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Tue, Feb. 18

An afternoon in Flagstaff can be a lofty experience

Kachina Trail near the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort takes hikers through stands of aspen trees and past granite outcroppings and open meadows. The trail, which enters the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area, is popular in the fall, when the leaves change colors.

Although dozens of people rode the "scenic skyway" one day this past week, the crowds at the resort were nothing like those that can throng the resort on a busy winter day. The laid-back attendants who greeted the riders as they exited the lifts estimated that about one in 20 of the seats were occupied.

Families, young couples, and retirees made up the line-up that took the half-hour ride to the 11,500-foot summit.

Once at the top, the views are definitely the centerpiece. On a clear day, the high perch offers glimpses of the red rocks of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, according to National Park Service interpretive ranger Joe Labak.

This past Friday, however, smoke from the nearby Trick Fire obliterated some of the range. Even so, much of Flagstaff was visible, along with closer Northern Arizona landmarks.

And for desert dwellers, the mountain climate can also be a treat. Even on a day that was hot throughout the rest of the state, Snowbowl was cool – so much so that a jacket and pants are advisable on the lift ride to the top. While the temperature at the lodge (at 9,500 feet) was about 69 degrees, it dropped to about 60 degrees at the summit. Gusty winds on the way up brought the comfort level down even more.

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