FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The colder weather and heavy snowfall in Northern Arizona over the past few days have helped launch ski season.
Sunrise Park Resort in Greer opened three lifts Saturday after receiving more than 8 inches of snow at the base of the mountain and more than 15 inches at mid-mountain.
With more than 2 feet of snow on the ground at Arizona Snowbowl and at least another inch expected Sunday, preparations are underway for the ski area's projected opening this Friday.
Snowbowl said this is the first season visitors can confidently plan trips to the ski area due to improvements in its snowmaking technology.
The recent drop in temperatures in Flagstaff has allowed the ski area to begin making snow.
“Cold temperatures and low humidity above 9,000 feet are ideal snowmaking conditions, making Arizona Snowbowl one of the best places in the country to make snow,” Snowbowl General Manager J.R. Murray said.
The ski area invested millions of dollars into state-of-the-art snowmakers and groomers. Snowbowl’s 30 fully automated and computer-controlled SMI Super Pole Cats are the same machines being used for the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to the ski resort.
Each of the 138 snowmaking stations at the ski area has its own weather station and microprocessor that relays the weather data to the pump house control room. The weather data is used to determine how much water is needed to produce quality snow.
“We feel we have the best possible combination working for us for an amazing first day, and snowmaking can maintain quality conditions through the holiday season,” Murray said.
Snowbowl said it’s still early to determine how much of the mountain will be open on "White Friday," but the first trails to open will be served by the Hart Prairie and Sunset chairlifts and Little Spruce Conveyor. Agassiz Chairlift will follow, as conditions allow.
The Sunset Terrain Park will offer rails and boxes on opening day.
All trails with snowmaking machines – about 60 percent of the ski area – are expected to open by mid-December. Snowbowl hopes to open the entire ski area by Christmas.
To celebrate the first year that Snowbowl can guarantee December skiing and snowboarding, the ski area is offering buy one, get one free lift tickets. They are valid through Dec. 20. To purchase tickets, visit www.arizonasnowbowl.com.