terrain park on Humphrey's with local feature:
View from top of Humphrey's:
The main runs were still on the firm side at noon so we took three more laps on Humphrey's, which was now in good corn mode.
Locals said it can take to 1PM to soften the Agassiz runs, and that was about right today. This is the way it works sometimes in spring at Mt. Baldy, when you bide your time on sunny chair 4 in the morning while waiting for Thunder to soften.
We did take a couple of rides to the top of Agassiz for the views.
Humphrey's Peak at 12,633 feet is the highest point in Arizona. The green strip near the horizon at left is the forest on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The lighter colors beyond are on the North Rim, 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim.
Humphrey's Peak later had a wind plume at the top.
Patrol shack at the top:
The building at right is labelled, "Highest Toilet in Arizona."
From the Spur Catwalk we get a view of the Upper Bowl.
There's diagonal bootpack to get up there, probably 10 minutes or so, worthwhile on a powder day but not today.
Logjam, the run down a natural gully, has been drastically graded and widened since 2001. It's lower half had softened by 1PM.
Stump Patch, Meadows and Northstar were also in corn mode by 1PM. But the most pristine corn was on Southern Belle, skier's left of this Sunset terrain park.
With minimal traffic we skied here 4x between 1:00 and 3:30 and it was smooth as butter every time. The busier runs had smooth corn on their skier's left edges, which people had avoided in the morning as they were then in the shade. The Phoenix and Agassiz groomers had more of a north tilt and did not go to corn until about 3PM.
Volcano is probably Snowbowl's best steep groomer, firmish but smooth snow not as severely melt/frozen as the lower/more mellow groomers. Volcano's lower pitch turned to corn when it tilted west dropping into Logjam.
Liz has taken over admin's role as FTO fashion police, and Snowbowl had some worthy candidates:
The ungroomed mogul runs fall away north from the Agassiz Ridge to Logjam. They remained firm all day and we saw almost no one skiing them. I tested a somewhat sunny middle section of the Agassiz liftline, which was edgeable but probably 3/4 of the turns were crunchy. So I was not tempted by other ungroomed terrain that was either shaded or more north facing.
The good news is that with the firm freeze and not too warm temps, when the main groomers finally went to corn, they stayed good the rest of the day and never got slushy. My day with Adam in 2001 was warmer. The corn window for the groomers was shorter but the ungroomed skiing softened late in the day.
By skiing nearly all groomers I totaled 28,100 vertical. We got on the road at 4PM and got home at midnight. The Southwest road trip totaled 11 days of skiing at 7 different areas, one new for me and five for Liz. Liz has added 19 new areas this season and I have added 16, both personal records.