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The best winter spots in Arizona, according to travel writer Peter Corbett

As metro Phoenix turns to 70 degrees and snow starts to fall up north, it’s finally time to travel in Arizona.

We’re flush with tourists, sure, but it’s also the perfect time to hit the road and explore.

Longtime Arizona journalist and author of the "On The Road Arizona" travel blog Peter Corbett joined The Show to talk about where to go this time of year.

LAUREN GILGER: So we have to start with the snow. I think if we're talking about Arizona travel in the winter, there are many places to go skiing around the state and not just in Flagstaff.

PETER CORBETT: Hopefully we'll get a good bit of snow this year. Of course, the largest and oldest ski area in Arizona is the Arizona Snowbowl, north of Flagstaff, since 1939. It also competes with Sunrise in the White Mountains and the Apache tribe runs that ski area.

There's also southern Arizona's Mount Lemmon, and it's the further southernmost ski area in the United States. It's pretty small. Also there was a ski area at Williams, but it hasn't been operating. So those are the four choices and obviously, Snowbowl, it gets the most traffic for skiers. It’s close to the Valley.

GILGER: What about snow play areas?

CORBETT: Snow play areas have become very scarce. The Forest Service has kind of pulled back on that. There are some issues with the trash being left on and people parking on the side of U.S. 180. It created a lot of headaches, and I think they just got out of the business.

There is a snow play area at Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff, just south of town. And they're supposed to open on Dec. 16. They're still selling tickets starting on Dec. 10, and there's also a snow play area at the Coasters Adventure Park in Williams.

So those are kind of the choices or get off the highway. If you can find a road that's safe to drive on in the winter and find a hill where you can safely play in the snow and, and tube and do all those kinds of fun things.

GILGER: You say if you really want to see the snow, you actually recommend going north when there is a blizzard in the forecast, probably driving before the blizzard.

CORBETT: That's the key, is try to get there before the blizzard blows in and makes the roads just crazy. I did it a couple of years ago, in February 2019 and I got there on Wednesday and it started snowing that evening and then started to snow just all day. Thirty-six inches on Thursday in Flagstaff, and then kind of tapered off and there was another 6 inches of snow, so by Friday morning, 42 inches of snow. And I was just walking around Flagstaff taking photographs and enjoying the scenery. It’s just amazing. The whole town was just about shut down. Even coffee shops were closing down.

GILGER: It's also really special to see the Grand Canyon in the snow.

CORBETT: Absolutely. And I did that trip about two years ago and that's a long drive from Phoenix. And you definitely want to be there before the snow flies. But there's a way you can sort of shortcut that, it’s to go to Williams and take the Grand Canyon Railway for that last 64 miles up to the North or the South Rim. And the canyon is just spectacular in the snowfall. It's just really a special experience.

GILGER: So let's spend the last few minutes here, Peter, talking about southern Arizona in the winter. You don't exactly think about going south in the winter. But there's some really beautiful places and some places that get snow in southern Arizona in the winter.

CORBETT: Yeah, that's right. But mostly it's avoiding the heat. Like some of these places like Ajo, Arizona, and the Oregon Pipe National Monument are just really hot in the summer. If you go down in the wintertime, you can enjoy the architecture and the arts community of Ajo. And then it's another 30 miles down to the Oregon Pipe. And the Oregon Pipe is beautiful. There's not as many wildflowers in the winter, but there's a great drive, a 21 mile loop road, Ajo Mountain Drive, that's just spectacular. It goes through, you see the Oregon Pipe and many other species of cactus. So I recommend that.

Another place to go is to San Xavier Mission and Tubas, south of Tucson, the Tumacacori National Historical Park. And right across the street from that, don't miss the Old Abe's bar, Tumacacori bar. It's been opened recently. It's a really old Arizona bar. That's a pretty special.

And of course, I also recommend Bisbee and Douglas. Bisbee, it's about 5,000 feet and if you ever get a snowfall there, it's just beautiful in the Mule Mountains there. And Douglas is really kind of a quirky place. Again, it's got really historic architecture and there's a really odd museum there. The Last Supper Museum, which has just hundreds of pieces of art of Da Vinci's Last Supper.

And then there's also, I haven't been there, but they've opened an Art Car World Museum. And one other thing there is the Slaughter Ranch, historic ranch, just east of Douglas. It's open Tuesdays through Saturday. It's $5. It's a really beautiful ranch setting. That's just very historic of southern Arizona in the winter.

GILGER: Lastly, I want to talk about La Posada and Winslow, because you said there's something really interesting there.

CORBETT: Yes, La Posada Hotel in Winslow, it’s just a very special place to visit. They have a wonderful dining room, the turquoise room, but they just opened an exhibit in the old train depot that was right on the tracks there. It's the Affeldt Mion Museum and they have what's called the Hubbell-Joe rug.

It was once, for four decades, the largest Navajo rug ever made. And it's 22 feet by 32 feet and is exhibited kind of tilted up so you can really see it. It took five years to make this rug. It's now 86 years old. It's really extremely beautiful, and it may be a great day trip. It's a couple of hours to Winslow from the Valley and see the rug and then have lunch at the turquoise room and go down the street to the stand on the corner of Winslow, Arizona.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.