3 Best Ski Resorts in Arizona, 2023/24

Written by Lana Law and Michael Law
Updated Dec 7, 2023
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Although you might not think of Arizona as a skiing and snowboarding destination, if you are in the Southwest at the right time, you just may be able to find awesome ski conditions.

The northern part of the state has some impressive mountains and a number of ski resorts. This is one of the few places in America where you can go from lying in the sun poolside to plowing through powder all in the same day.

Arizona's ski resorts are fun. They're not pretentious or complicated, instead, it's completely old school with a great mix of people on the hill. Skiing in Arizona is also affordable. Rates are reasonable, and many great deals are available on season passes.

If you are looking to learn how to ski, rentals, lift tickets, and lesson packages are readily available and are about 50 percent less costly than the larger resorts to the north.

Learn more about where to go and what you can expect with our guide to the best ski resorts in Arizona.

1. Arizona Snowbowl

View from Mount Humphreys at Arizona Snowbowl
View from Mount Humphreys at Arizona Snowbowl | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff offers the best skiing experience in the state. Often referred to as just Snowbowl, the resort is known for good snow, long runs, and plenty of terrain. And if you've never skied down the side of a volcano then you should definitely visit Arizona Snowbowl.

The view from the top of Mount Humphreys is spectacular on a sunny day. The high plains seem to stretch to the horizon, and other smaller volcanoes can be seen in the distance.

But don't let the sunny days fool you. This hill, in operation since 1938, gets storm systems that can dump legendary amounts of snow. It's not uncommon for the mountain to receive a foot or two of snow in a day when storms roll through. On average, Arizona Snowbowl receives 260 inches or just over 22 feet of snow a season.

Powder day at Arizona Snowbowl
Author Lana Law on a powder day at Arizona Snowbowl | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Arizona Snowbowl is high. The elevation of the base is 9,200 feet, higher than many of the major resorts in Colorado. This high elevation and the orientation of the mountain act like a giant baseball glove, capturing any moisture that comes across from the Pacific Ocean. On average, Snowbowl receives an incredible 21.5 feet of snow per season. The lift-serviced elevation is 11,500 feet, and if you have the energy and stamina to hike up another 500 feet, you can top out at an even 12,000 feet.

Snowbowl has made some significant investments in the mountain and facilities recently and now boasts a brand new lift: The Arizona Gondola. This lift is a combination of eight-passenger gondolas called a "telemix." This means every third unit is a gondola, and all the others are six-passenger chairs.

Other recent improvements include the new Grand Canyon Express high-speed quad. It's a big change from the old chair, and if you haven't been to the Snowbowl in a while, you'll be impressed.

On bluebird days skiers were like cats in the sun this past season on the Hart Prairie patio. The new firepits and paving stones made this suntrap even better for lounging and recapping the day.

Perhaps the toughest part of skiing at Snowbowl is figuring out which one of the 55 runs you want to take. Depending on your skill level, choose carefully, as runs here are a good mix of easy, intermediate, and difficult. The ski hill is spread out over 777 acres of skiable terrain, and you'll generally find lots of room to roam, except on the busiest of weekends.

Beginner skiers and families with small children should head directly to the Hart Prairie Chair to enjoy a gentle slope with lots of wide-open spaces.

Those who like a bit more challenge can try out the blue runs under the Humphreys Peak chair or those off the Grand Canyon Express or Sunset Chairs. Stronger skiers and snowboarders or those brave enough should hop on the new Arizona Gondola and go right up to the top. From here, you can access the bowl area, glades, and all the intermediate runs.

If you are a hard-core skier and are in good physical condition, Snowbowl also offers hike-to skiable terrain. This rough and ready area is 700 feet higher than the lift-serviced runs, so be prepared for a tough slog at elevations over 12,000 feet to get to the top. After you've made it up and down, you can sit on the patio and enjoy your bragging rights for the beautiful S-turns you've left in the untracked snow at the top.

Arizona Snowbowl
Arizona Snowbowl | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Four terrain parks provide a steady progression of humps, bumps, and rails that will satisfy all riders, from beginner right through to expert.

The folks who ski at Snowbowl are a friendly bunch. On powder days, you'll find college students from nearby Northern Arizona University skipping classes, and any day of the week, friendly locals can be seen catching a few runs before or after work.

Throughout the season on weekends, you'll always find some sort of event happening. Events include DJs spinning top tracks on the outdoor deck, to ski races, right through to the hilarious Cardboard Derby Classic, where people dress up and ride cardboard creations down the slopes.

Ski school: Arizona Snowbowl has an excellent ski school and is a perfect place to learn, whether you are young or old. If you are over 13 years of age and new to skiing, Arizona Snowbowl has programs that will provide you with free or deeply discounted lessons. Overall, the lesson prices here are less than half of what you'd pay at the big resorts up north.

Passes and deals: The resort is also part of the Power Pass program, which allows you to get unlimited skiing at eight resorts in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Texas (biking in summer only). Those that are 75 years and older always ski free as do those 12 years and younger, registration in advance is required for both passes.

Spring skiing at Arizona Snowbowl
Spring skiing at Arizona Snowbowl | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

One of the best things about skiing at Snowbowl is that it is almost always sunny. Unless a storm is hitting the mountain, it's generally a bluebird day. Spring skiing here is epic, with sugar snow down low and more wintery conditions up high. A big part of spring skiing here involves sitting on the deck at the Agassiz Restaurant in the base lodge and soaking up the sun in the Adirondack chairs while watching people come and go.

Getting to Arizona Snowbowl: Arizona Snowbowl is right outside Flagstaff. The drive up the volcano can be challenging on snowy days if you are driving your own vehicle. The road is twisty and steep, and chains are frequently required as are all-season or snow tires, not common equipment on most Arizona vehicles.

Free Shuttle: To promote a greener alternative to everyone driving up to the hill a free shuttle has been organized. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes from December 26th to January 1st, and throughout January and February (weekends only). You can catch the bus at the downtown Connection Center, Flagstaff High School (at the high school you can park for free in their large lot), and at Fort Valley Road/Pioneer Museum (no parking available here).

Author Lana Law on a run at Arizona Snowbowl
Author Lana Law on a run at Arizona Snowbowl | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Snowbowl is just over 2.5 hours from Phoenix, most of it on Interstate 17. Most people consider Arizona Snowbowl to be the best ski resort near Phoenix, and many people from Phoenix day trip here.

Shuttles from Phoenix: Two shuttle services operated throughout the season. The Desert Snow Connection Shuttle picks people up in the East Valley (6:00am) and North Valley (6:45am). Alpine Express has three pickup locations: Tempe Marketplace (5:00am), Desert Ridge (5:35am), and Happy Valley Town Center (6:00am). Both services leave the mountain shortly after 4pm.

The drive from Sedona to Snowbowl is usually less than 1.5 hours, but longer if conditions are slippery. The drive on Highway 89A up Oak Creek Canyon can be challenging on snowy days.

Official site: https://www.snowbowl.ski/

Nearby Towns and Where to Stay


Part of what makes skiing at Arizona Snowbowl fun is staying in nearby Flagstaff, less than 30 minutes away. This college town is lively and has a youthful feel because it's the home of Northern Arizona University.

Flagstaff was on the original Route 66, and vestiges of that bygone era can still be found along its main highways and in the restored downtown area. The downtown 12-block area is home to great restaurants, attractions, and interesting retail, including ski shops. In the winter, the area near the old train station features an outdoor skating rink.

Little America Hotel Flagstaff
Little America Hotel Flagstaff | Photo Source: Little America Hotel Flagstaff

Hotels in Flagstaff: Flagstaff has an incredible number of hotels to suit every taste and budget. These range from luxurious bed and breakfasts to budget hotels right off the Interstate. A good mid-range option is the recently renovated Little America Hotel, which offers "stay and save ski packages." Rooms here are large, and the hotel is set in a beautiful grove of large Ponderosa pine trees.

If you want to avoid all the driving and be well positioned for a big dump of snow or to hit the corduroy early in the morning, consider staying at the Basecamp at Snowbowl. You can't get much closer. The hotel is located right at the turn to head up to the ski resort. Formerly the Ski Lift Lodge and Cabins, this property was recently purchased and significantly upgraded.

Basecamp has 18 cabins and six hotel-style rooms. The cabins are cozy and modern and come with gas fireplaces, microwaves, and a small refrigerator. Basecamp at Snowbowl is pet-friendly for a modest charge, and the on-site restaurant serves up hearty fare guaranteed to keep you going no matter how deep the snow.

2. Sunrise Park Resort

Sunrise Park Resort on a clear winter day
Sunrise Park Resort on a clear winter day | Photo Copyright: Sunrise Park Resort

Sunrise Park Resort holds the title of Arizona's largest ski resort. Located in the far east of the state, not far from the New Mexico border, this ski resort is more of a destination than a day trip destination. Up high in Arizona's White Mountains, Sunrise Park Resort's base elevation is 9,200 feet, and the top of the lift-serviced area is at an elevation of 11,000 feet. The mountains catch some serious snow during storms.

Variety is key at Sunrise, and the 69 runs are spread out across three mountains; Apache Peak, Sunrise Peak, and Cyclone Circle. Each has its own feel.

The vertical drop here is a respectable 1,800 feet, and the six lifts strategically placed around the mountains will get you back up to the top in no time. The skiing here skews toward beginner and intermediate levels, however, those chasing black diamond runs will find challenges await them on Cyclone Circle peak. Sunrise is the best place in Arizona for long, groomed runs and with little to non-existent lift lines, you can shred the corduroy for a long time.

Chairlift at Sunrise Park Resort
Chairlift at Sunrise Park Resort

The $5.5 million dollars of new improvements last season have made a noticeable difference in the skiing experience at Sunrise including the new rope tow that runs from Denny's Way to the peak of Cyclone Circle. The investments continue with one of the most exciting pieces being the reintroduction of night skiing after a seven-year hiatus. Night skiing will be available over the Christmas week, and the Martin Luther King and President's Day long weekends.

Other upgrades that skiers will notice are the brand new outdoor decks at Apache Peak Lodge, Midway Café, and Cyclone Day Lodge, new RFID lift ticket technology, and new Rossignol rental equipment.

For those looking to stay at the hill, renovations to the Sunrise Park Lodge Hotel are progressing. The resort anticipates lakeview rooms will be completed by December and mountain-facing rooms will open in early 2024. The work on the restaurant is scheduled to be completed by year-end as well.

Getting to the resort takes time. It is a four-hour drive from Phoenix. Add another 30 minutes if you are coming from Tucson. As a result, it's best to plan an overnight trip. If you don't have your own transport, Desert Snow Shuttles provides transport from one location in Phoenix. Pick-up from the East Valley location is at the bleary-eyed time of 5:30am. The shuttle leaves the resort at around 4:30pm with a return to the East Valley location at 8:00pm.

Sunrise Park is part of the Indy Pass program.

Official site: https://www.sunrise.ski/

Nearby Towns and Places to Stay

Sunrise Park Resort does have on-site accommodation, but with the extensive renovations planned for 2022/23, it might be best to find somewhere else to stay. The resort itself is a long way from major destinations, but accommodation options are available 45 minutes away in Pinetop/Lakeside. Here, you'll find a decent assortment of restaurants serving a variety of fare and a range of good hotels at very attractive rates. A good spot is the Best Western Inn of Pinetop. Rooms are clean and comfortable, and the indoor spa is a welcome sight after a day on the slopes.

3. Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley

Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley
Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley | Alex / photo modified

Residents of Tucson consider Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley their own hidden gem of a ski hill. Tucked up in Coronado National Forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains, this ski hill is only an hour and a bit from downtown Tucson. Although the 80-minute drive up from Tucson can be an adventure at times, the destination is worth it.

Alpine enthusiasts like to "ski the lemmon" and that means cruising down the short, but fun, runs and plunking down onto the old-school double chair and riding slowly back up to the top. The 22 runs are spread out across 200 acres and have a 950-foot vertical drop. If a storm has come through recently, you'll be skiing or boarding down and through massive pine trees with boughs heavy with snow.

If you forgot to pack your skis and boots or snowboard because you were planning a trip to the desert, rentals are available. Mt Lemmon Ski Valley is a great place to learn. The runs are gentle, and the lessons are cheap. The Brian Ashby Ski school will get you up and sliding in no time, even if you've never been on skis. Unlike most ski resorts, lift tickets cannot be purchased online for Mt. Lemmon, they can only be purchased at the resort.

Chairlift at Mt. Lemmon
Chairlift at Mt. Lemmon

In addition to the main double chairlift, another smaller double chairlift and a surface tow service the base area. Also, at the base you'll find the famous Iron Door Restaurant. This restaurant has been serving skiers and summer visitors for a long time, and the view from the Grub Stake patio is absolutely stunning. The juxtaposition of having lunch surrounded by snow while looking out at the brown desert below can be a bit of a mind-bender.

Skiing at Mt. Lemmon is a relative bargain and makes for an ideal family day trip. For those who have always wanted to golf and ski in the same day, this is the place to do it.

Where to Stay: Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is only a day-trip destination; accommodation is in nearby Tucson.

Official site: http://www.skithelemmon.com/

Map of Ski Resorts in Arizona

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Things to Do in Flagstaff and Sedona: If you are skiing at Arizona Snowbowl, chances are you are staying in Flagstaff or Sedona, although you may be day tripping from Phoenix. Flagstaff is more about the atmosphere than the sights, but if you are wondering how to spend some extra time here, see our list of things to do in Flagstaff.

Sedona is another story. You can find all kinds of tours, attractions, and things to do in Sedona. For more outdoor activity see our guide to the best hiking trails in Sedona and the best mountain biking trails in Sedona.