[R21R, Arizona Snowbowl] welcomed record holiday visitation numbers. Snow helped out, but the fast-climbing snow pack propels the resort as it goes into high gear hosting avalanche courses.

The holidays brought on a bonus for Arizona Snowbowl. The resort posted a record holiday season with visitation up 7.6 percent from last Christmas, despite the economy.

Snow played a huge factor, Marketing Director Dave Smith told OnTheSnow.com. "We started off the season pretty good with 95 percent of the resort open. We've been 100 percent open with wonderful ski conditions." The resort amassed 110 inches by the end of the first week of January, bringing Snowbowl over 40 percent of its annual snowfall with almost three full months left of the season.

Mounting snow depth at Snowbowl means concern for conditions in the backcountry, accessible from the resort. Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center launched their avalanche education program earlier this month at Hart Prairie Lodge.

Level I avalanche courses open to skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers have three more seminars scheduled this winter. The three-day course, which costs $275, is offered again Jan. 22-24, Feb. 19-21, and Mar. 5-7.

All participants must have either snowshoes, split-boards with skins, or skis with skins for the outdoor field session part of the course. Other required gear includes storm clothing, a large daypack, avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe.

The resort also hosts the Snowbowl Field Session Feb. 14. The free avalanche workshop starting at 10 a.m. offers hands on outdoor experience for those who have take Introduction to Avalanches. Lift tickets are required for participation.

More information. Or call 928-779-1951