Mount Lemmon Ski Valley has many of the things it needs for a good season: a scenic setting, ski lift in regular operation, cozy restaurant and plenty of parking.
Just one rather important element is missing: sufficient snow for skiing.
Storms brought snow to the slopes in November and December but not quite enough to open the ski area — “and then it got really warm,” said Graham Davies, general manager of Ski Valley in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. “It’s really weird to be wearing shorts and a T-shirt in January.”
Without some substantial snowfalls in the coming weeks, it’s possible that the slopes might not open at all this season — which would be a first.
Ski Valley has opened every season going back 50 years, providing the southernmost skiing in the continental United States, said co-owner George P. Davies. “Up until this year — and we’re still keeping our fingers crossed we’ll be able to open this year,” he said.
STILL TIME FOR SNOW
There’s no mention of precipitation in the immediate forecast. But substantial snow accumulations in February — ideally 2 feet or more — could allow the ski area to open for a month or longer.
“We usually open up around Christmas, and in a normal year there is skiing into March,” Graham Davies said. “I’ve seen it continue as late as April 20.”
Ski Valley must wait for real snowfall from the sky because it doesn’t use snowmaking machines, such as those that have kept the Arizona Snowbowl slopes near Flagstaff open even though the area hasn’t received snow in January.
Skiers and snowboarders, including Zach MacDonald of Tucson, would welcome a blizzard or two at the ski area.
“I’ve been disappointed not to get a day in at Ski Valley this season,” MacDonald said. “The last two years we’ve been able to go boarding on my birthday in December, always a welcome treat.”
Graham Davies said he is cautiously optimistic.
“I haven’t watched the weather in over a month. When it gets cold, I’ll start watching,” he said. “We’re just hoping the weather pattern will shift and the jet stream will come down. I haven’t given up hope yet.”
Meanwhile, Ski Valley’s chairlift is operating daily, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, for scenic rides up and down the mountain — sans skiing.
Ski lift rides cost $10, with a reduced rate of $5 for youths 12 or younger.