Ski Blog... Been doing this since 2005!

June 29, 2011

Summer Preparations

I am finally getting back to normal after my sinus surgery and subsequent cerebral spinal fluid leak / meningitis. All I can think about is the ski season coming up and getting through the miserable Phoenix summer.

Not a lot new going on, but the Southwest's ski resorts are all in trouble, at least those that got abnormally low precip amounts this last winter due to La Nina.

Pray for the communities including Alpine, Greer, Eagar, and Springerville that are in the path of the Wallow Fire. Sunrise is very close to the fire area, but the containment is almost complete. Over half a million acres.

Posted by Justin at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)

February 03, 2011

No Snow for a Month Then Snow Superbowl Weekend

The Weather makes me angry. I have surgery next week for my sinuses and all I wanted was an epic January. I guess if I want snow I need to live in downtown NYC.

Brian Head got a little over a foot this week and Sunrise got almost two. I am debating taking Friday off and going to Sunrise. I miss Lupe, her Volkswagen moguls, and a lift right above you to mock your struggles. For some reason, that is always the first run I want to take each day. No warm up. No get your ski legs under you. Just let's head to the top and do Lupe real quick.

Sorry for not blogging more, but the damned weather has been so lacking of snow for the Southwest that there is little sense driving to go skiing.

Feb is starting better already. I HOPE!

Posted by Justin at 01:33 PM

October 04, 2010

Sunrise Reinstates Jr. Pass Promotion

Sunrise's annual Jr. Pass Promotion is back on:

Greer, Arizona - The annual Junior Pass Promotion at Sunrise Park Resort for kids age 12 and under is back on the calendar for Oct 9th and 10th, along with the Winter White Out Sale.

In response to public feedback, Sunrise will offer the Free Junior Pass event which was previously cancelled.

Scenic Lift Rides to enjoy the fall colors will also be offered to the top of Sunrise Mountain from 10am to 4pm both Saturday and Sunday. The resort will have the Eagles Nest Restaurant open offering lunch and a bird's eye view of the White Mountains.

Sometimes I wonder who runs Sunrise. The original decision to only open one mountain and to cut the Jr. Pass Promotion are senseless. How they can not make money at the resort is beyond me. Maybe not a lot of money, but even with down economic times, you should still be able to draw enough folks to make money.

But if you close 2/3rds of the mountain and end up with massive lift lines, it is worthless to drive the extra two hours from PHX to go to Sunrise. You can get that at Flag two hours closer.

Posted by Justin at 11:30 PM

September 23, 2010

Skiing in AZ to Take a Major Hit--Sunrise in Financial Trouble

This from the White Mountain Independent:

APACHE COUNTY - It looks like there will be only one mountain opening for this year's ski season at Sunrise Park Resort due to economic woes. The resort is owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Only one mountain opening up is not certain. The Tribe said all of its efforts are focused on opening a single mountain in early December.

Lift ticket pricing on the single mountain that will be in operation has yet to be determined.

Sunrise Park Resort General Manager Marilyn Lovato said that the ongoing recession has also forced cancellation of the Junior Pass Promotion scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10.

"The White Mountain Apache Tribe, along with Sunrise management are being proactive in decision making and are facing difficult choices," Lovato said...

"As the result of current economic state of the resort, the promotion and the winter white-out sale held in conjunction with the promotion have been cancelled," Lovato said, adding that the resort has stopped selling season passes and is refunding any that have already been purchased.

This is horrible news for Arizona Skiers. And right after I ended my boycott over Arizona Snowbowl.

To compound matters, Snowbowl does not have snowmaking and is not economically viable either.

Skiing may be over in Arizona. Not to be overly dramatic, but the Navajos and Hopis have stated they want to completely shut Snowbowl down:

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley asked Merrigan to end skiing at Snowbowl, or for federal money to help the tribes buy Snowbowl.

"The ideal resolution would be to stop skiing in the area," he wrote in an August 2009 letter.

The White Mountain Apaches cannot figure out how to run their resort and the Navajos and Hopis want to shut down the only other resort in the state.

Not exactly shaping up to be a good year in AZ.

Posted by Justin at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)

February 11, 2010

Sunrise Trip Tomorrow

I have the day off work at the end of a long week and am heading to Sunrise tomorrow for a day of skiing.

Sunrise got 4" or so from the storm last night which is not exactly a powder day, but still is fresh snow. They have gotten a foot and a half in the last 4-5 days so the snow should be fresh and enjoyable.

Will report on the day tomorrow or Saturday.

Posted by Justin at 02:03 PM

January 31, 2010

Outstanding Day at Sunrise

Took a day trip to Sunrise with my cousin Zach that took a whole lot of arm twisting. He finally told me on Thursday that if no one else was going to go that he guessed he would because had already committed but that he didn't really want to drive 250 miles each way in the same day.

We were going to leave around 4AM from my place and he stayed over. Unfortunately, at 1AM were will still up and hanging out and finally against our best judgment figured if we chanced going to sleep, we would oversleep and not end up going so we left then. I made it to Payson before I doubled over exhausted and he slept the entire way in the back seat of the Avy. A quick breakfast at the only restaurant on the planet that doesn't take credit or debit and is cash only, then off the rest of the way there.

I have never seen Sunrise so packed. The parking overflowed all the way down the main road about two miles, almost to the lodge. The base areas were completely packed. And on top of all that, the restaurant/lodge at the top of Apache got a bunch of water damage so there was no real place to stop up there. The food sucked, even by Sunrise standards. But we weren't really there to eat.

Started at around 10 because of the traffic and by 1, I still had not even clicked out of my bindings when we grabbed lunch. By that time we had skied all three mountains for at least a run. The runs that had been being skied a lot were in great shape. The ones that were less accessible or less used were like skiing concrete because the 4' dump from last weekend had been sitting for a week and compacting. Then you add that it was chopped up and it was horrible to ski.

There is a great midmountain lift that goes from halfway up Sunrise Peak to the top and is just off to the right of the midway lodge that had ZERO lift line so we did several laps on it taking Rustler and Superstition. Best skiing of the day was right there. Zach was a hell of a skier ten years ago so by the end of the morning, he was back where he could hang.

About 3, we got to the top of Sunrise and I decided I was going to poach Quakie and have Zach take Arrowhead and meet me at the bottom since he refused to go poaching with me. He made the right choice. Quakie was horrible. It gets direct sun all day and was almost untracked and just nasty. Difficult to ski. Small trees poking up. Bleh!

Bad news is that Arrowhead crosses with a run that goes to Sunrise base where I thought we were going but also goes straight down to the Cyclone base. I waited for Zach, but could not find him and I ended up at Cyclone while he was at Sunrise. Then vice versa. Then waiting and looking. Finally after about 30 minutes of waiting, I had time for one last run.

When we were walking in from the parking in BFE, I met a couple guys from back east and was BSing. One of them was a hard core New Yorker and he was just rolling up to the line at Sunrise as I was about to get on. I climbed over the rope, went to wrong way in line and pushed my way back to get to him and his three buddies. You guys mind if I take the last run with you?

Tony had a softside cooler bag at the top of Sunrise from lunch that he had to bring down and thankfully his buddy John said he would carry it so he could get one last major run in. The two of us took Rustler as hard and as fast as I have ever skied moguls in a late afternoon dim light where you could barely see the contours of the snow just mashing the pedal down. Stop halfway down, catch a little breath, mash some more. It was the best mogul run I have skied. Having someone to push you and make you work. We flew to the base area and were 4 chairs to late to make the last run of the day. I begged. I bribed. Hell, I tried to steal, but no way.

Always end the day with the best run. I wanted to do Lupe if we could get on the last chair, but that was left for another day.

Gave out the URL for the site and hope to get an email so we can trip up there again.

Posted by Justin at 02:23 PM

January 22, 2010

Sunrise Closed Due to Massive Storm

When you are closed because you got between 3-4' and the roads are shut down across half the state you know conditions will be good the next day.

Record storm in AZ last night.

I am debating going to the condo tonight or taking the ski bus to Sunrise tomorrow. Still 50-50.

Posted by Justin at 09:35 AM

December 21, 2008

Sunrise Trip (Boycott Over)

As you may be aware, I have been boycotting Sunrise for almost three years:

I had this idea for Sunrise. Try this on for size--Snowbowl gets as many as 125,000 skier visits, 70% of which are from Phoenix. If Sunrise can get Snowbowl to close, they would capture at least a large portion of those skier visits and probably be profitable, even in a bad year. If estimates are correct, that 125,000 number may be more like 200,000. Then Sunrise could show a large enough profit to get their loan to make more snow and attract even more skier visits. Leading to even more profits. Wow. That Bachelor's Degree in Business from ASU finally pays off. Or maybe not. Even the WMA tribe is smart enough to come up with this business plan.

Well, news for Sunrise--I ain't gonna be a skier visit ever again or deal with their rude WMA tribe members that work the resort, stay in their trashy hotel, or spend money at their casinos. They are trying to hose Snowbowl by using some lame "Religious Freedom" excuse to shut down snowmaking on the precious San Francisco Peaks. Instead of pumping WMA tribe money into fixing their 30 year old facilities and improving conditions, they instead spend it on legal challenges to shut down their competition.

And who gets screwed in this whole deal? Why, the people of Phoenix, Tucson, and so forth that would rather shave two hours each way off of their drive and save the gas money they would spend going to Sunrise by going to Flag which is much closer. Better yet, Snowbowl has a more friendly and helpful staff made up mostly of college kids that actually do ski or ride unlike the WMA tribe members that run the resort at Sunrise. They understand skiing and care about the sport unlike the tribe at Sunrise, most of whom are simply there because in the winter they cannot start fires to provide work like they did in 2002 by starting the Rodeo-Chediski fires...

Well, I am done boycotting since Snowbowl finally prevailed in court:

Regardless of which of these explanations you want to choose as the motivation for the above parties, all of their reasons lack sufficient reasoning to stop the development. And short of the SCOTUS taking the issue on, and by all means send it to Roberts and Alito and Thomas and Scalia to decide, I think this is over. A SCOTUS decision would actually be even more harmful to the Environmental movement because it would codify this decision where it cannot be overturned even among the Liberal 9th Circuit.

Well, yesterday, Sunrise was awesome. Great snow. We skied Maverick and Lupe and took laps in the singles line on Sunrise Lift. A little bit of moguls. A little bit of powder. And great coverage. We ate an incredible lunch at the mid-mountain lodge. Pork burritos and rice and beans. Everything about the experience was good. And it was also Jackson's first time skiing somewhere other than Brian Head.

Only the Sunrise Peak is open, but more should be coming open soon with the storms coming this week.

Posted by Justin at 06:40 PM

February 21, 2008

The La Nina that Wasn't

On November 4th, I posted about this season's La Nina and the predicted effects on the Southwest:

"La Niña has been closer to above-normal North and below-normal South trends," Pringle said with regard to snow conditions.

Snowfall in the San Juans could be average or a bit below normal. The National Weather Service predicts La Niña's effect on New Mexico and Arizona to be much more apparent, with less precipitation and higher than average temperatures.

In a word--NO. Not so much. Turns out that Wolf Creek in the San Juans is already sitting at very close to 500" and there are still almost two months left in the season. Sunrise and Snowbowl both opened before Christmas and Snowbowl has already received 200"+ for the season.

I am left to ponder the fact that despite almost 100 years of studying El Nino, the folks that make climate predictions have still been unable to predict weather paterns with any accuracy. Last year was an El Nino year, but despite predictions for record snowfall in the Southwest, we got far below average snowfall, so much so that Arizona Snowbowl barely opened for two weeks. This year is a La Nina year and snowfall is above average at three of the four southwest resorts that I ski (Wolf Creek, Brian Head, Sunrise and Snowbowl).

But we do have a looming climate crisis. It is not rising ocean levels, but rather food shortages and starvation:

The United Nations is stepping in to try to rescue Tajikistan from a social catastrophe brought on by severe winter weather. But even if an emergency UN appeal for assistance generates a robust international response, it is questionable whether Tajikistan will be able to avoid entering a downward spiral, featuring pestilence and widespread hunger...

China’s inflation accelerated in January to 7.1 percent - its rate highest in more than a decade - amid snowstorms that fueled a spike in food costs, according to data reported Tuesday...

But economists have raised their inflation forecasts for the first half of 2008 after freak snowstorms battered China’s south, killing millions of farm animals and wrecking crops.

Chinese leaders are especially worried about the political impact of rapidly rising food costs, which hit the country’s poor majority hard.

The winter even included snow in Baghdad for the first time in a century:

Snow fell on Baghdad on Friday for the first time in memory, and delighted residents declared it an omen of peace.

“It is the first time we’ve seen snow in Baghdad,” said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. “We’ve seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished,” he said.

It has been an odd year. One that has been wetter than expected in the southwest, which we badly need. Somehow, I don't think that the Chinese, when confronted with calls for them to cut greenhouse gasses to combat global warming and when faced with a massive famine crisis because of an abnormally cold winter, will be inclined to take steps to be more environmentally friendly. And I don't think that the myriad of articles promising the demise of skiing are particullarly grounded in fact. Scares like this in particullar:

PARK CITY, UTAH (AP) — Another winter storm headed to Utah could bring two feet of snow and frigid temperatures to the Wasatch mountains. But don't let that fool you.

Utah's trademark Greatest Snow on Earth could be a memory by 2075, say a pair of Colorado climatologists, who warn that global warming could shrink the ski season to a mere two months a year.

Some interesting reading on the subject can be found at Warren Miller's New West Blog. He is skeptical of the global warming hysteria so prevalent in the ski industry too. What if we are wrong about the long term predictions for global warming? 2008's snowfall in Asia provides a disturbing prediction of what global cooling or a new mini-iceage will look like.

Posted by Justin at 02:06 PM | Comments (1)

February 05, 2008

The Single Worst Trail Map in History

Have a look at the Sunrise Park Resort's Trail Map. No downloadable pdf. Just this wonderful page. Check the background and all. Circa 1993. I connected to it using AOL on my Windows 95 Pentium 200mhz computer and my 14" monitor.

5th grader with some html skill doing it as a project for his computer class. I swear, my kid could do a better job. Hell, one step further... my kid if my wife had smoked crack while she was pregnant and I had dropped him on his head could put together a better website than this piece of crap.

If you want a well designed, professional ski website, even some fictional sites have better design than the White Mountain Apache tribe can put together. I guess the WMA tribe has better things to spend their money on--lawsuits against Snowbowl and casino upgrades come to mind.

Brokeback Mountain Ski Area Trail Map

Call up Beth Clark and see if their web designer can help you out.

Posted by Justin at 11:26 PM

Huge Snowstorm at Sunrise Shuts Down Highway

Skiers driving to Sunrise are gonna be pissed:

Winter snow cut off access to the Sunrise Park Resort ski area Tuesday morning.

Arizona 260 between McNary and Greer was closed, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The road was expected to reopen by 4 p.m. Tuesday. The ski resort will be closed for the day, according to its Web site.

Information about highway conditions is available on ADOT's Travel Information site at or by calling 511.

I am hearing 3'+ yesterday. Snowbowl got almost 2' and has excellent conditions too. Snowbowl has some great pics on their homepage.

I am heading to Jackson Hole this weekend and where they have nothing but snow in the forecast. I am debating taking a trip to Brokeback Mountain Ski Area where their ski report says:

It's another bluebird day at Brokeback Mountain Ski Area. The storm has deposited three feet of fresh snow. It's a perfect time to come out.

Our brand new backside terrain is a real hit with skiers. But Jack's Bowls are not for everyone. These steep aspen glades are only suitable for a hardened outdorsman who knows how to cruise the woods safely...

Whether you're just making your first steps on skis or you're an expert skier our mountain has lots to offer. From steep runs off Jack's Notch to the gentle slopes of Little Queen we are first and foremost a family resort.

Poor Heath Ledger.

Posted by Justin at 09:28 AM | Comments (2)

January 02, 2008

Record Breaking December for Snow at Brian Head

From the Brian Head website:

Brian Head Resort received 99 inches of snow during the month of December, which breaks a 15-year record! And weather reports are predicting a BIG storm coming in this weekend. All 65 runs are now open.

I can tell you that conditions are not "ideal" in that coverage is not complete in some of my favorite areas and remains with early season obstacles, but compared to last New Year's Day, Brian Head is way ahead of the race. Problem with things isn't December's 99" of snow, it is October and November not building a good base.

Expect things to be much better this weekend after the next storm hits. I might be going to Sunrise for the first time in three years to get in some weekend skiing if the storms materialize.

Posted by Justin at 09:11 PM

December 25, 2007

Road Trip AZ

Got a new link to Road Trip which is a blog dedicated to the state of Arizona and all of the beauty that it contains. I played football and wrestled for a 2A (now 3A) school, Wickenburg, and during the course of my 4 years wrestling varsity and two years playing varsity football (since I suited for home games as a Freshman and Soph but did not travel), got to see most of the state. My personal favorite places around are Payson, Prescott, Flag, Heber, Pinetop/Show Low, and the rest of the mountain towns that stretch from the Bradshaws to the White Mountains. As most readers of the site know, one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to Jeep, but sadly, I sold another Jeep which makes my third Wrangler that I have owned, loved, then sold in favor of practicality..

RTAZ has an article about snowmaking at Snowbowl and describes a little bit about Sunrise and the hypocrisy of their stand on snowmaking. Not super long or detailed, but he sums it up nicely.

Check out the site if you are interested in more on the debate.

Posted by Justin at 01:13 PM

December 20, 2007

Running the Numbers

I use Beaver Creek as an example, but in reality I am referring to any major megaresort--you know, the ones that the ski magazines drool about. This is more an illustration of the pros and cons of major destination skiing at a high end resort (Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone, Park City, Whistler, etc.) versus skiing at a smaller resort in the Rockies that costs half as much but also offers less. I am going to run down the resorts that I have skied and compare and contrast them:

Colorado - Wolf Creek, Beaver Creek, Loveland, and A-Basin
Arizona - Snowbowl, Sunrise
Montana - Red Lodge, Big Sky
Utah - Alta, Brian Head

What you find is that once you find a place that you really like, you tend to go there until you find a better deal, get bored, etc. So I am an Alta guy because I just like it so well because of the price, location, skiers only policy, snow quality, and experience that I never drive to the other resorts in the area. Now, I am probably going to have a tough time ever going to Vail because Beaver Creek is so awesome and I have yet to even scratch the surface of all that is there. I am not sure how to compare Beaver Creek to Vail to Keystone to Breck when you couldn't touch all the mountain on any of them in a week or solid skiing.

I am assuming that for folks with the Colorado Pass, they choose their resort based on snowfall numbers, location, or just plain familiarity. So since I haven't skied all the resorts, I leave it open for more comments and info. This is somewhat generic, but there are just too many resorts to know everything about. For the most part though, the mega resorts are that way for a reason--they have a lot to offer and all compare very favorably to the next tier or resorts.

In my mind, there are three categories of ski resorts. Megaresorts. Midsize resorts (and this is a broad category). And places that just plain blow. First, let's talk about the mega resorts. You are going to get a well developed base area, great restaurants, touristy bars, lots of high end shops, and a few high end hotels. Expect lots of folks that are crazy rich and have really nice stuff. Expect people in $1000 jackets riding $2000 worth of gear on groomers who look crazy pimped sipping lattes at the base area. Folks from the East Coast can't get this kind of snow or experience so expect most folks are destination skiers or locals that get really good pass deals or work at the resort. Lots of folks from Europe, etc. Just a different kind of guest. But folks don't come for just the base area. The mountains are massive, but you gotta have the skills to relly enjoy it. And the money to spend because it ain't cheap. EVEN WHEN YOU GET A GREAT DEAL.

The next category is the smaller Rocky Mountain resorts and most East coast resorts. Places like Wolf Creek or Bridger Bowl or Brian Head. Usually these resorts are smaller mountains and do not offer the same level of amenities as the big guys. Not as much vertical. Off the beaten path. Poor airport access. No development rights. Less snowfall. But far lower prices. So then it is a matter of what you are willing to sacrifice. All of these resorts are missing something and it is up to you to decide what you are willing to sacrifice. I am willing to sacrifice shopping, dining, amenities, and nightlife but not snow. I would rather ski powder at a small resort that offers nothing (i.e. Wolf Creek) than ski crap snow at a more developed resort.

I won't get into the third category of places that just plain suck, but they are out there. Usually they have a couple old doubles that some other resort took out 20 years ago.

Beaver Creek was the first place that I didn't have to worry about a sacrifice. I look at the things that I usually am willing to give up. First, I give up base area amenities. I like to stay in town where I can afford it anyway. Then I give up nightlife. Then I give up some of the massive areas and vertical. What I usually don't give up is snow.

I can't get over the $92 price tag. So now it really highlights how good the Colorado Pass is. Season pass at Key, Breck, A-basin, and then the free days at Vail and Beaver Creek. I am just hating that I don't live in Colorado. The Beav and the Colorado resorts are so affordable for locals due to VRI's passes. I can't help but sing their praises. If you want to ski these resorts, you just have to look for deals and I am able to ski Vail and the Beav for the same price as Brian Head.

Posted by Justin at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

June 18, 2007

Hokey Websites for Resorts

The whole Interweb thing is gettin' awful popular nowadays. But 2003 was a long time ago. In web years, which work kinda like dog years, 4 years is about three lifetimes ago. But 4 years ago was the last time Sunrise updated or redesigned their website and their design pretty much sucked 4 years ago too. I actually think their design was done about six years ago because I remember the page being roughly the same as far back as 2001.

I want to use my forum as a quick shout out to the worst designed and oldest web pages for resorts that I have found. Maybe encourage them to hire some college kid for $10 an hour (which is almost double what they pay their lift operators and ski instructors) to do some updates. I mean it ain't expensive to do some site updates every once in a while. And adding a webcam isn't really a site update. I am not talking crazy flash animation like Vail, but rather some simple, clean site design.

Some are much worse than others, and the last two really aren't that bad. Not meant to offend anyone, except for the designers of the first two sites because I consider it personally offensive that they can go around calling themselves "Web Designers". Here are the worst two with a couple of other suggestions (but I will update with reader input):

  • Sunrise - oh, where to start. The use of tables with thick borders that serve absolutely no purpose. Then you have randomly sized pictures and announcements that have absolutely no theme. The background is just the same image over and over that serves no purpose either. In short, this looks like a web page that some kid taking Web101 at the local high school designed as a pet project. I hope that he got a D or F for it. I have a 10 year old and a 12 year old brother that collectively could do a better job. And since it is the 5 year anniversary of the 500,000 acre Rodeo-Chediski fires, I will suggest that the tribe hire Leonard Gregg who should be learning some good vocational skills in prison after he felt the unemployment situation on the rez was so bad that he decided to start the largest wildfire in Arizona history to secure some part time employment as a firefighter. How about creating a non-casino job for one of your tribe members?
  • Wolf Creek - not nearly as bad as Sunrise, but still in major need of an overhaul. What is up with the color scheme? Whoever signed off on these colors needs shot. But at least the links work. I don't like the redundant use of navigation on both the sidebar and the bottom of the page, especially that the links are not in the same order.
  • Rock Dodge - not a bad site, for having a copyright in 2002. I don't really like their use of tables and I hate them using white text in colored table cells. But they have a consistent color theme. Their navigation links are too small to see and get around on and the white text contributes to that.
  • Brian Head - Their new summer site is not much to look at. They did a redesign last year of their winter site and I am not a huge fan of the light green text against a dark green background. Again, minor quibbles. Their navigation is easy to use. This site was just redesigned this last year, but their old site was not bad at all. I really wish the site had more information about the new ski lift improvements.

The last two don't even belong in the same category as the first. Brian Head's and Red Lodge's sites are well laid out and well designed, except for the color schemes. And even at that, they could be much worse.

Please Wolf Creek and Sunrise, fix your crappy sites. There are lots of folks that design web pages for a living and do it pretty cheap. Give it to a college class as a class project. But it is time. Well past time. Sunrise can afford to pay lawyers to put their competition out of business (Snowbowl) with all their casino money, why not spend a little on the resort website?

Posted by Justin at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2007

Sunrise, AZ Apache Peak Fire - UPDATE

Updated Picture of Apache Peak Lodge that was destroyed at Sunrise (h/t Tim).


Posted by Justin at 06:44 PM

February 08, 2007

Fire Shuts Down Apache Peak at Sunrise

As you may know, I am engaged in a personal boycott over Sunrise and the WMA's support of the lawsuit to stop snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl. That said, Sunrise is a very nice resort. Staff isn't the friendliest (especially the Native American staff that for the most part don't ski and are the ones that run the lifts and retail). But the resort itself is a great place to ski when the snow is good. That said, this is extremely bad news for Arizona Skiers and for Sunrise Resort:

Fires damaged an empty rest area at the Sunrise Park Resort and knocked out power to the lifts on one of the resort's ski peaks.

The Apache Patio, located at Midway on Apache Peak, caught fire late Monday night and burned until Tuesday morning, resort officials said.

The fire was reported around 12:30 am on Tuesday and fire crews from the nearby communities arrived on the scene to battle the fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The blaze also knocked out the power that operates the lifts on Apache Peak. While power has been partially restored, the entire peak will remain closed indefinitely, officials said.

Operations to rebuild and repair the lodge will begin as soon as possible.

While I don't like their politics and the WMA Tribe's actions, I hope they get the area rebuilt ASAP. When the lawsuit is over and Snowbowl wins (which they will), I will end my boycott and start driving back to Pinetop.

Posted by Justin at 01:35 PM | Comments (2)

Arizona Weather from

The Arizona Republic has this update on conditions. While I disagree that weather in the 50's is good ski weather, some snow coming bodes well.

Ski and snowboard areas near Flagstaff and Greer expect snow showers this weekend.

Arizona Snowbowl currently has packed powder at depths ranging from 11 to 32 inches, Snowbowl officials said. The Agassiz, Hart Prairie and Sunset lifts are all in operation with the Agassiz running only to Midway.

Weather conditions at the Snowbowl this weekend are expected to be great for skiing and snowboarding with partly sunny skies today, Friday and Saturday with lows in the mid-50s.

There is a slight chance of rain Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Snow showers are possible Sunday.

Sunrise Park Resort currently has 40 to 47 inches of packed powder on the slopes. Sunrise Peak and Cyclone Peak are completely open except for Cyclone Ally, on Cyclone Peak, Sunrise officials said. Apache Peak will be closed until the lifts can be repaired.

Partly cloudy skies and highs in the low 50s are expected today, Friday and Saturday, around Sunrise with a slight chance of snow showers Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

While conditions are good in most areas of the ski resorts, some areas have only thin layers of snow and officials urge skiers and snowboarders to be careful of obstacles.

Posted by Justin at 01:30 PM

January 01, 2007

Congratulations are in Order for the WMA, Hopis, and Sierra Club

The Arizona Republic has an article about the state of affairs at Snowbowl:

For the seventh time in the past decade, the nearby Arizona Snowbowl wasn't open for that all-important week between Christmas and New Year's Day, normally accounting for one-third of a ski area's business for the year.

In six of the past eight years, the ski season hasn't been long enough to attract even 100,000 skiers, while the historic average in the late 1990s had been 125,000 skiers annually.

In three of those seasons, Snowbowl had 35,000 skiers or fewer. The 2001-02 season was only four days long.

But the hits just keep on coming for Sunrise, the Hopi Tribe, and the Sierra Club:

In a normal snow year, the Snowbowl has about a $10.5 million direct impact on Flagstaff's economy and $20 million indirect impact, according to studies by the Snowbowl and Flagstaff consultants. About 70 percent of the area's skiers come from outside Flagstaff, most from the Valley.

A recent study by Gary Vallen Hospitality Consultants of Flagstaff concluded that the Snowbowl would attract a minimum of 200,000 skiers each season if it had snowmaking capacity that could guarantee a consistent season from Thanksgiving to April 1. Snowmaking ability also would add an average of $6.3 million annually to the local economy, according to the Vallen study.

But ain't Karma a bitch for the Apaches and Snowbowl:

Ski area manager Bill London said that Sunrise hasn't been able to get loans of about $11 million for new snowmaking equipment and to acquire rights for a larger reservoir of water.

London said that Sunrise has had seasons in the past where it has had as many as 140,000 skiers but still finished in the red.

"The way it is now, our snowmaking equipment only covers about 10 percent of our total ski area terrain, so that's having a limited impact on our operations," London said. "If we had new equipment, we would be able to cover about 35 percent of our area with artificial snow."

So snowmaking is essential to Sunrise's operation, but they cannot get anyone to give them a loan. They are in the red. Guess the WMA tribe will have to use some of the money that they steal from Blue Haired old grandmas to keep their area afloat. Funny, but Snowbowl can afford snowmaking equipment and doesn't have the deep casino pockets to keep them in business. They have to have snowmaking or they cannot keep floating the ski area with an outside financial source. It is a bad investment to keep pumping money into a business that cannot be expected to be profitable.

Hmmm. I had this idea for Sunrise. Try this on for size--Snowbowl gets as many as 125,000 skier visits, 70% of which are from Phoenix. If Sunrise can get Snowbowl to close, they would capture at least a large portion of those skier visits and probably be profitable, even in a bad year. If estimates are correct, that 125,000 number may be more like 200,000. Then Sunrise could show a large enough profit to get their loan to make more snow and attract even more skier visits. Leading to even more profits. Wow. That Bachelor's Degree in Business from ASU finally pays off. Or maybe not. Even the WMA tribe is smart enough to come up with this business plan.

Well, news for Sunrise--I ain't gonna be a skier visit ever again or deal with their rude WMA tribe members that work the resort, stay in their trashy hotel, or spend money at their casinos. They are trying to hose Snowbowl by using some lame "Religious Freedom" excuse to shut down snowmaking on the precious San Francisco Peaks. Instead of pumping WMA tribe money into fixing their 30 year old facilities and improving conditions, they instead spend it on legal challenges to shut down their competition.

And who gets screwed in this whole deal? Why, the people of Phoenix, Tucson, and so forth that would rather shave two hours each way off of their drive and save the gas money they would spend going to Sunrise by going to Flag which is much closer. Better yet, Snowbowl has a more friendly and helpful staff made up mostly of college kids that actually do ski or ride unlike the WMA tribe members that run the resort at Sunrise. They understand skiing and care about the sport unlike the tribe at Sunrise, most of whom are simply there because in the winter they cannot start fires to provide work like they did in 2002 by starting the Rodeo-Chediski fires:

The Rodeo-Chediski fire was a wildfire that burned in east-central Arizona beginning on June 18, 2002, and was not controlled until July 7. It was the worst forest fire in Arizona to date, consuming 467,066 acres (1,890.15 km²) of woodland. Several local communities, including Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, and Heber-Overgaard, were threatened and had to be evacuated.

Initially there were two separate fires. The first fire, the Rodeo fire, was reported on the afternoon of June 18 near the Rodeo Fairgrounds on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. An arsonist was arrested on June 29 and was later charged. By early evening, despite the efforts of firecrews, around 1,200 acres (5 km²) were ablaze. Increasing wind speeds fed the fire to over 2,000 acres (8 km²) by the following morning, and when wind speeds increased to around 25 mph (40 km/h) the fire grew rapidly — increasing fourfold over the next three hours.

The arsonist, who received a 10-year prison sentence in March 2004, was Leonard Gregg, a Cibecue resident who worked as a seasonal firefighter for the tribal fire department. He told investigators he had set two fires that morning (the first was quickly put out) in hopes of getting hired by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for a quick-response fire crew. Gregg had previously worked as a BIA fire crew member, and was indeed among the first to be called in to fight the Rodeo Fire.

There is plenty of money and people for everyone. The WMA Tribe does not need to burn my state down to find work. Phoenix is the sixth largest metropolitan area in the country. Counting Tucson and Phoenix, that is almost 4.5M people. But the Hopis, Sierra Club, and WMA tribe want us to ski at Sunrise or not ski at all. They are not our friends. They don't care about skiers at Sunrise. Sure, Sunrise has some good folks from Eagar and Pinetop, etc., that work at the resort, but the place is owned and ultimately run by the WMA tribe. Their motivations are not about running a great ski resort, but rather about finding another way to take money from the White Folks. Casinos just aren't enough. So they have thrown their hat in the ring with the Sierra Club that was equally to blame for the fires in 2002. They sure care about Arizona, don't they? They sure care about skiers too.

Posted by Justin at 01:05 PM

December 12, 2006

Snowbowl Letter Regarding Snowmaking Posted to their Site

Arizona Snowbowl General Manager posted a letter about the snowmaking controversy. It says in part:

The opposition groups are determined to delay us as long as the process allows, or to run us out of business. We hear them say that the ski area is acceptable in its current form. However, without change and predictability the ski area cannot be successful and they know that. Their actions and protests are hypocritical. If we attempted to slander, misuse the facts, and challenge their daily lives we would be labeled anti-Native American and persecuted in the media. Yet they not only get away with it, they continue to receive front page media attention!!

I believe we will succeed. We may have to wait the process out. We retain hope that during the summer of 2007 we will be constructing the snowmaking system and are ready for the 07-08 season. As you know we await the ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, the court has no deadline. Depending on the outcome we will move forward with our plans or defend yet another appeal. There is really no benefit for us to meet the local opposition head on with rhetoric or rallies as it will not influence the Court.

Read the letter. Points I have been making since last year. Skiing is a healthy active outdoor activity. It promotes tourism for communities that in some cases (see Alta, Telluride, etc.) would be ghost towns without the advent of their resorts. Flag is not one of those towns, but benefits greatly from having winter recreation.

The local (and in some cases distant) tribes want Snowbowl out of business. Some of them want it because Snowbowl directly competes with their own resort (Sunrise) and some want it because they claim the mountain is sacred. The tribed tried in the 70's to sue the area out of business and were slapped down by the Supreme Court. Now they claim they don't have a problem with the resort as it currently exists. It is a lie. Plain and simple.

The tribes are willing to lie, cheat, and steal to put Snowbowl out of business. They have gone so far as placing a urine filled commode and toilet paper on the mayor of Flagstaff's car outside a forum in which he expressed support for the expansion.

Because of "white guilt" as some call it, the local tribes are free to express outwardly racist sentiments, damage property, spread lies, and do anything that they can to win this battle. Instead of trusting in the judicial process, they have not only engaged in obstructionist lawsuits that so far have consistently been determined to lack merit, but have engaged in a deceitful war in the media. On top of it, they have enlisted the help of environmental groups and the White Mountain Apache tribe that have their own agenda to shut the resort down. None of them take into account the hundreds of thousands of skier visits during a good snow year or the population in Phoenix that uses the area as the only opportunity for winter sports within reasonable driving distance of Phoenix.

The prolonged legal battle continues to take away my opportunity to ski with my family two hours from my home and forces me to drive an extra ten hours round trip to Brian Head or four hours to Sunrise. How is my driving an extra 600 miles round trip better for the environment than using water that would be discharged into local rivers anyway to make snow and ensure that the ski area remains viable? But as long as I drive to the White Mountain Apache's reservation and Sunrise, that extra 400 miles of driving does not impact the environment because it means I am spending money at their Casino ski area. Yeah, that is good environmental policy. Smart move Sierra Club.

Posted by Justin at 03:18 PM | Comments (4)

March 14, 2006

Sunrise and Snowbowl to Open this Weekend

Looks like winter is not over. The latest winter storm dumped over 5 feet at Sunrise and better than 3 feet at Snowbowl. This would have been the first time in several decades that Snowbowl failed to open for at least a day in a season.

Who knows how long either resort will remain open, but this gives the folks in Flag that have season passes at least something for their $400. What a bummer for the folks that enjoyed last year's 450" season only to be rewarded with ONE SKI DAY for 2006. It may be a ski week, but nonetheless, it has been brutal for the SouthWest this year.

My shoulder is still aching and I smell of Icy Hot from my knee and shoulder. I am sore, I am tired, I am disappointed that I only skied two days this weekend instead of four, and more than anything, I am glad to sleep in my fat king sized bed at home and hopefully heal my aching body.

Sunday is shaping up to be a day to remember. Epic Pow. Trying some new tricks. I wasn't the only one that caught an Edge on Sunday. The Cardinals caught one too, took $30M over four years, but the Cards made their single biggest signing in the last 17 years in the desert. Oh, yeah, and they hosed Indy in the process. And I select my new seats in Glendale on April 4th. I have the Draft, NBA Playoffs, mini-camps, and a long summer in Brian Head to look forward to. Then the NFL and Ski Seasons. 2006-07 is around the corner.

Posted by Justin at 09:33 AM

February 27, 2006

More on the Awful Arizona Season

Sunrise officially closed on Sunday, marking a season in which Apache and Cyclone never even opened. Apache and Cyclone are my personal favorite places to ski on the mountain and are typically the best places to get freshies and stay away from the crowds.

Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff still has not opened, but that is kinda difficult to do when you only receive 20" of snow all year and have no snowmaking. Starting shortly, the resort should have snowmaking capability up and running now that the lawsuit is settled with the Indian tribes and Sierra Club that tried to stop it.

I am working to get some more details from Snowbowl on the improvements going on up there and Sunrise on the 2005-06 Season and hope to post additional info shortly.

Posted by Justin at 01:31 PM | Comments (5)

December 19, 2005

Sunrise, AZ opens for 2005-2006

Sunrise, AZ is open for the season with what amounts to one run (actually 4, but you cannot count "Bunny Hill" as a run and the rest are all one run with a couple of little shortcuts).

Snowbowl is still locked in their battle with mother nature (no snow) and the local Indian tribes (the mountain is their holy land) so they have not gotten snowmaking capabilities for this year. The Four Corners region is locked in a high pressure system that is keeping the storm track off to the north and nothing on the immediate horizon is changing that.

I spent Thanksgiving at home for the first time in three years and Christmas isn't looking much better. I'll be damned if I want to spend Valentines Day with my wife instead of skiing, so make with the snow already!

Posted by Justin at 10:53 AM

September 10, 2005

Kids Season Pass Give-away at Sunrise, AZ

Sunrise in Arizona is offering free season passes to kids who take a lift ride and bring a toy for the Christmas toy drive. Sunrise is the largest resort in Arizona and roughly three and a half hours east of Phoenix. We usually drive up to see the leaves change colors, which is amazing and exciting for us Phoenix folks, and grab the kids a pass for the half a dozen days we go up to Sunrise.

Last year had record storms in the Southwest that dumped on Arizona, Southern Colorado, California, and Utah, but left the northern resorts like Whistler and most of Washington and Oregon only partially open. The single biggest drawback of Sunrise is the short season and snow conditions early and late in the season. But during January, February and sometimes early March, when the storms start coming, the skiing is more than adequate, and on several days last year, I had the mountain to myself after weekday dumps of over 12". I love the White Mountains of Arizona, so I am willing to tolerate the 20 minute drive into Pinetop for food and drinks after a day of skiing.

If you live in the area, Phoenix, or Tucson, it is well worth going up on either October 1st or 2nd and getting the free pass. Check it out at

Posted by Justin at 04:54 PM