Arizona is a state we all associate with sunshine, warm weather, and sunny days. However, did you know it could also have some bad weather, despite the generally good climate? After all, it’s important to remember that the Grand Canyon state is close to the mountains of Colorado, has high altitude locations, and can be influenced by weather from all around it.
Does it snow in Arizona? Yes, Arizona does get a fair amount of snow, and there are many great places to enjoy a snowy winter in the state.
In this article, we’ll look at the general climate of the state, where you can see snow, and when.
Before looking at Arizona snow, it’s worth stating a few bits of information about the state’s climate. Arizona covers a very large surface (at 113,990 square miles, it is the sixth-largest state), which means there are many variations around climate and weather. Moreover, Arizona’s climate is strongly influenced by high mountains, the Colorado plateau, and mesas (flat-top hills with steep sides typical of this part of the United States).
The localized climate conditions that result from Arizona’s geography make Arizona snow likely. At low elevation, it’s mainly a desert with mild winters and very hot summers. But higher parts of the state see significantly cooler climates all year round, which means cold winters and relatively cool summers.
While Arizona’s all-time record high is 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 Celsius) recorded at Lake Havasu City, its coldest recorded temperature was -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 Celsius) at Hawley Lake.
Usually, Arizona’s climate is arid, which means not a lot of precipitation is likely and consequently not a lot of snow. Cold air from the northern states and Canada push into the state at its northern edge and down towards the south, and that’s when snow is likely to occur. However, a certain level of humidity is also needed for this. Places like Flagstaff in Coconino County have seen significant snowfalls and are one of the most popular destinations to enjoy Arizona snow.
Where Does It Snow In Arizona?
As we’ve seen, it’s typically the northern third of Arizona that’s likely to see snowfalls. Arizona has some great ski resorts and wonderful snow parks, but it’s also likely to welcome you with a bit of snowfall in other parts of the state. Some of the best-known places for snowy weather are below, from the most notable attractions to other parts of the state where you can enjoy sledding, general snow play, and of course, some snow sports.
The Arizona Snowbowl
Located outside of Flagstaff, the Snowbowl is a base for all types of winter adventure and a true magnet for outdoor lovers every winter. It is absolutely the best ski resort in the state, as it offers long runs and good snow. Moreover, here you can ski down the side of a volcano – a unique experience!
Views are also fantastic in the Snowbowl, especially from the top of Mount Humphreys. This is also where massive snowfalls have been recorded, thanks to the area’s high elevation (starting at 9,200 feet, which makes it higher than many of Colorado’s main ski resorts).
The highlight of Snowbowl skiing is the excellent weather: it’s almost always sunny, making for unforgettable trips. Spring skiing is also fun and very popular here.
Sunrise Park Resort
Another great place to see Arizona snow is the Sunrise Park Resort in the state’s far east. Known as the largest ski resort in Arizona, it’s located in the White Mountains, which live up to their name with snowy landscapes. Also, with a base elevation of 9,200 feet and going up to 11,000 at the highest lift-serviced point, Sunrise Park gets some serious Arizona snowstorm activity.
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley
Situated in the Coronado National Forest, this is another place to get guaranteed snow in Arizona. It’s close enough to Tucson to make it an excellent destination for one-day trips, and it offers short runs spread across 200 acres. Surrounded by massive pine trees, Mt Lemmon is the Tucson snow destination not to be missed.
Oak Hill Snow Play Area
Just outside Williams off historic Route 66, you’ll find an open play area where you have guaranteed Arizona Snow. Oak Hill is ideal for beginner skiers and families looking for a bit of fun in the snow. There is plenty of sledding, and there are tubing runs, too.
Benham Snow Play Area
Another great place to see snow in northern Arizona, close to Williams, is the Benham Snow Play Area, from where you can catch a glimpse of Bill Williams Mountain. High up at an altitude of 7,195 feet, this park has low temperatures in winter but wonderful snow to play around in.
Hannagan Meadow Recreation Area
This historic area is more secluded than the ones above and will get you out in the snow in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. There are rustic campgrounds and remote ski trails that were first set up here back in the 1870s. It’s another region at above 9,000 feet altitude, making it cold and very likely to get snow every year.
Flagstaff and Around
Apart from the Arizona Snowbowl, all around Flagstaff can turn into an excellent place for enjoying the snow. Flagstaff Snow Park in Fort Tuthill County Park near the city has sledding hills and an almost 100% chance of snow annually. Located at 7,000 feet high, you’ll also find tubing runs and many amenities such as picnic areas, outdoor fire pits, and more.
And, only about 20 miles north of Flagstaff, you can head out to Kendrick Park and Walker Lake, impressive spots for great views of the San Francisco Peaks and Kendrick Mountain. The best place to start is the Peak View Winter Recreation area, from where you can go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
How Often Does It Snow In Arizona Cities?
We’ve covered some excellent outdoor spots, but which are the cities that get most Arizona snow, and how often can you expect it to snow there?
Flagstaff is the snowiest city in Arizona. It gets an average of 101.7 inches per year, with snowfalls pretty much every year.
Other places aren’t quite so lucky. For example, Phoenix hasn’t had measurable snow since December 1990 and only got as much as 1 inch back in 1937!
Tucson, Arizona, snow isn’t frequent either, although it happens more frequently than in Phoenix. The city got 0.01 inches in 2011, so it’s more like a dusting than anything else.
Some places you can expect snow often in Arizona, along with average snowfall quantities, include:
- Williams – 73.8 inches
- Grand Canyon Village (South Rim) – 49.6 inches
- Payson – 20.1 inches
- Prescott – 12.7 inches
- Chiricahua National Monument – 6.8 inches
- Bisbee – 6.3 inches.
Arizona Snow Storms
Now that you know the answer to the question “Does it snow in Arizona?” is “Yes,” you might wonder about the biggest snowstorms the state has had to weather. The most dramatic snow throughout the state’s history occurred in 1967, so quite some time ago.
During the 1967 Arizona snowstorm, 8 days of snowfall buried large parts of the state and resulted in 9 deaths. People even had to have food air-dropped to them in Navajo and Cochise counties, where they could not travel.
During this storm, the record snowfall of 102.7 inches was recorded at Hawley Lake near Pinetop.
Conclusion: Does It Snow In Arizona? You Bet!
Historically, Arizona snow has appeared the most frequently in the northern third of the state, and it’s expected to fall in areas situated at a higher elevation. The state has such a variety of altitudes and geography that there are many places where you can hardly be concerned about snow, but if you love skiing, there’s also a lot of choices.
Flagstaff gets the most Arizona snow, and the state has some spectacular ski resorts where you can fully enjoy the winter with all its sports and beautiful landscapes. From trying your hand at skiing on groomed downhill slopes to enjoying the wilderness in snowmobiles or out snowshoeing, there are lots of sports for outdoor enthusiasts throughout winter. And, in terms of record snowfall, you probably don’t need to worry about getting caught in an Arizona snowstorm unless some really harsh weather descends upon the state. In any case, with its history, the authorities should be prepared for it.