The Big Steep

The only thing slick about Arizona Snowbowl is the snow

Though today is sunny and clear, for example, yesterday's winds blew at 65 miles per hour whipping spindrift snow into white whirlwinds.

Both the Forest Service and the Snowbowl management have discussed whether they'll need to close backcountry access from the ski area by putting up hard boundaries or requiring the out-of-bounders to buy permits just to protect the foolish.

The allure of the snow is that great, especially for those who climb over the top to ski 4,000 vertical feet down the inner bowl.

"It's unbelievable," says the writer Peter Shelton, who lives outside Telluride and has skied all over the world.

"That mountain has everything that any mountain in the inner-mountain West has as far as skiing and snow and steepness and terrain," says former owner Norm Johnson. "You can go up to the top of the Agassiz lift and take your skis off on Highway 89 with cars whizzing by on the dry pavement."

If that terrain had been developed, along with the peaks to the north of the existing trails, Snowbowl would have become a major destination resort.

For better or worse, that will never happen.

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