Arizona: Grand Skiing, Honest -

Arizona skiing is not an oxymoron. Despite the tourism spin that paints the desert state as the golf and sun capital of the world, Arizona actually does have skiing, and those that live in the state would say it’s pretty darn good.

Owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe Sunrise Ski Park is the largest ski area in the state.

A snowboarder flying through the air at Sunrise Park's Throwdown competition

The resort is located amid the "getaway" zone for so many Phoenicians and there are countless condos and second homes in the region. Lodging is a wintertime cinch. The 100-room Sunrise Park Lodge, near a lake, offers good dining, indoor pool and whirlpool, lounge, and game room. There are 65 runs matched to any skill level.

There is also a separate snowboarding area, cross country ski trails, and a special children's area.

Arizona Snowbowl garners the most attention, thanks to its location 14 miles from Flagstaff, the state's northernmost major city and the home of Northern Arizona University.

A skier enjoys a run at Arizona Snowbowl, Arizona

Located on the majestic San Francisco Peaks with a base elevation of 9,200 feet, the Arizona Snowbowl lies 14 miles outside of Flagstaff, two hours from Phoenix, and 70 miles from the Grand Canyon. What a great way to combine a day of skiing or riding while making the obligatory tourist visit to the Canyon.

The resort opened in 1938, and some say remains a throwback. Why, it has always relied on capricious Arizona natural snow. That will change as the long protested snowmaking system, relying on a pipeline to Flagstaff, has finally wended its way through the courts, survived a Native American uprising over ancient burial grounds and will become reality.

Snowbowl sports a vertical of 2,300 feet and has 32 runs spread over 777 skiable acres. There are four chairs.

Smaller Mt Lemmon and Elk Ridge resorts are within just a few hours of Phoenix or Tucson. In fact, Mt. Lemmon actually is right in Tucson. Up in the Catalina Mountains, Mt. Lemmon is the southernmost ski resort in the United States. There is one ski lift and 18 ski trails.

The tiny town of Summerhaven is but a mile away and the Mt. Lemmon Café is renowned among Tusconans for its pies. The massive forest fire that swept through the Catalinas in 2004 decimated Summerhaven, but just licked the ski area. The town is undergoing a full rebirth and undergrowth is hiding much of the scarring of the mountainside.

Elk Ridge Ski Area, formerly known as Williams Ski Area (because it resides in the town of Williams), is mostly an inexpensive family option with two lifts and seven beginner and intermediate trails. It's also a terminus for the Grand Canyon Railroad, a wonderful scenic ride. Don't miss Rod's Steak House, a fixture since the 1940s, along historic Route 66.

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