One thing we miss from Illinois is snow. It never snows in Phoenix, though it has hailed twice. Fortunately, all we have to do is go a few hours north, where the elevation is 6,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level and there is snow in some areas. The route we took to get there, Taking 60 East from Mesa to Show Low is magnificent most of the way. Everyone has heard about The Grand Canyon and it truly is breath-taking. But the canyon lands we passed through between Globe and Show Low are also amazing and beautiful. The really interesting part of the trip is that 90% of the drive was spent without seeing a bit of snow. Then, for the last hour, we would see bits of snow on the side, in the shady areas. It wasn't until we got into Pinetop proper that we saw a consistent bed of snow, but even that wouldn't have given us much hope for more if we hadn't been watching the snow report for Sunrise Ski Park. Sunrise is about 40 minutes from Pinetop as you head east toward Greer. It has downhill skiing/snowboarding hills, sledding hills and cross-country skiing trails. The previous weekend, our Young Life leaders took their students to Sunrise for a day of sledding. Our original plan was to spend three nights and two days in snowy bliss. We stayed at a cabin in Premiere Vacation Club at Roundhouse in Pinetop. The cabins looked like double-wides with a facade of log cabin pine. Each cabin had a little porch near the front door which remained unused. The inside was very nice, but whenever I looked at the wrought-iron light fixtures with antler motifs in them, I heard Gaston from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" singing "I use antlers for all of my decorating..." We didn't spend much time in our cabin.
The cross-country trails in Sunrise Ski Park were not groomed for classical cross country skiing, which involves forming two grooves into the snow to guide the skis so that all you had to do was focus on going forward. Instead, it was groomed for skate skiing, which was great for Eric, but not so great for beginning skiers, like the kids. Furthermore, the skis that Sunrise Rentals had for the boys really were horrible--1/4 inch thick plastic sheets with some buckles to hold their boots to the skiis. By the end of the day, when they were tired, those plastic sheets weren't strong enough to keep their shoes straight, causing so many problems, especially for my youngest. Skiing in Arizona is a lot different from skiing in the north because the temperatures get in the 40's and 50's by mid-afternoon. We all started out in the morning with light winter coats, hats, and gloves because the wind was gusting. However, within thirty minutes, most of us had shed everything but the jacket. I was wearing a long-sleeved bicycle jersey with pockets in the back that soon became stuffed with hats and gloves from me and a couple of other kids. I probably looked like either a hunchback or Aunt Fanny in "Robots". We had fun and challenges throughout the day. We skied twice for a couple of hours each time with a break in between for lunch and hot cocoa at the ski lodge. The cocoa break allowed us to watch downhill skiers and snowboarders. At least one of the kids wants to return and learn how to snowboard. The afternoon session was a little more challenging, with sticky, slushy snow, a long initial climb, and then a descent down the same hill at the end. John had to stop halfway through the loop and walk, dragging his skis and poles behind him. Eric and Elizabeth were the only two who skied all the way back down the hill to the parking lot. By the time we reached the hill again to go down, my legs were shot from not exercising regularly. The whole time there was only one other cross-country skier on the trail with us and we met up with him two or three times during the day. It was a good day. That night, we realized that we should have brought sunscreen and pain relief medication for the sore muscles. The next day, instead of sledding, we decided to utilize the club's pool. It was lovely--heated to just below skin temperature with a hot tub that helped our aching muscles. After swimming we packed, checked out, and headed home. Below are some pictures from our trip:
Driving along 60 East
I loved catching a glimpse of the canyon lands and trying to get a pictures. If you don't like heights, like my husband, this view creates different feelings. His eyes were glued to the road for more than one reason.
This rounded rock formation reminded me of scenes from "Cars." It seemed as if we drove all the way around it, though I know we couldn't have. The blurry bit in the front is a bit of plant sticking up. All of these pictures were taken from the passenger seat of our Chevy Suburban.
Another beautiful rock formation. So many of them point up to the sky, as if they want to direct our eyes to the One who made them.
Three kids waiting for the youngest to catch up with them. This was at the top of a long hill. This was taken during our afternoon run, when the snow was sticky, which made it easier getting up than if the snow had been really slick. Kyle is wearing a light jacket, Elizabeth has a jacket wrapped around her waist in case she gets cold, and Jessi is wearing fleece. No one is wearing mittens or hats because they aren't needed.
John skiing up at the end of the climb. Behind him is the downhill ski slopes. I think this climb took most of his energy. Eric stayed with him to encourage him going up. John is also wearing a light jacket with no mittens or hat.
This is a picture of the whole gang, including Eric. He is wearing skate skiis. Skate cross-country skiing is just what it sounds like. You push your legs in the same motion as when ice skating while wearing long, wide boards on your feet instead of short, thin blades. You can see the "V" marks Eric has made in the snow. All the kids LOVED cross country skiing, especially Elizabeth, who is the small red dot farthest from me. We are thinking of making this an annual pilgrimage, though we might try getting some skis for the boys at pro shops in Pinetop until they are big enough to get decent boots and skis from the Sunrise facility.