For those who don’t live in Arizona or just aren’t too familiar with it, you might be surprised to learn that Arizona is home to a handful of ski resorts. Yes, really!
Snowbowl in Flagstaff is probably the best known and most favored, however, the larger resort is Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains. It also happens to be the resort in Arizona I prefer. While technically a bit further from Phoenix than Snowbowl, the drive to get there is beautiful and it’s much less crowded than Snowbowl. (Although, coming home from Sunrise last weekend found us in a full on white-out blizzard while snowboarding and continuing through on our drive out that ended up dumping approximately 8+ inches during the day according to today’s reports. It took us a tiny bit longer to get home than normal!)
Here we are covered up as much as possible (and, believe me, I wished I had a beanie on to cover my forehead because I kept getting icicles on my forehead when I’d go down the hill from all the snow that was coming down!)
Sunrise Park Resort actually has three mountains you can traverse: Sunrise, Cyclone, and Apache Peak. The average snowfall is 250″ per year. To put that in perspective, the popular resort Purgatory that’s located in Colorado, gets an average of 259″ per year. See, Arizona’s not all desert, cowboys, and cacti! We’ve got snow up north that us folks in the valley can drive up to and have fun in!
At 10,700 feet, Sunrise Mountain is home to the largest variety of trails at Sunrise Park Resort and the largest variety of lifts.
Also at 10,700 feet, Cyclone Mountain has the steepest and most challenging trails within the resort.
A little higher, Apache Peak sits at 11,000 feet and encompasses a spectacular view with awesome trail runs and is centrally located between Sunrise and Cyclone Mountain. According to their website, this mountain is home to some of the widest and heaviest snowfall covered runs at the resort. All three mountains are now open as I write this–they all opened today as they have received 34 inches in the past 72 hours!
Admittedly, the resort/lodge itself could use improvement but it is under new management and improvements are in the works (from my understanding). But, if you’re going to a ski resort for the resort itself and not the mountain, you are probably there to drink and hang out while your friends ski/snowboard. The mountain’s what matters, in my opinion.
There is generally little to no wait to get on the lifts at Sunrise, meaning you can get plenty of runs in! Speaking of runs, they have 65 different runs over 800 acres, with a portion of Sunrise dedicated to a terrain park that houses implanted wood and metal rails, boxes, and a special event area with jumps ranging from beginner to advanced. You can see a guy jumping off one of the rails in this photo to the right of me. Since I’m about to fall here, he looks pretty awesome to me!
A few times during the season (usually starting around New Year’s Eve), they do night skiing as well. Seems like that’d be really cold to me since the sun isn’t out to warm me up, but some folks love it, and it’s awesome that they offer it! They have fun stuff going on throughout the season in addition to night skiing. In a couple of days they’ll have their first rail jam competition and next week if you go on Christmas Eve and dress like Santa, you can get a free lift ticket. Plus, the best dressed can win a season pass. Pretty sweet deal.
One of my favorite things about Sunrise is the Indian Fry Bread that they sell at the lodge. In general, Indian Fry Bread is amazing, in my opinion. We eat pretty healthy normally, but, I get weak in the knees for fry bread. I have a hard time passing it up. Good thing I’m not around it often. If you haven’t had it, you’re missing out. And, since the ski resort is on the Apache Indian Reservation, this fry bread is legit and fantastical.
Additionally, as an added bonus- if you’re into mountain biking, you can go down-hilling here in the summer as well, so it’s really open all year long to those that both mountain bike and ski/snowboard. While there’s not much else to do near the resort and it’s best to stay in Greer, Pinetop-Lakeside, or Show Low, I’m usually too exhausted after a day on the mountain to do much anyway. I usually just want to eat a huge meal and then go to sleep.
Do you ski or snowboard? What’s your favorite resort to visit?