Mountain Ops in the Hudsonian Life Zone of Arizona Snowbowl

September 6, 2017

Dale Haglin shares his 34 years of know-how, facts on reclaimed water, and, hold the salt, Snowbowl uses volcanic ash.

“Arizona has all six of the of the Merriam life zones, starting at the driest of desert zones all the way up through the Sonoran’s of Joshua tree and sage brush to the Hudsonian Life Zone where Arizona Snowbowl is situated. So the state is not all desert, as many believe. Arizona, interestingly enough, has the largest ponderosa pine forests in the U.S. It’s fantastic too because from the tops of our chairlifts you see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.”

AZ Snowbowl’s unique, winter supporting life zone sits high above the desert floor.

A chairlift view of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

How’s life with a detachable?

“We think it’s incredible, but I’ll start with the quad lift we put in a few years ago as it started the progression on how this mountain skis. The situation at Snowbowl is that we have enough parking up here for roughly 1,400 vehicles. When the parking lots were full, our lift lines were huge. So when the new ownership decided to fund the Humphrey’s quad, it completely changed our operations world because it opened up a whole new area of the mountain that had never been. Snowbowl has 777 total acres, so the mountain’s not huge, but we have some pretty decent vertical drop at 2,300 feet. We still had our higher level intermediate and experts skiers going to our Agassi Lift, which is a fixed grip triple and was our main lift. When we installed the new six-pack last year, there were no longer lift lines on the mountain. It just completely changes the way the whole mountain skis. It pleasantly shocked everyone and was our big game-changer. And .. the trails still had plenty of skier room. Last season was our record year. We had good snowfall, the new lifts; it worked out well. It was exciting for the employees and locals as all these years the upgrades weren’t just something we talked about or something other resorts did. We could see a lot of line items on the master plan come to fruition.”

Construction of the LPoA detachable.


“Another milestone for this resort was our ability to use reclaimed water for snowmaking. It’s all grade-A, recycled water that the resort uses and while it transformed the mountain, it’s very expensive. We’ve been making snow here with this new system for four or five years now. We pump the water from the town where it goes through three different pumping stations, and we pay for every drop of water we use. Water is very precious in the Southwest, so we don’t take the use of it lightly. From our perspective, we believe recycled water is a proper use from the standpoint we are not using potable. It’s worked out well. There are just a few resorts other than Snowbowl that use reclaimed water. Interestingly enough this past season the meteorologists called for a La Nina type winter, which is warmer and drier. Then we got hammered with snowfall with over 300 inches. In the past, there were seasons we’d only be open for three days for lack of snow and other years we’d receive 450 inches.”

Natural snow, 300 inches of it fell this past season in what was to be a La Nina winter.

“I was born and raised in Flagstaff the town closest to the resort. After high school, I worked here at the resort alongside another job for a candy and tobacco wholesaler for seven days a week to pay for my degree at Northern Arizona University. Working full time, I got a lot of opportunities to operate heavy equipment and snowcats. I got on ski patrol eventually, then trail crew, and lift installs. The first management position was assistant grooming supervisor, to grooming manager, then vehicle maintenance. Management kept adding to my plate, so eventually I was responsible for all of the mountain operations.

“I’ve got a wife, three children, and one grandchild. Both of my daughters are nurses and work here at the local hospital. My 21-year-old son works at a local golf course, runs a groomer in the winter but plans to be a cop. All of our kids are skiers.”

Volcanic ash cinders for winter road maintenance

Unique to the mountain

“Our access road is seven miles of a U.S. Forest Service road and we have a special use permit to be able to use it. It’s the resort’s responsibility to provide the winter maintenance and we don’t use any chemicals or salt to melt the snow and ice, we use volcanic ash cinders. We haul these cinders during the summer and it usually takes two and a half months to beef up the stockpile for the winter, so that we’ll have enough. The Forest Service provides the cinders from a local pit about eight miles away from the ski area where we dig it out of the hillside. The material is pure and doesn’t need screening before use. On this same road, we haul every drop of our potable water with a water truck and a dedicated driver. He moves over a million gallons a year just for drinking and fresh use in the lodges and buildings.”

Why I do what I do

“One take away from this industry is that so much has changed with grooming, lifts, technology, etc. The coolest thing I believe is that the people have not changed. They are a community with plenty of respect for each other for what they accomplish in the mountains. I think a lot of times the ski area operators may not get enough credit for what they do and the type of people they are but deep down it’s the folks like you and me that know the true story. I think that’s part of the uniqueness and the motivation of why we continue to show up every day.”

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