Talk about pent-up demand.
Despite having to wait until mid-December to open, enduring the second-driest January in 40 years with sub-par depths at mid-mountain, and still no snowmaking, Arizona Snowbowl set a record for visitors this January.
More than 68,000 snowboarders and skiers showed up from Christmas Eve to Jan. 24 to the northern Arizona mountain, according to management that attributed the crowds to a strong demand for winter sports in hot-and-dry Arizona. More than half of the visitors came from beyond Flagstaff.
"A lot of people were wondering, when, when, when, so when we finally pulled the trigger, they came in droves," Snowbowl marketing head Dave Smith told OnTheSnow. "The majority came from the Valley (Phoenix), which shows what a huge demand there is in Phoenix area."
Only January 1972 had less precipitation (none) than this January, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. The Flagstaff airport reported a trace of snow for all 30 days, falling far below the normal two-plus inches of moisture and two feet of snowfall in Flagstaff. Up on the San Francisco Peaks, it wasn't much better, although a heavy, deep December snowfall not only allowed Snowbowl to open but also hardened into a solid base that survived some warm temperatures in January.
Federal lawsuits filed by Indian tribes and conservation groups over Snowbowl making snow mostly got resolved this fall but too late for construction of a 15-mile pipeline up Humphrey's Peak to the top of the runs. Ownership has vowed to build it for next season, although some last-ditch court and city hearings still must be completed.