Arizona Snowbowl is experiencing a spectacular season that will carry through to Sunday, April 7 – and perhaps an extra weekend – as all indicators point to a strong finish. The ski resort has received 197 inches of natural snowfall and winter shows no sign of slowing down. March typically is the snowiest month of the year in Flagstaff and the historic average is 260 inches per season. Currently, Snowbowl has a substantial 66-inch snow base, one of the best in the country, and snowmaking capabilities cover 50 percent of the terrain.
So far this winter, Arizona Snowbowl has hosted some 130,000 skiers and snowboarders, and has set a target of serving 175,000 total outdoor recreationists by the end of the season. This is up 48 percent from last year. The single biggest day thus far was 3,800 skiers on Saturday, Feb. 23, a non-holiday. Arizona Snowbowl General Manager J.R. Murray credits snowmaking for 30,000 skier visits because of the ability to keep many trails open through January.
“No doubt, the snowmaking system did what was promised and made for great skiing,” said Murray. “After the Christmas holiday, some trails were degrading with visible bare spots. But as snowmaking moved from trail to trail, the runs were covered with 24 inches of heavy snow, keeping many trails open until another storm arrived Jan. 27.”
Snowbowl opened its 75th season on Friday, Dec. 20, following a significant storm that began Dec. 14 and delivered 45 inches of snow. That night, the massive $12 million effort to bring snowmaking to the historic ski resort proved to be a success as snow machines made fresh powder for the first time.
“Four significant snowstorms have produced an average of 34 inches each,” said Murray. “Since opening day, natural snow has fallen on top of a 24 inch base made from snow guns, which has made for excellent conditions at Snowbowl while the majority of the West is experiencing a drought, including much of Colorado. With snowmaking, the Sunset Terrain Park is the best it’s ever been, comparing with the country’s other top terrain parks.”
Murray also credits snowmaking for Snowbowl’s positive economic impact on the community this season. “Snowbowl currently has more than 550 full- and part-time seasonal employees. Payroll for the 2012-2013 winter season will exceed $2.5 million, and we expect state and county sales taxes to exceed $750,000. Also, we know that more than 60 percent of our guests are visiting from outside the Flagstaff area and one-third of those skiers are staying overnight in a hotel. That adds up to 15,000 double-occupancy rooms and equates to $18,000 in Bed, Board and Booze tax revenue in just over 100 days. This winter, total direct spending in Flagstaff by Snowbowl exceeds $2 million.”
Thus far, Snowbowl has used only 20 percent of its contracted allowance for reclaimed water from the City of Flagstaff. The ski resort now is making snow only in high traffic areas to ensure good depth through the end of the season.
“With the certainty of good skiing conditions, we have ramped up our year-round marketing efforts,” said Murray. “We are reaching out to new markets, including Las Vegas, bolstering online ticket sales, increasing groups sales, offering 500 free Learn to Ski packages, teaching more lessons, adding mid-week discounts and promoting Family Fridays, which offer later hours and $10 afternoon lift tickets.”
Looking ahead to summer, projects include snowmaking capabilities on 60 additional acres, trail widening on the Ridge side of the ski resort and ongoing trail grading efforts.
“Snowmaking allows the community to work together to improve overall winter tourism,” said Murray. “With snowmaking and continued improvements, we are seeking to average 200,000 guest visits each season.”
In addition, Snowbowl will continue to provide its popular Scenic Skyride this summer while improving its disc golf course and adding interpretive hiking trails from the top of Agassiz Lift to the base area. The ski resort also will be working with local partners to seek approval for future mountain bike trails. FBN
For more information, visit www.arizonasnowbowl.com.