Playing in the Snow? Be Prepared

Traffic backs up on U.S. Route 180 near Arizona Snowbowl in 2015. | Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

Does word of snow in the high country put you in the mood to sled, ski, throw snowballs or build Frosty? The Arizona Department of Transportation has some rules of the road for those wanting to play in the snow: It’s unsafe to park along highway shoulders to play, and you also shouldn’t sled or play on slopes next to highways.

Safety begins with equipping yourself, your passengers and your vehicle for the trip. Take winter coats, blankets, a fully charged cellphone and portable charger, plenty of fuel, drinking water, snacks and essential medications. ADOT offers more tips to help you get ready at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

Use designated parking areas and never stop along highways to play in the snow. Highway shoulders are for emergencies, and stopping there can put you, your passengers and other drivers at risk. First responders often need to use highway shoulders, and a snowplow can hurl snow and ice far off the highway.

Signs along US 180 northwest of Flagstaff note that highway shoulders are for emergencies only.

Research where you plan to play in the snow and what designated parking is available there. If your destination is the Flagstaff area, the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau lists snow-play locations at FlagstaffArizona.org (follow the Winter Recreation link) and offers a hotline at 844.256.SNOW.

Be sure to check highway conditions before hitting the road and look at the latest weather forecast. Visiting ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov or calling 511 will alert you to incidents as well as snow and ice on the road. For Interstate 17 travelers, ADOT’s message boards now provide estimated travel times to Flagstaff, Prescott and other popular high-country destinations.

The free ADOT Alerts app, available for iOS and Android devices at ADOTAlerts.com, will notify users about weather-related delays and closures. In addition, it will alert those along US 180 if delays back to Flagstaff appear likely.

While those visiting popular snow-play sites can possibly avoid delays by making an earlier start back, there are no guarantees. If your trip back toward the Valley takes you on US 180 through Flagstaff, you can save time by using a marked alternate route to Interstate 40 at Butler Avenue, via Switzer Canyon Drive and Route 66, and then heading west to I-17.

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