Arizona Snowbowl

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Arizona Snowbowl
Peaks winter.jpg
Location Coconino County, Arizona, United States
Nearest city Flagstaff, Arizona
Top elevation 11,500 feet (3,500 m)
Base elevation 9,200 feet (2,800 m)
Skiable area 777 acres (3.1 km2)
Runs 32 total
37% beginner
42% intermediate
21% advanced/expert
Longest run 10,560 feet (3,219 m)
Lift system 5 total 2 triple chairs, 2 double chairs, 1 Surface)
Terrain parks 1
Snowfall 260 inches (6.6 m)/year
Snowbowl Ski Lift, 2008

Arizona Snowbowl is an alpine ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks, 7 miles (11.2 kilometers) north of Flagstaff, Arizona.[1]

The base elevation of the facility sits at 9,200 feet (2,804 m) and the resort receives an average annual snowfall of 260 inches (650 centimeters). It has a 2,300-foot (700 m) drop, the largest in Arizona, and has 5 lifts servicing the mountain. Two lodges, Hart Prairie Lodge and Agassiz Lodge, are located at the ski area. Arizona Snowbowl has been in operation since 1938.

Summer activities[edit]

Arizona Snowbowl is open year-round. Summer activities include:

  • Scenic Skyride: During the summer months, the Agassiz chairlift takes visitors to an elevation of 11,500 feet (3,505 m) for views of the surrounding area including the Grand Canyon 70 miles (112 kilometers) to the north.
  • Disc golf course: An 18-hole disc golf course winds among the ski runs.
  • Hiking: Several hiking trails begin from Arizona Snowbowl providing access to the Coconino National Forest. Trails include the Humphreys Peak Trail, a 4.5 mile (7.2 km) hike to Humphreys Peak, the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,850 m).

Development controversy[edit]

The Arizona Snowbowl operates under a 777 acres (3.14 km2) special use permit issued by the US Forest Service. In 1938, the Forest Service allowed the construction of a ski lodge and access road on the western slopes of the San Francisco Peaks. Full-scale development, with shops, restaurants, and lodges were first proposed in 1969, but the opposition of several tribes and community groups delayed this project.[2]

In 1979, the Forest Service approved a new lodge, a paved road, expanded parking, four new ski lifts and 50 acres (200,000 m2) of trails to be added to the existing ski area which would grow to 777 acres (3.14 km2). The Native people of the area protested that this invasion harmed sacred areas and imperiled their religious freedom. As the chairman of the Hopi tribe warned, “If the ski resort remains or is expanded, our people will not accept the view that this is the sacred home of the Kachinas. The basis of our existence will become a mere fairy tale.” Despite Hopi and Navajo protests, the Forest Service regional supervisor in 1980 approved the paving of an access road into the ski area. The Hopi and Navajo filed separate lawsuits to stop the development, while the Forest Service argued that religious rights would be unimpeded, and even facilitated, by the ski lifts—a concept that the tribes rejected. Three years later (the suits having been consolidated into one case, Wilson v. Block[3]), the Hopi and Navajo were unable to convince the District of Columbia Circuit Court that the Peaks were "indispensable" to their religions, and the suit was denied. According to the judge, permitting the Snowbowl expansion may have offended their beliefs, but the Forest Service had met the basic provisions of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

In July 2008, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the tribes.[2] However, this decision was reversed by the full court.[4] The court allowed the Snowbowl to use "Class A+ reclaimed water" [5] to produce man-made snow, and to add upgrades of 2 new lifts, 10 more trails, and lodge expansions. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 5, 2009. The Supreme Court denied the tribes' petition for certiorari, allowing the Snowbowl to continue with their proposed updates to the resort.[6]

On August 8, 2014, the city of Flagstaff approved a 20-year deal to sell reclaimed water to Arizona Snowbowl, Despite the adverse ruling allowing Snowbowl to use reclaimed water on the slopes, the Hopi Tribe filed a lawsuit to challenge the city's right to sell reclaimed water to Snowbowl.[7] In the summer of 2015, Snowbowl announced $10 million in resort improvements as further development plans, including adding a new high-speed chairlift.[8]

Culture or economy[edit]

Arizona Snowbowl was established in 1937, and began as a very small ski resort. However, Snowbowl was created on the San Francisco Peaks, where 13 separate tribes call this land “sacred.” These tribes include mainly the Hopi and Navajo but also include the Dine and many Apache tribes. The Navajo see the Peaks as a God itself, while the Hopi believe “Kachinas” or spirits visit the mountains for half of the year and act connect tribe members to their Gods. The Hopi also claim to have settled on this land dating all the way back to 1150. The mountains also produces herbal medicine for the tribes as well. In the 1970s, when Snowbowl was really looking to expand, is when the conflict took off. In the Wilson V. Block case, the Hopi and Navajo came together against the Forest Service for violating the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. Ultimately, the tribes lost the case and Snowbowl was allowed to expand. These tribes have lost all five lawsuits they have filed.[9]

Beginning in 2004, the Forest Service approved the sales of wastewater to Snowbowl for snowmaking purposes. The snow making machines are used in dry winters to keep up business in the San Francisco Peaks. In 2012, Snowbowl created a five-year deal with the city to buy and use reclaimed water for snowmaking purposes. In 2014, Snowbowl’s manager J.R. Murray, opted for a 20-year deal with the city, which allows reclaimed water to stay on the Peaks until at least 2034. This use of reclaimed water has also upset tribes, as they do not believe it is ethical and culturally accepting to use reclaimed water on their “sacred” land. This wastewater will make Snowbowl the first ski resort in the world to use 100% sewage water to make artificial snow. Opponents argue that the reclaimed water is degrading culturally and can cause a big impact on human health and the environment. Many locals are also upset that Snowbowl does not have to pay city taxes since it is technically not within Flagstaff. The Forest Service states that this water meets high standards and is just below drinking water. Proponents of this artificial snow say that with climate change, Snowbowl does not have to worry about losing business and helps Flagstaff’s overall economy by bringing in tourists.

Snowbowl and the local economy[edit]

The main reason for Snowbowl using fake snow is to allow Flagstaff’s winter economy to blossom even in dry seasons. This artificial snow allows Snowbowl to open earlier and stay open later into the ski season. Federal courts in the U.S. have looked at the conflict with the 13 tribes that see this mountain as “sacred”, ruling that making snow does not stop these tribes from practicing their religion. In the winter, Snowbowl provides jobs to over 550 people and there are also 60 year-round jobs. With winter the slower tourism season in Flagstaff, Snowbowl is essential to its success. Snowbowl’s manager Murray says the local economy will benefit from the success of Snowbowl in the forms of “seasonal jobs becoming more predictable, more construction jobs, and more success of hotels and restaurants due to Snowbowl.” The Forest Service predicts with snow making, Snowbowl will generate more than $23 million in visitor spending, and with over $50 million in local payroll, hotels can advertise for the ski season, Flagstaff will become a dependable winter location, sales, property, and personal property taxes will increase, Flagstaff will gain more second-home owners, and economic declines will decrease due to predictability of the ski season and better facilities.

2011 Protests[edit]

Following the onset of the reclaimed water pipeline construction in 2011, activists have launched ongoing protests against the Snowbowl. Twenty-five people were arrested between May and August 2011, including author and NPR commentator Mary Sojourner[10] and Klee Benally, Diné singer/guitarist for the rock group Blackfire, who has been arrested twice since protests began.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Arizona Snowbowl: Flushing a Religion Down the Toilet". Indigenous Religious Traditions. Colorado College, 19 Nov. 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b Legal brief by Bullivant Houser Bailey PC, April 2007
  3. ^ "Wilson v. R Block Hopi Indian Tribe, 708 F.2d 735 (D.C. Cir. 1983)". Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  4. ^ "Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service, 535 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008)". Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  5. ^ Amendment to Special Use Permit, July 2, 2010
  6. ^ "Tribes appeal decision in Arizona Snowbowl case". Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  7. ^ Locke, Katherine. "Hopi Tribe and city of Flagstaff try to resolve snowmaking lawsuit". Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Coming this winter: $10 million in multi-resort improvements". Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  9. ^ ["Facts." Protect the Peaks. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2016. "Facts." Protect the Peaks. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2016.] Check |url= value (help).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Mary Sojourner: San Francisco Peaks 'From Sacrilege to Sacredness"
  11. ^ "Snowbowl protest arrests grow to 17". Arizona Daily Sun. August 9, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  12. ^ "3 people arrested at Arizona Snowbowl protest". ABC 15. August 15, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°19′40″N 111°41′43″W / 35.32778°N 111.69528°W / 35.32778; -111.69528