When Arizona Snowbowl opened for the 2011-2012 season last month, visitors found improvements to their skiing and snowboarding experiences. Despite waylays caused by lawsuits over snowmaking, the resort continues to work towards the proposed plan that was assembled by Arizona Snowbowl and the Forest Service. Some of the planned improvements were made last summer.
Four new beginner and intermediate glade runs – including one named Route 66 – and an advanced run were part of the terrain improvements. In total, eight new trails were added this year, expanding opportunities for all levels. The advanced run, called Upper Volcano, is rated as a black diamond run with a grade of over 50 percent.
“Upper Volcano opened in December and the reviews have been extremely positive,” said J.R. Murray, general manager. Upper Volcano provides an additional route down from the top of Agassiz Lift that relieves pressure on Ridge and Spur Catwalk. Upper Volcano holds snow and allows for an earlier opening of the upper mountain in lean snow years.
Improvements to the state-of-the-art beginners’ area – the largest in the Southwest – include a new kids’ adventure area and a new 450-foot conveyor belt. The new conveyor, called Big Spruce Carpet, joins the 150-foot Little Spruce Carpet that was added last season in Hart Prairie. The new technology takes the sometimes daunting ski lift out of the learning equation for beginners.
First-time skier Sophia Bentley, 12, of Scottsdale had nothing but good things to say of her ski school experience and the new conveyor. “It reminded me of the moving sidewalks at the airport. It wasn’t scary. I felt safe,” said the 12-year-old, who was spending the night with her family in a Flagstaff hotel. Brother David, 8, and also a first-timer, said, “I thought it was kind of fun, but when you first get on it, it kind of whips you. It felt like I was about to fall over, but I didn’t fall off.” When asked whether he would tell children his age to come to Arizona Snowbowl to learn to ski, he said, “Yes definitely. They should definitely come here.”
Brittany Speier, certified instructor for Arizona Snowbowl Ski School, explained, “The Carpet is a great tool because it allows people to get the basics in a slower environment and understand the fundamentals of skiing slowly, versus throwing them down the hill and trying to have them turn and stop going 20 mph. That allows them to actually improve faster – if they learn correct techniques at a slower environment, then they can bring that to a steeper incline or a different type of terrain.
“The Carpet is way to get kids up the hill without having a chairlift involved,” said the instructor, who is certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) in alpine and telemark skiing and by the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI).
“I think it is a great tool to have – it puts the beginners in an area to keep them safe away from the more intermediate skiers or people that think they are intermediate skiers,” added Speier.
“The conveyors are revolutionary for skiers and riders,” said Murray. “After one day, they can turn, glide and stop.”
To further enhance the guest experience, Arizona Snowbowl upgraded rental equipment this season. New top-of-the-line new demo equipment includes Elan, Rossignol, Head and Dynastar skis and/or snowboards and Head BOA snowboard boots. This reporter was so impressed with the carving performance of her Rossignol demo skis that she bought them.
Plans continue to complete the infrastructure for snowmaking in the fall and to begin snowmaking in winter 2012. “This summer, we finished half of the water supply line – from Highway 180 to the ski area entrance,” explained Murray. “We’re five years behind our schedule because of lawsuits. We still have some judicial processes in front of us.” Oral arguments before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled for Jan. 9, 2012.
“Visitors see that we are making investments but they also understand that without snowmaking we can’t make capital investments like new chairlifts. Snowbowl is known for inconsistent snow and long lift lines. Once we get snowmaking in, then we’ll start replacing and installing new lifts. But without the snowmaking, there will be no new lifts,” Murray said.
“In addition, we’re keeping the price for season passes the same for the eleventh consecutive season, while spending over $2 million in capital improvements,” Murray said in an earlier press release. “Arizona Snowbowl is investing in its assets to improve our guests’ experience and offer more outdoor recreation for the whole family.” FBN