While most people equate Arizona with warm sunshine and desert recreation, the Grand Canyon State actually boasts a ton of wintry beauty and snow-play opportunities. From December through March, when Arizona's mountainous regions hit their wintertime groove, you won't find better snow—or alpine recreation—outside of the Rockies.
Moguls and more
Searching for skiing in Arizona? Look no further than Flagstaff and Arizona Snowbowl Winter Resort. Located less than half an hour from historic downtown Flagstaff, Arizona Snowbowl is the only resort that offers views of the Grand Canyon, which you can see from the top of the Agassiz Chairlift.
Skiers and boarders of all levels can enjoy more than 50 trails, as well as bowl and tree skiing; and a special adaptive program (with optional 2- and 4-hour lessons) gives riders of varying abilities the chance to hit the slopes with confidence. There are also three terrain parks for freestyler who want to hone their skills.
Northern Arizona's White Mountains can lay claim to Arizona's other great ski mecca: Sunrise Park Resort.
The snow trails are the main attractions here—the area's 65 runs make it the largest Arizona ski resort. Experts flock to Lupe's 1,400-foot vertical drop and the multiple black-diamond trails off Cyclone Circle, one of the resort's three peaks. But Sunrise Park really shines for the intermediate and beginning skier and snowboarder, with long lazy rides like Crown Dancer and Spirit Trail providing plenty of space to work on turns and stops. The ski school offers both group and private lessons and caters to experienced adults as well as younger skiers and beginners.
Arizona's big resorts aren't the only way to enjoy a winter thrill here. Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, a 22-trail snow park located near Tucson, is the southernmost ski area in the United States. This intimate ski area includes a casual indoor restaurant, a fudge shop, and a general store with a gift shop in the small mountain town of Summerhaven.
Snowshoeing, snow-bike riding and cross-country skiing
For snowshoeing, snow-bike riding and cross-country skiing adventures, Arizona Nordic Village in Flagstaff offers 25 miles of multi-use trails, as well as ski rentals and lessons if you're new to the sport. (Note: The Nordic Village does not sell plastic sleds, toboggans or tubes.)
You'll find more backcountry relaxation at Hannagan Meadow Lodge near Alpine. The lodge itself boasts cozy accommodations, but the real attraction is out of doors. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will love the free trails that start right at the lodge and flow out into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Ice fishing, sledding and frequent local events add to the wintertime smorgasbord.
Writer Chris Becker contributed to an earlier version of this story.