Flagstaff – A Town for All Seasons
Something for everyone with four distinct seasons
As we’ve been experiencing some light snows and frigid overnight temperatures of late, it’s a reminder that Flagstaff is a town for all seasons.
Local residents are forever explaining to distant friends and relatives that, ‘yes, we do get snow in Arizona,’ as Flagstaff sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet, a full mile above Phoenix and the Sonoran Desert. On the southern edge of the expansive Colorado Plateau, with mountain peaks soaring another mile above downtown Flagstaff, early dustings of snow can come while October’s autumn colors still glow. Then there can be snow anytime through April, with the most snow, by the statistics, in the month of March.
And yes, there’s a ski resort on Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks. Arizona Snowbowl attracts skiers to the flanks of Mount Agassiz in a “good winter,” and winter visitors can enjoy the hospitality of our town — it’s lodging, restaurants and other attractions. Summer and autumn visitors can ride Snowbowl’s chair lift to the top of Mount Agassiz for spectacular views of the surrounding region.
The Flagstaff Nordic Center offers cross-country skiing, northwest of town on Route 180, when snow conditions allow, with up to 25 miles of groomed trails.
Many winter visitors simply come to play in the white stuff, go sledding, and see the pine forest in its snowy splendor. The addition of holiday lights and décor make downtown Flagstaff an idyllic spot to shop for gifts or grab a bite by the fire.
In general, Flagstaff winters are somewhat mild, with harsh temperatures and gusty winds at times that rarely last. Major storms can hit from the west bringing big snows, sometimes several feet during the course of a storm, but more often than not, mild temperatures follow, back into the mid-40s, and streets can be clear and dry in a couple of days.
Heavy snowpack on the San Francisco Peaks means a “good winter” in another respect, as melting snow recharges the drinking water aquifers, and even provides fresh water downhill for other towns as well as metro Phoenix. Winter snows also recharge the life and health of our surrounding forests, and affect the forest all year long in terms of summer fire danger.
Spring in Flagstaff means warming temperatures and often-windy days, though snow and overnight frost can occur into May at times. “Soar Into Spring” is a popular kite flying derby and family festival each May, sponsored by Flagstaff Parks & Recreation.
The national news reports the summer high temperatures in Phoenix, and people everywhere think all of Arizona is sweltering. But, it’s a very rare day when a summer afternoon high reaches 90 degrees in Flagstaff.
Summer in Flagstaff is outdoor paradise for hiking, mountain biking, camping, gardening, evening concerts, dinner on a restaurant patio, or any number of pursuits. On Saturday evenings, family films are shown on the big screen on the town square at dusk.
Flagstaff’s rainy season – the coming of the Southwest Monsoon – begins in early July, with thundershowers building many afternoons, bringing refreshing and much needed rains that often clear by sunset. The pattern can continue day after day, and into mid-September.
Autumn colors begin to pop in late September, and by early October entire hillsides of aspen trees glow gold and yellow. Warm afternoons last through October, with cooler nighttime lows, reminding everyone that the cycle soon starts all over again.
Peaks Publishing, 2013