Chasing the Storm of the Century

February 23-25, 2019

All winter we've been watching for an opportunity to go cross-country skiing. But in Arizona, there's a very small window of opportunity between a big snowstorm and the return of bright sunshine and warm temperatures. Plus, as the climate changes, there are fewer and fewer big storms. The snow is so unreliable that a few years the Flagstaff Nordic Center has changed its name and shifted its focus to all-season yurt rentals!

Then in mid-February, forecasters began predicting the "storm of the century", with two to three of snow for Flagstaff, and the weather was expected to stay cold for several days after the storm.

It turned out to be a massive storm, that swept through the Southwest all the way to Tucson, cloaking the Catalinas in a brilliant mantle of snow and even producing several inches of snow in Midtown Tucson.
On Wednesday, February 20, Flagstaff 39" of snow fell on Flagstaff, breaking the all-time record. We calculated that by Saturday morning the roads should be clear. In fact, they weren't even wet, and the drive was thrilling, with dazzling sunshine and both sides of the road covered in snow once we topped Sunset Point.
We arrived at the Nordic Center around 2:00, hoping to squeeze in a few hours of skiing before sunset. The trails hadn't been groomed they were a little icy, but it was great just being in the snow-drenched aspen and Ponderosa pine forest. We were using our old metal-edged skis with the brand-new three-pin boots we'd just purchased on the internet. At the top of Turkey Trail, about two miles out, I looked down and realized to my horror that both boots had completely delaminated. The same thing that ruined our skiing trip in Yosemite two years ago! Fortunately Dennis had a roll of duct tape. I had to ski back down the mountain without lifting my feet, using my ski poles to lift the tips of my skis when I needed to change direction.
We were wiped out by the time we got back and were very happy to check into our Air B and B, a converted potato shed on the outskirts of Flagstaff.
By then more trails had been cleared, and we had an excellent day of skiing.

We found that the new cross-country boots are more comfortable and have more control than our antique three-pin boots, and while the new skis are lighter weight, they have far less glide and kick that an properly waxed pair of cross-country skis.

After two days of skiing, we were sore all over, so the next day we decided to change it up a bit by heading up the road to Sunset Crater National Monument. Of course all the trails were covered in snow, but someone on snowshoes had partially broken the trail, so up we went, post holing to the summit of Lenox Crater.
We were hoping for a good view of Sunset Crater, but when we rounded the summit, there were the San Francisco Peaks all laid out before us, deep in gleaming snow from top to bottom.
San Francisco Peaks Panorama

Scroll for a panorama of the San Francisco Peaks.

Back at the base we explored a shorter trail along a lava flow, searching for an "ice cave" (actually a "spatter cone").
By then it was almost 50 degrees! A hot fudge sundae kind of day.