As Arizona Snowbowl enters its 80th season of operations things are only going to get better, according to J.R. Murray, Snowbowl general manager.
The winter ski and snowboarding resort is known as having one of the best beginning skiing programs in the west, excellent black diamond trails and offers one of the most unique winter recreation opportunities in Arizona, he said.
All of that makes it a natural pick as this year’s favorite Flagstaff attraction in the annual Best of Flag contest.
Murray attributed the honor to Snowbowl’s employees and owners, both past and present. Over the years, a lot of people have put in a lot of effort to keep the resort running, especially in the early years when the ski and snowboarding season was dependent on Mother Nature for the providing a blanket of snow, he said.
“But it’s always been worth it because we know how many people enjoy it,” he said. “And we continue to improve each and every year.”
He’s especially proud of the customer service that Snowbowl employees give to visitors and locals alike in order to provide a safe and fun spot for winter fun.
“We’re really fortunate to have such a great staff,” he said.
Murray and his crew are continuing to work on improving the resort and the year-round visitor experience.
The resort has installed three new chairlifts in the last three years and started making snow in 2012. These improvements created a nearly 80 percent increase in capacity at Flagstaff’s major winter recreation attraction, which has seen increased demand for more seats and more food and services at the lodges, Murray said. The current lodge restaurants can seat about 500 people, but a busy day can bring 3,000 or more people to the mountain, he said.
“The base area hasn’t changed in nearly 30 years,” Murray said. It’s time to look at expanding services at the base of the mountain now. Those plans include the construction of a new pedestrian overpass, a temporary restaurant at the base of the Sunset chairlift, more parking, a future tubing hill and more space for restaurants and other services.
The temporary Fremont Restaurant and Bar will seat around 300 people at the base of the Sunset chairlift and is due to open by Christmas. Customers will be able to ski to and from the restaurant, which will offer an alternative healthy menu full of fresh foods.
A pedestrian overpass is also currently under construction. It will connect Hart Prairie Lodge with the Sunset and Grand Canyon Express chairlifts. This will allow skiers and snowboarders to travel over the top of the roadway instead of having to cross it. There are also plans to create additional parking for a future tubing area.
Working with Coconino National Forest, the resort is also looking at ways to improve things for off-snow season visitors. Besides its usual off-season ski lift rides to check out the view from the mountain and enjoy the Flagstaff fall foliage, Snowbowl is looking at creating a mountain bike lift service, Murray said. The service will allow mountain bike enthusiasts to ride the ski lift with their bikes to designated trails where they can enjoy a ride in the cool mountain pines back to the base camp