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 - By Alicia A. Caldwell and Jennifer M. Fitzenberger
 - Arizona Daily Wildcat
 - January 17, 1997

Snow will be great for long weekend; but skis are scarce

Students looking for a getaway from both school and Tucson's mild winter weather over the three-day weekend should consider strapping on a pair of skis or grabbing a snowboard - the snow conditions on the surrounding mountains will be at their peak.

But anyone planning a last-minute trip to the slopes should be warned that rental equipment will be hard to come by.

Representatives from Mt. Lemmon's Ski Valley, Sunrise Park Resort, and Flagstaff's Arizona Snowbowl, the closest ski resorts to the University of Arizona campus, unanimously predict decent weekend weather and a bountiful amount of snow.

"The skiing this weekend will be the best it's been in three years," said Jim Parsons, sales manager for Mt. Lemmon's Ski Valley. "We got 3 feet of snow in the last snowfall, and expect another foot before this weekend."

He said he expects Ski Valley to be busy this weekend because the weather thus far in the ski season has been less than favorable.

"We have only been open a little over a week because there has not been good weather before this," Parsons said.

He said that on the weekends, 20 percent of Ski Valley's visitors attend UA.

"We are very popular with the university and typically attract about 100 skiers from there each weekend," Parsons said.

In addition to Ski Valley, students also have the option of driving a few hours to the high country of Flagstaff's Arizona Snowbowl or Sunrise Park Resort in McNary, amidst Arizona's White Mountains.

"The skiing is a killer," a spokesman from Sunrise said.

He said he expects a good mix of skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes throughout the long weekend.

Fiona Eddleston, marketing associate for Snowbowl, said the conditions there were "superb."

She said she expects the resort to be busier because of the holiday weekend, and that skiers and snowboarders should get there early to beat the rush.

Cross-country skiing is also available at the Flagstaff Nordic Center, which is located next to Snowbowl.

Skiers planning to visit any of the three ski resorts may run into trouble renting equipment at local shops.

"We have over 500 sets of skis, all of which are rented or reserved," said Lou Anne Colt of Ski and Sports, 4951 E. Grant Road. Other Tucson ski shops reported that they are out of rental equipment as well.

Colt said that, to her knowledge, rentals were also gone in the Sunrise area.

For skiers traveling on the mountain roads this weekend, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has recommended calling ahead for the latest road conditions. The statewide telephone number available locally is 573-7623.

As of late Thursday afternoon, all roads leading to and from the three ski resorts were clear and passable.

However, the DPS strongly recommends chains or four-wheel-drive within a 50-mile radius of Flagstaff.

Barbara Hall, DPS office coordinator for Yavapai county, said her office always recommends carrying snow chains for winter travel. In addition, she suggested always making sure the car has as much gas as possible.

"Never let it drop below a half a tank," she said "If you get stuck on a cold, icy freeway for six hours, you will be happy to have a heater."

Hall also recommended carrying water, food, and blankets in case of an emergency. A warning was given to travel slowly, remembering that four-wheel-drive will not stop a vehicle any faster than two-wheel-drive.

"You need to be sure to keep enough distance between vehicles in order to avoid collisions," Hall said.

Snow Stats:

  • Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley

    Base: 52 inches

    Ski rental (includes skis, boots, and poles): $15 all day

    All-day lift ticket (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $27

    Half-day lift ticket (after 1 p.m.): $22

  • Arizona Snowbowl

    Base: 86 inches

    Ski rental: $16 all day

    All-day lift ticket (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $31

    Half-day lift ticket (after noon): $25

  • Sunrise Park

    Base: 75 inches

    Ski rental: $14 all day

    All-day lift ticket (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $32

    Half-day lift ticket (after 12:30 p.m.): $26

    Night skiing lift ticket (Friday and Saturday 4:30 - 9 p.m.): $15