When snow beckons, leave prepared for cold and for heavy traffic

When snow beckons, leave prepared for cold and for heavy traffic

By David Woodfill / ADOT Communications
December 31, 2019

Playing in snow at I-17 interchangeIf you’re planning on heading to the high country to frolic, romp and make general merriment in snow, it may seem like everyone and their cousin has the same idea.

This is the era of Instagram, after all. All those social media feeds aren’t going to fill themselves with spontaneous, uncannily photogenic magic-hour selfies. Larger crowds also tend to gather on weekends around the holidays, especially along US 180 northwest of Flagstaff.

That can means lots of traffic and delays. It also can mean potential safety problems when some snow-players try parking along highways, which is a big no-no. Highway shoulders are for emergencies only, so for your safety and the safety of others you need to park in designated areas. 

The photo at right, from a few years ago, shows people making the unsafe decision to play in the snow at an Interstate 17 interchange ramp. Bad idea. 

If you plan to go and can commit to parking safely, you'll need to pack plenty of patience and some old-fashioned common sense along with coats, blankets, food, water and other essentials.

Plan your trip. If your destination is the Flagstaff area, the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau lists designated snow-play locations at 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 or calling 511 will alert you to incidents as well as snow and ice on the road. For I-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, 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.

Finally, you may be able to save yourself time by heading home earlier in an attempt to beat the rush. 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.

ADOT offers more tips to help you get ready at


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