A winter storm Friday brought whiteout conditions to Flagstaff and highway closures. But several businesses said the snow also brought a needed boost to Flagstaff’s economy over the weekend.
The Flagstaff Snow Park at Fort Tuthill County Park hit capacity and turned cars away both Saturday and Sunday, owner Jonathan Allen said. The park saw about 2,150 guests over Saturday and part of the day Sunday until melting snow forced them to cut the day short, Allen said. If fully open, the park can accommodate about 1,800 visitors daily, he said.
Arizona Snowbowl received 13 inches from the latest storm and saw its second-busiest weekend of the season behind Presidents Day weekend, General Manager J.R. Murray said.
About 9,000 skiers and snowboarders carved turns over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Murray said.
Traffic in the Highway 180 corridor was flowing well Saturday evening, he said.
Last weekend was the last of the season for Mountain Express buses to shuttle skiers from downtown and the bottom of Snowbowl Road to the resort. In the event of another busy weekend, it will be up to Snowbowl’s three smaller shuttle buses to get skiers from the lower parking lot at Highway 180 to the ski area.
Hundreds also headed up the corridor to skim across the cross country ski trails at Arizona Nordic Village, manager Wendell Johnson said. Johnson estimated the ski center saw 500 skiers over Saturday and Sunday as well as an additional 250 people who came to hang out and be in the snow.
The 8 inches of snow that fell at the ski touring center was dry and powdery and melted fast, forcing it to close again Monday to everyone except season passholders, Johnson said.
He didn’t hear any complaints about traffic in the corridor, Johnson said.
“There is not enough snow and it’s too late in the season for that,” he said.
Conner Girardin, a manager at First Chair Rentals, said the weekend was busy for the ski and snowboard rental shop.
“Pretty much any weekend it snows, we get a lot of people in,” he said.
Snowbowl’s snowmaking has helped sustain the business because the ski resort is still open even when there is no natural snow, but it has been a slower year for the store, he said.
“The fact that they make snow helps a bunch, but it reminds us of years when they didn’t make snow and it was really hit or miss,” Girardin said. “Comparatively, this year has been worse than our good years, but it hasn’t been terrible.”
He said the store is expecting another boost later this week when more snow is expected to fall.
Ash Patel, the owner of several hotels in Flagstaff, said the storm brought business into hotels for different reasons: some travelers may have been stranded due to the snow, and others wanted to come from other places to see snow.
“We had a very good first big weekend of the year,” Patel said.
So far, occupancy in his hotels has been lower this winter than last winter, Patel said, due to the low snowfall.
“From what I see, January was lower than the prior year and February was lower until the snowfall,” he said.
Aside from an increase in hotel occupancy, Patel called the snow “practically God’s gift” because he said he has worried the fire season will be particularly intense without moisture over the winter.
Thanks to snowfall that preceded both of the past two weekends, businesses is looking more like a normal February, said Kelly Hanseth, marketing manager at Lumberyard Brewing Company.
The brewpub has seen business pick up and more traffic from out-of-towners, Hanseth said.
“The last couple of weekends is actually more of what a normal winter for us is business-wise,” she said.
COLLISIONS FOLLOW STORM
Summit Fire and Medical District responded to two minor injury slide-off accidents on Highway 180 over the weekend. The district responds to emergencies in the area and at Arizona Snowbowl. A representative from the district said that they typically don’t have a problem with getting people down the mountain in an ambulance in an emergency.
Guardian usually stages an ambulance near the resort’s base and drives the patient down Snowbowl Road. A Summit EMT or paramedic meets up with the ambulance and rides with the patient to the hospital. If a patient has a critical injury, they may fly the patient directly to the hospital.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to 31 non-injury accidents, 11 injury accidents and 19 motorists assists during the storm on Friday. The office responded to another 10 non-injury accidents, 10 injury accidents and 10 motorists assists over Saturday and Sunday. Not all of the accidents on Saturday and Sunday may have been due to the weather.
One of the Friday accidents involved the rollover of a truck on Snowbowl Road. According to the Sheriff's Office, the truck had a male driver, 57, and one male passenger, 32, in it from the Flagstaff area. The truck was traveling westbound on Snowbowl Road when the driver failed to navigate a corner and rolled the vehicle on its side. Both the driver and passenger were uninjured and able to exit the vehicle through the driver’s side window
Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers responded to 31 slide-offs, 17 non-injury collisions and two injury collisions on Friday. There were no fatal accidents.
Flagstaff Police Department responded to 62 collisions on Friday.