Typically, if the interstates are closed, it's usually a godsend up in the hills. No crowds, tons of powder.
This time, however, too much was too much in Williams, Ariz. Both I-40 and I-17 into and out of Flagstaff were shut down because of severe snowfall. Elk Ridge, Williams' town ski hill, had just gotten its second of two major snowfall dumps.Unfortunately, traffic in and out of Williams came to a complete halt.
Elk Ridge closed for a day because of too much snow. "We got snowed out," said ski area owner Tammy Fountain.
It's been that kind of year in the southernmost Rockies, especially on slopes and trails with no snowmaking equipment. Few storms have ventured south of the San Juan Mountains, and Elk Ridge had virtually nothing until mid-February. Then came a pair of two-foot storms, back to back. Base is settled at 35 inches, mid-mountain, Fountain told OnTheSnow, and one of two lifts is operating on Saturdays and Sundays only.
"We had two inches before this," she said, referring to the La Nina-driven dry spell for the mountains in northern Arizona and New Mexico.
Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley above Tucson hasn't gotten going much at all. The 1,000 vertical-foot hill opened for a mere three weeks in January but hasn't gotten enough snowfall to restart its chairlifts since then.
Pajarito Mountain, above Los Alamos, N.M., opened for only 15 days, now closed since Feb. 13. Longtime general manager Tom Long told OnTheSnow that it's been some of the worst conditions he's seen ever. "Just a dusting, a trace," he said.
Fortunately, more than half of the nonprofit's 3,000 members have endured 20-plus years of erratic weather, too. "They are super supportive," Long said, noting that members also get three days at each of Angel Fire, Sipapu, Monarch and Ski Cooper with their season passes.