Since this weekend was part of the 75th anniversary of Arizona Ski Bowl, we knew that the ski runs would be packed – and between the Dew Downtown Flagstaff event and the new 12+ inches of continuous snow this weekend, they might be practically inaccessible. Skiing on a packed run can be treacherous (it’s how I hurt my neck last year) and waiting in long lines at the lifts make the daily cost of skiing barely worth it when it takes 5 minutes to get down a short run and it can take 20+ to wait in line and get back up on a busy day. We decided to check out Elk Ridge Ski area, a ski run and winter rec area near Williams, Arizona – Since it’s a little farther from town and part of a national forest rather than a private resort, we hoped it would have less people.
It took us about an hour to get there in the storm, with mostly smooth flowing traffic. We could see in front of us pretty clearly but from side to side was nothing but walls of white. When we got arrived at our exit and passed through town we noticed very little traffic on the road coming from the direction of the ski area, a good sign we thought – but when we found the road we also found a closed gate. Sad, but it didn’t stop us from going for a short walk past the gate. The website of Elk Ridge Ski Area claims they’re open on Sundays so we can only imagine they were closed because of the storm (illogically).
E. Ski Run Road
We left E. Ski Run Road and decided to check out the town of Williams instead. On the way through town it had looked interesting enough, with old signs, Grand Canyon tour trains parked on the tracks, and several places with lit open signs (despite the weather and day of the week). Any small town with businesses open on a Sunday is a good sign that the town is interesting and alive (I’ve noticed). Locals are taking part in their local economy and giving businesses a reason to stay open every day. Farming communities seem to be the worst for having things open on Sundays, maybe one unfriendly bar and a market will be around but little more. Partly because they have no tourism but also because locals aren’t driving in to town to spend money, and/or don’t have the the money to do so. I hate to see that a town’s most successful business is the Cigarette/Liquor store – definite sign of bad times and little for a traveler to do. Williams is one of a couple gateways to the Grand Canyon in Arizona so they have some pretty steady year round tourism, but it also supports a population of 3000 people who are 35 miles from Flagstaff. Businesses make money and keeping a lot of it in town, making Williams a great little place to hang out, even in a snow storm on a Sunday.
Even staying in Arizona for months, in the mountains, intentionally for the snowfall in the area, it’s still cool to see snow on cactus, sand, desert canyons, and Route 66 Signs. I grew up with the same impression of the south that most people from the north did, that it was hot year round and that’s about it for weather. I knew better because I lived in Arizona for a short time as a kid but between movies and school, the idea is there in the back of my head so I still find it great that we’re in Arizona and there’s 2 feet of snow outside.
The storm was worse in Williams than is had been in Flagstaff and made for some interesting first impressions of the town. We found a great Italian restaurant after walking a few blocks, Station 66 Italian Bistro, a place recently opened in an old gas station but stylized into a classy Italian eatery/locals bar (rather than the 50s theme most gas station restaurants seem to go for). Their sign outside bragged of wood fired pizza, which sounded great, and they offered several original and interesting combos, like the pizza we had with apples, walnuts and agave syrup.
The classic old hotel, grand canyon and route 66 signs surrounded by snow never got old so I was sure to get plenty of photos. We’ll be going back to check out the ski area next weekend and will definitely hang out in Williams again,
I think this is supposed to be a bear but it looked like a badger to me, especially with the snow stripe.