Three Ski, Ride Resorts Attract Winter In Arizona High Desert

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For ski and snowboard mountains in the West, the old marketing refrain "location, location, location" holds particularly true in Arizona.

A full third of Arizona sits atop the Colorado Plateau, a massive uplift that occurred in concert with the appearance of the Rocky Mountains between 70 million and 40 million years ago. This uplift produced an elevated land 6,300 feet above sea level into the middle of the state.

This altitude encourages winter storms to drop snow on the state's three ski and snowboard mountains: a pair of extinct volcanoes, Arizona Snowbowl and Sunrise Park Resort, that pop up on the plateau; and, the nation's southernmost ski area, Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, off the southern edge of the plateau.

Winter moisture content varies widely around Arizona, tending toward feast-or-famine snowfall seasons. Southerly storms off the Pacific sometimes arrive, sometimes not. Sunrise (11,100-foot summit) got no measurable snowfall during 2016-17 season, then more than 200 inches the next season. Same for Snowbowl (11,500 feet high): a meager 99 inches in 2017-18, a bonanza 331 inches in 2018-19.

To hedge against down seasons, both Arizona Snowbowl and Sunrise Park have modestly increased snowmaking in recent years: 13% on 777 acres at Snowbowl, 6% at on Sunrise's 1,200 acres.

A member of the Power Pass family, Arizona Snowbowl's terrain breaks out comfortable for all levels. Blues and blacks that dominate Snowbowl's southern flank, while a premier learning area sits on the north side. Recently installed high-speed "chondola" has reduced impact of high winds. Parking remains clunky, and base lodges in need of remodel.

Owned by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Sunrise Park Resort's trail map also splits nicely between green and blues off high-speed Sunrise Express, and advanced terrain off Fort Apache-Geronimo fixed-grip pairing. Winds can be high, so strong and frequent that wind meters sit on lift towers. Both base lodges are in midst of much-needed upgrades.

U.S. Forest Service-operated Mt. Lemmon remains old-school: No snowmaking, no grooming, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, bare basic base facilities. It's surprisingly steep -- a 900-ft. vertical drop -- with limited green pitches at the base only, and can get dumps because of its isolated high ground. Switchbacking road up from Tucson can be an adventure.

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SnoCast: March Comes In Like A Lion

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From record cold and heavy snow in the southwest to an incoming whopper in the Northeast, March has come in like a lion—great news for snow lovers and extension of ski season. 

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SnoCast: Storms in the East; West (Finally) Settles

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The West finally settles down after an extremely active stretch, while the East prepares for three storms this upcoming week. Here's the forecast scoop in this week's SnoCast. 

East

On Thursday, a storm continues to lift northeastward through the Great Lakes, delivering blustery winds and a healthy 6-12" of snow for parts of northern Michigan and Wisconsin. Great news for Midwest ski areas around Granite Peak, WhitecapShanty Creek, and Big Powderhorn

This same system shifts to the Northeast later Thursday-Friday, delivering much-need 5-10"+ of snow for northern New England ski areas, with highest amounts in northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Look to Jay Peak, Burke Mountain, Loon, Sunday River and others nearby.

Unfortunately, warmer air sneaks in from the south generating a wintry mix parts of the Catskills, Poconos, and Berkshires with slick travel expected. 

Colder air returns for all through Friday with light upslope snow lingering across the northern Appalachians, which will be followed up by a beautiful weekend for skiing and riding. Get out and love it! 

A second system will track up the Appalachians to interior New England Sunday through Monday (1/22-23). This time, the rain/snow line threatens to bisect New England from southwest to northeast, so most likely areas to see snow remain across northern Pennsylvania , New York, Vermont and perhaps northern New Hampshire. Keep monitoring as the rain/snow line will shift based on the exact storm track. 

A brief lull Tuesday, before yet another storm targets the Northeast by mid-next week with another good chance of snow for the north. A bit too far out to talk amounts, but at this point, any snow is good snow.

 

West

After an unbelievably active stretch, the West finally appears to have a break in view. With nearly a dozen separate storms since late December, California and Utah have had huge totals, now topping some 300-400" on the season (in some cases more, including Alta at 426" and Brighton at 412"!). Excellent news for the snowpack and water resupply out West.

On Thursday, a cold front continues to sag across southern California toward the Southwest U.S. with snow drifting over the four-corners states by Friday. Expect a general 2-6" of snow for the Arizona, southern Colorado, and New Mexico mountains to round out the week. 

Most of Saturday looks pleasant to hit the slopes, albeit breezy over the Rockies.

 A system drops in from western Canada and the northern U.S. Rockies by Saturday night-Sunday with potential for 5-10" in the Washington Cascades, and a fresh 2-6" for Oregon and Idaho before slowly drifting down the northern Rockies by Monday.

This will open to the door and allow much colder air to spill in for much of the West next week.

Check in again each Thursday for a new SnoCast. Until then, happy skiing and riding!

- Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin

 

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SnoCast: 2023 Kicks Off With Epic Snowfall

A fresh 8 inches of snow at Red River in New Mexico (RedRiver/Twitter)

It's a new year, but the same story continues across the West as atmospheric rivers yield feet of more snow and create blizzard-like conditions!

Western U.S. & Canada

Bomb cyclone. Atmospheric river. You’ve heard the terms before and these significant weather events kick off our first SnoCast of 2023. A storm (that has already “bombed” out over the Pacific Ocean) will be ongoing in California’s Sierra Nevada Thursday. Strong winds up to 100 miles per hour, along with snow rates of 3"/hr, will continue through Friday morning. In total, 1-2 feet of snow will be likely above 5,000 feet elevation and 2-3 feet above 6,500’. Road closures and the halting of lift operations will be likely, so be patient when going to ski and ride this snow! 

The aforementioned California storm will scoot across Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming Friday dropping 3-6” of snow. Then this weekend, another coastal California storm will arrive and bring another 1-3 feet to the central and northern Sierra Nevada. Many of these weather systems will impact Cali-Nevada, with lighter snow falling in surrounding areas.

The incoming West snow will fall atop amounts up to 40-50" in the past week in California, and on 40-70" across the Rockies. Always check the avalanche forecast and exercise extreme caution!

Eastern U.S. & Canada

Recent snow will end Thursday in the Upper Midwest, with totals from this event ranging between 4-8". A couple of weather systems bear watching across the East, one on Thursday-Friday and another on Saturday night. Both of these, as of this writing, will be lighter winter storms with 1-4 inches of snow possible through each event.

However, there’s a small potential for each of these to get a little stronger and gather more moisture to drop a few more inches than just “freshies.” Nonetheless, Maine will get 1-4” of snow Thursday-Friday, while the mid-Atlantic could get a swipe of that 1-3” Saturday night. Otherwise temperatures will continue to stay mild, trending colder on Tuesday.

Read our holiday SnoCast next week as we highlight the snow you can expect for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend! Until then, happy skiing and riding!

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SnoCast: Big Snowstorm Targets the Northeast

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At last, it’s the Northeast’s turn for snow! A coastal storm will deliver more than a foot of freshies for parts of New England and New York by the weekend, while the West gets a chance to dig out. Let’s dive into this week's SnoCast.

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SnoCast Returns For the 2022-23 Winter Season

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Another winter season is nearly here, and that means we're gearing up for another season of SnoCast. This weekly weather blog takes a deep-dive into the forecast, seeking areas of great ski and ride weather from coast to coast. 

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Southwest's Power Pass Embraces Choices; Purg OK'd For Expansion

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The Southwest Rockies' multi-mountain ski and snowboard season pass is on sale, as the Power Pass focuses on its seven winter resorts -- and a year-round mountain biking destination in Texas.

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SnoCast: Will March Come in Like a Lion or Lamb?

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This first weekend of March features a more "lion-like" and snowy setup across the West, while the East sees lamb-like signs of spring time weather. Let's dig into the forecast in this week's SnoCast.

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Standing Alone, Arizona Snowbowl Dominates High Desert Zone

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Towering more than 5,000 feet above the high desert floor, Arizona Snowbowl beckons skiers and snowboarders from near and far.

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SnoCast: New Year, New Snow. Bring It!

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As we close the book on 2021, we’ll get off to a busy snow start for the new year. A storm treks from coast to coast delivering new snow from the Southwest to Quebec. Details in this week’s SnoCast.

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SnoCast: New Snow from Coast to Coast

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This week brought more wild swings in the weather country-wide. The West has benefited greatly with building snow cover, and the East eyes the next weekend wintry wallop. Here’s the forecast in this week’s SnoCast.

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Power Pass 7-Pack All Spruced-Up For The Season

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New trails, new lodging, and plenty of on-mountain upgrades mark the start of the 2021-22 ski and snowboard season for the seven resorts on the Power Pass.

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SnoCast: Gobbling Up This Thanksgiving Weekend Forecast

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Happy Thanksgiving! We're eating up the forecast with plentiful helpings of snow and chill for the East, and warm, buttery turns in the West. Here's what to expect in the forecast in this week's SnoCast.

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SnoCast: First Winter Storm of the Season Ahead

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Another ski season is nearly here, which means another season of SnoCast is back! This week, we're tracking the first potential big snow of the season. 

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SnoCast: Big Snow Targets the Rockies

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A storm system will bring heavy snow to the western mountains, especially the Colorado Rockies this weekend as a cold and stormy pattern persists. On the flip side, the East enjoys mild and spring-like conditions. This week’s SnoCast has the details through St. Patrick’s Day week.

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Powder Days All Around! Massive Storms Roll Across The West

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In the waning days of January, Mother Nature got to work -- dropping her glorious bounty upon the mountains of the West, and finally giving skiers and snowboarders the deep powder they've been waiting for.

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SnoCast: Coast to Coast Snow To End January

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So much to cover in this week’s SnoCast as we dig out from feet of snow in the west, and eye new snow in the Midwest and Northeast—everyone gets something to finish off January.

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New Lift Highlights What's New At Power Pass Resorts

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The network of Mountain Southwest resorts under the Power Pass season ticket continues to grow, and ownership has built a reputation for putting out money for upgrades.

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Power Pass Resorts Seek To Give 'Freedom To Change Your Mind'

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The seven-mountain Power Pass consortium is streamlining what it takes to get on the hill with a new reloadable card and pick-a-day midweek season pass.

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SnoCast: Big Snow, Cold Incoming for the West

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This week’s weather will feature very different weather across the country. While the east deals with much above-average temperatures, a winter-like chill and snow take over the west.

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