Enjoy Winter in Flagstaff, Arizona

The northern Arizona town mixes snow play with science adventures and good food.

snowshoers leave tracks across white powder on a sunny day at Arizona Nordic Village in Flagstaff.
Snowshoers explore Arizona Nordic Village.
Kerri Irwin

With bluebird skies and an average snowfall of 100-plus inches, Flagstaff beckons sports lovers when the flakes drop. Prefer not to don ski boots or snowshoes? Options abound at this high-elevation city in the pines.

You don’t have to be a black diamond skier to hitch a ride on Arizona Snowbowl’s gondola to the start of the resort’s most challenging runs at 11,500 feet. Instead, you get a smooth, 15-minute ride up (and down) the mountain, with views as far away as the Grand Canyon—all moguls avoided. Looking for something more grounded? Nearby, Arizona Nordic Village boasts 35 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking plus the chance to do some off-grid camping in their collection of yurts and cabins. Flagstaff Snow Park lures thrill seekers with snow tubing through pine-lined runs, plus the comforts of fire pits, picnic tables, and weekend food trucks.

a happy couple sits outside Macy's European Coffee House & Bakery in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Warm up and fuel up at Macy’s European Coffee House & Bakery.
Jill Richards

Insider Tip: Locals warm up at Macy’s European Coffee House & Bakery, a shop that has been roasting its own beans for 40 years. Grab a chocolate-peanut butter chip cookie or the Macy’s Special, a smooth blend of espresso and hot chocolate.


Brush up on your volcanology with a trek to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Learn the site’s geologic, natural, and human history at the visitor center, then take a drive or hike to see the otherworldly black lava flows. The park’s trails are often clear between snowfalls.

Historic Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered, offers more science in the form of astronomy. Trace winter constellations like Orion, peer through the Clark Refactor telescope or take a tour of the observatory, perched on a hill overlooking Flagstaff’s historic core. The city is the original International Dark Sky City, the first in the world to be recognized back in 2001.

Roasted bone marrow appetizer on flatbread over a charcoal grill at Atria.
Roasted bone marrow flatbread appetizer at Atria.
Courtesy Atria

For foodies, Flagstaff is the new magnet, with chef-driven, indie eateries cropping up throughout town. Several have even earned coveted James Beard Award nods. Try Atria for an elegant dinner, where Chef Rochelle Daniel serves up dishes like charcoal-roasted beets with tahini dressing and smoked short ribs with apples and celeriac.  

At Shift Kitchen + Bar, the idea is to share plates from an ever-changing menu, where choices could include cast-iron corn bread served with crab and collard greens. Go for a classic Reuben, a pork barbecue, or a cold cut sandwich at Proper Meats + Provisions, a modern butcher shop-slash-deli, with an emphasis on sustainably raised, locally sourced meat and ingredients.

The lawn and deck at High Country Motor Lodge in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The lawn and deck at High Country Motor Lodge.
Courtesy High Country Motor Lodge

Get more of a local vibe by spending the night in one of the city’s updated hotels. Americana Motor Hotel is a revived Route 66 hostelry, with a Space-Age, lunar theme—think bright colors and fun art, plus telescopes and bikes (weather permitting) for exploring. Aprés ski, go for craft cocktails by a fire pit, listen to vintage vinyl, loosen up in the sauna, and brace yourself for a cold plunge at High Country Motor Lodge, which blends retro with sophisticated touches in rooms, suites and cabins.

This article was first published in January 2020 and last updated in November 2023.