Arizona Snowbowl resides at the height of elevation within the Grand Canyon State and seeks to raise the bar for alpine recreation in Arizona, while also promoting awareness, appreciation and respect for the environment and cultures of the region, through its new Master Development Plan. The plan outlines the ski area’s vision for elevating the offerings at the resort over the next five to 15 years—seeking to enhance the visitor experience, providing more year-round activities, benefiting the region with enhanced partnerships and a greater economic impact, and answering the Forest Service’s call to leverage the developed recreation assets and infrastructure at the ski area to help meet the current and future demand for outdoor recreation on the Coconino National Forest.
Arizona Snowbowl acknowledges our unique relationship and location on the sacred San Francisco Peaks and takes our stewardship responsibility for these sensitive public lands seriously.
Arizona Snowbowl was part of the first group of ski areas to open in the United States in the 1930s and has persevered through the “booms” of skiing’s popularity and the “busts” of bad snow years. In order to provide this recreational opportunity to the American public for the past 80+ years, Snowbowl had to be a wise steward of the land we are permitted to operate on, balancing the recreation demands of the public with the capacity and conditions of the land and our infrastructure. Our collective understanding of what we must protect and how we should do so has evolved over time, and Snowbowl’s commitment to sustainability has been recharged and refreshed through this new plan.
Arizona Snowbowl also supports the conservation of the San Francisco Peaks by providing managed public access to this unique high alpine environment. There is a huge public demand for alpine recreation in Arizona, but the limited alpine environment available to residents is immensely sensitive. Currently, Snowbowl occupies less than 1% of the total San Francisco Peaks land area, but the ski area accommodates a relatively large share of the regional recreation demand. Given the existing infrastructure, staff presence, and ability to communicate with the recreating public in numerous formats, Snowbowl is the ideal managed recreation environment in which to meet and manage the growing demand for alpine recreation. This both serves the public’s recreation needs AND protects the surrounding Kachina Peaks Wilderness and sensitive forest by concentrating recreational use where it is most manageable.
Arizona Snowbowl is committed to providing a high-quality experience through enhanced year-round recreation and guest service facilities that achieve an improved balance with the current recreation demand and visitation levels.
Arizona Snowbowl seeks to provide a high-quality recreation experience for its guests in a way that introduces them to the mountain environment and the incredible natural beauty and resources of the Peaks. While Snowbowl faced significant operational challenges prior to the installation of snowmaking, the technology has been a true “game changer” for the resort that has enabled Snowbowl to now provide a consistent and reliable skiing product. With this new, more reliable skiing product, Snowbowl has been able to consistently serve the growing demand for skiing and mountain recreation in the region and has been able to better accommodate increasing winter visitation with a safer and enhanced quality experience each year since the 2012 – 2013 season when snowmaking was installed.
Now, Snowbowl has entered a new era. Resort operations are much more predictable and reliable, the outdoor recreational experience has vastly improved and visitation is taking off again with thousands of new visitors to the National Forest every year, largely the result of growing Southwestern urban population centers. The overall goal of the Master Development Plan (MDP) is not to drive new winter visitation to Snowbowl, but rather to improve the existing facilities to be able to accommodate current visitation levels, and to assist the resort in meeting the everchanging expectations of its marketplace in the winter and summer.
Arizona Snowbowl will provide guests with world class, year-round, high-elevation recreation opportunities—providing fun activities in the sun during winter and an escape from the desert heat in the summer.
National Forests are, and have always been, the greatest opportunity for Americans to use and enjoy their public lands. Because ski areas serve as portals to the National Forests for millions of people every year, they have a unique opportunity to involve the recreating public in natural resource-based recreation in ways that promote an appreciation of the environment and the natural world through both adventure and discovery. Following the national direction from the Forest Service and the passing of the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act (SAROEA), summer and multi-season activities such as mountain biking, alpine slides, zip-line tours, disc golf, climbing walls, outdoor concerts, and others are now common at other ski areas operating on Forest Service lands. Providing these summer and multi-season recreation opportunities at mountain resorts leverages existing resort infrastructure to accommodate recreation demand in more seasons while increasing and diversifying the economic impact brought to local communities. As past Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has explained, “Our job, as I see it, is to make sure that people take home the memories they come for. That includes furnishing the services they need – the roads, the slopes, the facilities, and everything else. It should include using the infrastructure of ski areas to help meet recreational demand.”
Arizona Snowbowl’s new MDP identifies several facilities and improvements that will elevate the year-round recreation opportunities provided within the resort’s existing boundary. These include upgraded base lodges and parking, five new alpine ski trails accessible to approved snowmaking operations, and two new chairlifts serving beginner and intermediate skiers. Total snowmaking acreage will remain within the previously approved total allocation, with slight adjustments to distribution. Proposed summer activities include something for everyone, from hiking and mountain biking to a mountain coaster and an aerial adventure course.
Arizona Snowbowl recognizes its critical role in the Flagstaff community—physically, socially, and economically—and seeks to support the local community, the region, and the state through listening, adapting, and collaborating.
Flagstaff is one of the outdoor recreation capitals of the state, and Arizona Snowbowl is an important part of that identity. The resort helps makes Flagstaff a great place to live and draws new visitors and economic activity into the region. The current economic impact of Arizona Snowbowl’s visitors on the local economy is estimated at more than $58 million annually and proposed improvements in the MDP are projected to increase that by over $20 million in the next 15 years. Proposed improvements in the MDP will also support the mountain resort’s long-term sustainability as a four-season operation, despite drought cycles and a warming climate, ensuring Arizona Snowbowl’s visitors can support local businesses for years to come.
Arizona Snowbowl provides a critical recreation resource to the Flagstaff community, and the resort has worked with the community to ensure its voices are heard as we envision the future of the ski area. Throughout the development of the MDP, Arizona Snowbowl’s team engaged deeply with the local community, Forest Service, guests, and stakeholders, with substantial alterations made to the MDP as a result of this feedback. For example, night skiing had initially been considered, but is no longer part of the current MDP based on the feedback received. The resort looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the local community and stakeholders throughout the potential permitting and implementation phases of the proposed improvements.
Arizona Snowbowl is committed to ongoing and collaborative partnerships with the US Forest Service, the local community, stakeholders, and tribal entities.
U.S. Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Jim Hubbard refers to mountain resorts as “lifelong partners” in the effort to provide recreational opportunities to the American public and this has certainly been the case at Arizona Snowbowl. As recreation partners on public lands, Arizona Snowbowl and the Coconino National Forest have collaborated significantly to balance resource values with recreational needs in the development of the final version of the new MDP. The resort also engaged with the local community, stakeholders, and tribal representatives during this process. Through these conversations, Arizona Snowbowl has decided to remove all night skiing and night tubing from the mountain, kept the snowmaking proposal to within the existing approval for 205 acres of coverage, and adjusted the size and location of proposed facilities. Arizona Snowbowl looks forward to continuing collaboration with the Forest Service and its other partners to refine proposals and projects from the MDP as they move to the environmental review process and potentially to implementation.
Extending far beyond the MDP document and its implementation, Arizona Snowbowl also has a vision for enhanced partnerships with the Forest Service and tribal partners in interpretation, education, employment opportunities and programming. To ensure our education and interpretation on the mountain is engaging, accurate, and in line with the expectations of our partners, we will develop a comprehensive cultural and natural resources interpretive plan, in consultation with tribal representatives and the Forest, that will be implemented throughout the development of the MDP projects.
In the future, recreational offerings at Arizona Snowbowl will seek to tell the story of the unique ecosystem and cultural significance of the landscape. Woven into each recreational offering will be an interpretive narrative that speaks to the extraordinary geology of the area, communicates the immense spiritual power of the mountain, and educates visitors about all the life zones of Arizona—from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the San Francisco Peaks. This will be achieved through interpretive signage with thoughtful consideration for the design of the offerings, the materials selected, and the naming and messaging associated with the recreational experience.