PHOENIX ‒ The combination of snow in the forecast and holidays can be a magnet for those looking to ski, sled or toss a few snowballs.
If you’re heading to play in the snow over Christmas or New Year’s weekends, leave prepared for the strong possibility that you’ll see heavy traffic and delays, especially on the trip home, in popular areas such as US 180 northwest of Flagstaff.
At day’s end, when people start heading home on US 180, it can take 90 minutes or longer to get back to Flagstaff.
Leave prepared to spend more time than you may expect in winter weather. The Arizona Department of Transportation’s tips for winter driving in Arizona’s high country, available at azdot.gov/KnowSnow, include dressing for the cold and packing coats, blankets, gloves and scarves. Make sure you have a fully charged cellphone and plenty of water and snacks, and keep your tank half to three-quarters full at all times.
Travelers should resist the temptation to stop on highway shoulders to play in the snow, in part because plows throw snow and ice far from the roadway. In addition, other drivers may be distracted by your vehicle and first responders may need to use the shoulder. Exit highways and park in designated areas.
Those heading to snow-play sites along US 180 may want to consider making an earlier start home, as on busy days traffic builds toward Flagstaff throughout the afternoon. When they reach Flagstaff, drivers taking Interstate 17 south can save time by following a marked alternate route to Interstate 40 at Butler Avenue, via Switzer Canyon Road and Route 66, and then heading west to I-17. A map of this route is available at FlagstaffArizona.org (follow the Winter Snow Play link).
Information on designated snow-play areas around Flagstaff is available at FlagstaffArizona.org (follow the Winter Snow Play link) or by calling 1-844-256-SNOW.
For the latest highway conditions around the state, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at az511.gov or call 511. ADOT’s accounts on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) and Facebook (facebook.com/AZDOT) are excellent sources of information and interaction.