Headed To Northern Arizona To Play In The Snow? Read This

By Scott Bourque
Published: Friday, December 27, 2019 - 7:44pm
Updated: Friday, December 27, 2019 - 11:18pm

kids playing in the snow
Summer Schaudt
Kids play in the snow in Flagstaff on Dec. 26, 2019.

As soon as the snow starts falling in northern Arizona, visitors from the Phoenix area flock to Flagstaff for winter sports and snow play. 

If you’re planning to head up north to play in the snow this weekend, you’re not alone. In fact, Arizona Deaprtment of Transportation spokesman David Woodfill says this is one of the busiest weekends for northbound travel — especially with the fresh snow.

“Budget a lot of extra travel time because when folks leave these areas the highways get really jammed up," he said. "People tend to leave right around the same time and so you can get stuck on those roads for hours. We tell folks to leave earlier than they normally might.”

Congestion along Interstate 17 is often exacerbated by accidents. Even one accident can block traffic for miles, and turn a two-hour drive into a five-hour drive.

Once visitors are in the high country, there are certain rules they need to follow for playing in the snow.

“Folks really need to make sure they’re playing in designated snowplay areas, and parking in actual parking lots," Woodfill said. "This is not just a safety issue for the motorists who are doing it, but it’s also a safety issue for anyone who needs to call 911 because they’re having an emergency, and it’s a safety issue for other motorists.”

Parking on I-17 or Highway 180 is strictly prohibited and will be enforced by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. The minimum fine is $200.

Coconino National Forest officials are urging visitors to pick up their trash and leave the forest as clean as they found it when they use snow-play areas.

Last winter, U.S. Forest Service officials collected thousands of pounds of discarded plastic sleds and other trash from snow play areas. They filled several truck beds with litter that otherwise wouldn’t biodegrade for thousands of years.

The Forest Service is now enforcing pack-in pack-out and leave-no-trace rules in snow-play areas in the Coconino National Forest. Visitors who litter could be charged with a misdemeanor carrying a $500 fine.

trash near Oak Hill Snow Play Area just outside Flagstaff
Kaibab National Forest
Kaibab National Forest rangers were left to pick up more than a 1,000 pounds of trash near Oak Hill Snow Play Area just outside Flagstaff.

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