Mount Lemmon Ski Valley: A Huffington Post Travel Ski Resort Guide
01/04/2012 03:08 pm ET
Jan 05, 2012
The Huffington Post
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley in Arizona is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. As part of a series on ski resorts, Huffington Post Travel offers our guide to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, featuring all the key information snow lovers need to know before they hit the slopes.
Perched high in the Santa Catalina Mountains of southern Arizona an hour north of Tucson, Mount Lemmon Ski Valley has the distinction of being the southernmost ski resort in the continental United States. While the ski season runs mid-December to early April at this latitude, the high desert mountains produce enough powder to entice skiers and boarders to make the winding drive up to this remote ski area in Coronado National Forest. Ski Valley is located near a small mountain community known as Summerhaven, which, as the name suggests, is more a summer retreat than a winter one.
The road leading up to Mount Lemmon is lined with saguaro cacti at its lower elevations, a surreal sight for those about to go skiing. It's best to fill up the tank before heading to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, because there are no gas stations on the mountain. The resort has a base elevation of 8,200 feet, a summit of 9,150 feet and a vertical drop of 950 feet. Ski Valley's 200 acres of skiable terrain receive an average of 200 inches of snowfall annually.
Trails And Lifts
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is a small ski area compared to the Rocky Mountain resorts farther north. It has 22 trails serviced by three lifts -- two double chairs and one surface tow. Novice skiers can descend from the summit on the Claim Jumper trail, one of five beginner trails. All other trails down from the top are intermediate or expert runs. Snowboarders won't find any terrain parks in Ski Valley or anywhere near Tucson.
In The News
In the summer of 2003, a fire blazed out of control on top of Mount Lemmon. Known as the Aspen Fire, it burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of buildings, mostly in Summerhaven. The man-made fire started on June 19 and wasn't fully extinguished until a summer rainstorm on July 15. Although Ski Valley is next to Summerhaven, the resort managed to escape the destruction its neighbor experienced.
All-day lift tickets are $37 for adults, $20 for children 12 and younger and $30 for seniors and military personnel. After 12:30 p.m., the price drops to $32, $15 and $27, respectively. First-time skiers can take advantage of a $65 package deal that includes a 90-minute lesson, rental equipment and a lift ticket. The children's rate for the same package is $45. Skis, poles and boots are available at the rental shop at $20 for adults and $17 for children. A snowboard and boots rent for $35 and requires a $300 deposit.
There's no nightlife up in the Santa Catalina Mountains around Ski Valley, unless stargazing counts. The University of Arizona's SkyCenter astronomical observatory is located on top of Mount Lemmon, adjacent to Ski Valley. It offers an out-of-the-ordinary apres-ski experience known as SkyNights. For $60 on weekends and $48 on weeknights, visitors get a chance to see the stars through the observatory's 32-inch telescope. The lack of light pollution at this altitude makes for a spectacular viewing experience. The year-round program starts just before sunset and also includes dinner, a tour of the facilities, presentations and a sky orientation by the staff, and lasts about five hours.
WATCH: Mount Lemmon Ski Valley
The road to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley starts out lined with desert cacti and ends up in a high-altitude forest.