Snowbowl is a scene of contrasts. On a clear day, you can see the Grand Canyon, on an unclear day, you might not even be able to see your hand in front of your face. True to its name, Snowbowl gets big dumps. By the end of March last season, the resort had received 445 inches of snow … in Arizona, people. Be aware though, there’s no snowmaking, so if it’s not falling from the skies, it’s not there.

The local vibe is super mellow and the spot gets most of its crowds from nearby Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and Phoenix on the weekends; but the hardcore locals are there every day.—Annie Fast

Park And Pipe: While Snowbowl is lacking in the pipe department, it does have a good park, Sunset Terrain Park located on Sunset Blvd. This year more rails and hits were added, along with four new funboxes. All that natural terrain is good for natural hits, too-look around.

Freeriding: The San Francisco peaks top out at 12,633 feet-expect to lose your breath on the wide-open, above-tree-line spots, the steep tree lines down below, and the fun bump runs. On a powder day, head to the Agassiz Lift and hit the trees riders right off the lift, then work your way down the cat track for run after run of perfect tree riding.

The best thing about Snowbowl is the lift-accessed backcountry. You might not think you’re the backcountry type until you see the spread off the backside. You’re required to have a backcountry permit from the Forest Service, which you can get for free at the Peaks Ranger Station (928) 526-0866 or the Mormon Lake Ranger Station (928) 774-1147.

Do This: Bring your skate! Flagstaff is home to two free concrete skateparks, Fox Glenn and Bushmaster. It’s all about multisporting!

Shreducation: Slide To Success is a series of lessons for the first-time snowboarder. It includes three full-day lift tickets to be used whenever you want, rental equipment, and three two-hour lessons for only 145 dollars. Register in the rental shop.

Lodging: For cozy slopeside-ish accommodations, rent a Ski Lift Lodge cabin at the base of the mountain, (928) 774-0729.

However, we suggest staying in Flagstaff at the Hotel Monte Vista (hotelmontevista.com), 1-800-545-3068. It’s an experience in itself-a historic hotel, an epic Thai restaurant, a cocktail lounge with live music, a central downtown location, and it’s haunted-like, really, really haunted.

Food: Stop by Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery at 14 South Beaver Street for breakfast baked goods and coffees. Also try the Black Bean Burrito Bar & Salsa at 12 East Route 66 or Alpine Pizza at 7 North Leroux Street-both are in the budget.

Apres: Head to one of the brewpubs back in Flagstaff for apr s-shredding festivities. Flagstaff Brewing Company at 16 East Route 66, and the Beaver Street Brewery & Whistle Stop Cafà„ at 11 South Beaver Street are good bets.

Getting Here: From U.S. 180, take Arizona Snowbowl Road to the parking area. Amtrak delivers its human cargo twice a day to Flagstaff, or you can also fly into Flagstaff, but Phoenix, two hours away is much cheaper.

Getting Around: Unfortunately, there’s no transportation for the twelve-mile commute from Flagstaff to Snowbowl, so plan accordingly.

Stats

Summit Elevation: 11,500 feet

Vertical Drop: 2,300 feet

Rideable Acres: 777

Snowfall: 260 inches

Snowmaking: 0%

Terrain Breakdown (Beg/Int/Adv): 37%/42%/21%

Opening/Closing Dates: Mid December through mid April

Number Of Lifts: 4

2005/06 Ticket Prices: (Adult/Youth): $44/$25 (Children under seven are free.)

Parks: 1

Snowskating: No

Phone: (928) 779-1951

Web Site: arizonasnowbowl.com

Airport Hub: Phoenix or Flagstaff

Snowboard Shop: Aspen Sports, (928) 779-1935

Photo: Kevin Zacher