Skiers are schussing the slopes of Mount Lemmon Ski Valley on 29 inches of natural snow - while more northerly ski areas such as the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff rely partly on artificial snowmaking.

"It's been really good this year - good snow and good crowds," said Graham Davies, general manager of Ski Valley in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson.

"Snowmaking is extremely expensive, so we're happy to be relying on Mother Nature," Davies said. "We had 19 to 20 inches of snow and then got about 8 to 10 inches out of the last storm. So our skiing snow is about 29 inches right now."

Davies said Ski Valley opened on Dec. 20. Arizona Snowbowl is using snowmaking machines to augment natural snowfall after prevailing in a long legal battle with opponents of snowmaking there.

If you go

All 21 ski runs and both chairlifts at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays.

Ski Valley is normally closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call 547-7510 to check road conditions on the Catalina Highway.

Tucson ties heat record

Tucson finished 2012 by tying the mark for its warmest year on record.

The average temperature for the entire calendar year of 2012 was 71.4 degrees, the National Weather Service reports. That's precisely the same average temperature for the year recorded in 1989 - which was the warmest year on record in Tucson.

The record of 71.4 degrees is two degrees above the average annual temperature for the period from 1981 to 2010.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz