For the second consecutive year, Scenic Chairlift Rides are offered every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours on Fridays. For many Northland visitors escaping low-desert heat (the temperature difference can be 30 degrees from Phoenix to the San Francisco Peaks), the stunning views, gorgeous ponderosa pine forest and clean air are plenty to keep TripAdvisor reviews pouring in. But, Fridays are the best days for a getaway to Arizona’s highest mountain. With a $24 adult lift ticket, visitors can enjoy an afternoon with live bands on the Agassiz deck through the Sunset Music Series, dinner from the 9500 Taco Shack, and Scenic Chairlift Rides until 5 p.m.
Also on the weekends, a National Park Service ranger greets guests at the top of the chairlift with information about what they can see: cinder cones in the vast volcanic field, Grand Canyon geology, Sedona’s Red Rocks and Arizona’s alpine tundra, which is home to a rare little sunflower-like plant hanging on since the last ice age.
This schedule continues through Labor Day weekend. Then, Chairlift Rides will be offered Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October for viewing fall’s golden glow among Arizona’s aspen groves.
The ski area also has an 18-hole disc golf course that starts at the bottom of the Grand Canyon Express Chairlift at an elevation of 9,500 feet and stretches for half a mile. The Arizona Snowbowl Disc Golf Course was originally created for the 2003 PDGA Amateur Disco Golf World Championships. It has been slightly modified since then. Players can expect to complete the course in about two hours.
Popular hiking trails in the Coconino National Forest can be accessed from the ski resort. Humphrey’s Peak Trail is a nine-and-a-half mile climb to the highest point in Arizona at 12,643 feet, recommended for experienced hikers. The Kachina Trail is a nearly 10-and-a-half-mile journey around the Peaks, rated moderate.
Recreationists can re-fuel at the Agassiz Lodge Restaurant. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and offers local favorites like Mountain Berry Salads, Caprese Paninis, Chicken Caesar Wraps and, allegedly, the best Bloody Marys in town.
Meantime, as hikers and day-trippers enjoy wildflowers and cool mountain breezes, Snowbowl workers are preparing for the next ski season and bringing online another new chairlift. The cushiony Hart Prairie Quad is the third new lift in three years. It will replace the current two-seater and is expected to be ready for winter 2017-2018.
“The new chairlift reflects Snowbowl’s commitment to beginners,” said Marketing Manager Ksenia Hartl, who points out that Snowbowl has the largest beginners’ ski area in the Southwest. “It’s also part of Arizona Snowbowl’s 2005 Master Development Plan and $15-million investment that included the Humphreys Quad and the Grand Canyon Express. Between the three lifts, we are able to increase capacity on the mountain by 85 percent.”
Those visiting Arizona Snowbowl and the San Francisco Peaks this summer are advised to bring light jackets and prepare for everything from intense sunshine to chilly monsoon thunderstorms. Snowbowl offers military, child and senior discounts for Scenic Chairlift Rides. Watch for online specials at ArizonaSnowbowl.com. QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens, QCBN