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Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 10:36 pm
by Tony Crocker
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:


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.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 5:55 am
by jamesdeluxe
Looks like a great spring day.

I've never received a comp lift ticket on my birthday; however, at Quebec's La RĂ©serve in 2012, I skied there on the day where they gave free tix to people named James and Colette. Not sure why I didn't mention it in the trip report. Given that it's a local's joint that had recently been revived from closure, I made a point of spending more than the equivalent at the base lodge.

Picture 088.jpg

I imagine you two were skied out by that point in the trip but it's a shame that you couldn't make it to
Sunrise and add another new area to one or both of your lists.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 9:55 am
by Tony Crocker
Sunrise is a 2-hour detour south of I-40. We decided the similar detour north to Canyon de Chelly would be more worthwhile Thursday. Snowbowl is the "town area" for Flagstaff with a similar access road as Santa Fe and Taos.

At some point in the past I got the impression that Sunrise is very flat. A few minutes of research confirms that fact:
High-speed quad chairlift on Sunrise Peak.
Triple chairlift on Apache Peak.
Name Capacity Vertical
Spirit Ridge Quad Quad 3900'-550'
Sunrise High-Speed Quad High-Speed Quad 6800'-1400'
Rustler Quad Quad 3950'-875'
Fort Apache Triple Triple 5180'-620'
Cyclone Triple Triple 8000'-1165'
Eagle Feather Triple Triple 4000'-690'
Geronimo Triple Triple 4505'-1000'
Pony Double Double 295'-50'
Beginner Handle-Tow Single 350'-50'
Cyclone Handle-Tow Single 350'-50

Check out those length to vertical ratios. The high speed quad is about 5-1. Cyclone Peak is 7-1. The steepest chairs on the entire mountain are 4.5-1. Standard blue terrain in Colorado is about 4-1. Terrain that flat with warm spring conditions is not fun. See lower half of Snow Valley/Big Bear as other examples.

jamesdeluxe wrote:it's a shame that you couldn't make it to Sunrise and add another new area to one or both of your lists.

I still have standards when seeking out new areas. I can tell from that map that Stratton has much better fall line skiing than Sunrise. Since Liz had never skied Snowbowl, this was an easy call.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 10:50 am
by jamesdeluxe
Tony Crocker wrote:I still have standards when seeking out new areas. I can tell from that map that Stratton has much better fall line skiing than Sunrise.

I hadn't done any research on Sunrise other than that it's owned/operated by an Apache tribe, similar to Ski Apache in New Mexico (allegedly the southernmost ski area in the U.S.). Makes sense that you didn't bother with Sunrise.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 11:24 am
by Tony Crocker
Ski Apache is the second largest area in New Mexico by acreage, fairly intermediate and laid out about as well as AZ Snowbowl but not quite as well as Santa Fe. It is so far south that it's distinctly in the summer wet/winter dry climate even though its altitude range of 9,600 - 11,500 is adequate. Adam and I skied it in the very big 1992-93 snow year when Taos had a 130+inch base.

Ski Apache is the southernmost real ski area in the US at 33 degrees 25 minutes, about the same latitude as the border between Orange and San Diego Counties in SoCal, or just south of Atlanta for you east coasters. Mt. Lemmon and Ski Cloudcroft are farther south but they are small and infrequently open.

Ski Apache is not the lowest latitude skiing I have done. Portillo is 32 degrees 49 minutes and Arpa Snowcat is 32 degrees 38 minutes. Those are about the same as the US-Mexico border south of San Diego, or Charleston, South Carolina.

Mt. Lemmon is barely lower latitude than Arpa.

I would love to get my hands on Ski Apache snow data. That has to be an interesting microclimate.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 11:47 am
by Tony Crocker
sbooker's inquiry about Australia snow stats is moved here: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=13368

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 9:36 am
Sort of ironic to be at a ski area so far south, so late in the season, and on a sunny day, but then have to deal with the snow not softening up on the good terrain...

Glad to finally see a TR out of Arizona though.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:36 pm
by Tony Crocker
It could be worse. It could be cloudy/windy and soften up NO terrain. Overall the day was similar to that at Purgatory the previous week. At Purgatory there was more wind and only the beginner areas turned to true corn. OTOH about 15% of the mountain retained winter snow. In Arizona spring had advanced further but the more widespread corn (though we had to wait half the day for it) made the two days somewhat of a wash.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:47 am
by egieszl
Tony regarding Sunrise Park.

There is no lift left on Cyclone Circle. The Yan triple that is partially standing will never run again. Parts of the sheave assemblies are on the ground, chairs have fallen from the rope, and there are areas where the rope is on the ground. The lift has to be replaced. The runs on Cyclone Circle now require a hike, but are left unmaintained and with no avalanche mitigation work performed.

I believe the lodge at the base of Cyclone Circle is abandoned.

Eagle Feather while redundant on Apache Peak will never operate again. This Yan Triple has been stripped for parts.

Rustler a Borvig Quad on Sunrise Peak is also redundant, serving only the upper half of the peak, and while I believe it is operational it does not operate.

Sunrise Park would be interesting to visit because of the condition of the overall ski area. It's apparently a disaster!

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:51 am
by Tony Crocker
I was wondering about the contradictory trail maps I found online. I made the error of posting the one with the most lifts, which is obviously not current. Thanks for clarifying the situation. At least we made the right call where to ski on Liz' birthday.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:11 am
by tseeb
Did you also get a free ticket or take advantage of special where tickets were $29 if bought the night before and included $15 credit to spend that day on the hill? From it sounds like it started in March and ran into first weekend in May.

I only have one day at AZ Snowbowl in Jan 1987. It was my wife's first day skiing and it was a good place to learn as they have a couple of beginner lifts out of the way of traffic. While it was January I don't think it was a great snow year and it was sunny, but the air was so dry that snow seemed to go directly to vapor without any melting. We stayed with friends in Flagstaff who gave us a ride up to the ski area in the morning as road required 4WD, which we didn't have, or paying for a bus. At the end of the day, we got a ride down in the back of someone's truck.

Re: Arizona Snowbowl, Mar. 29, 2019

PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:58 am
by Tony Crocker
tseeb wrote:It was my wife's first day skiing and it was a good place to learn as they have a couple of beginner lifts out of the way of traffic.

Maybe OK for a true first timer, but in general Arizona Snowbowl was lacking terrain for beginners/early intermediates before Humphrey's lift was built.

tseeb wrote:the air was so dry that snow seemed to go directly to vapor without any melting.

Wind assists this process and it's a big reason Mammoth's snow surfaces remain in winter mode so consistently.

We were not very proactive about lift tickets on the Southwest road trip, aside from having the Ikon for Taos. But I qualified for senior rates at Purgatory, Pajarito, Santa Fe and Snowbowl.