- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Hundreds of people have been showing up at a ski area outside Flagstaff with sleds and sliding down a hill near a parking lot despite signs warning against it.

The biggest demand came last weekend when there were an estimated 600 sledders on one day. Flagstaff had no snow on the ground at the time, making the ski area the place to be.

“There is a great demand for people wanting to play in the snow and when there’s not snow in and around Flagstaff, they tend to migrate up here because we have snow,” said J.R. Murray, general manager of Arizona Snowbowl.

The ski area posts signs that say “No Tubing or Sledding!” but people show up anyway and slide down a small hill just off a parking lot.

Snowbowl is forbidding the practice Saturday and continuing through the new year because it needs the parking lot to accommodate the large crowds of skiers and snowboarders who hit the slopes during the busy holiday week. Workers will be stationed along the road leading up to the ski area to make sure only skiers and snowboarders - and not sledders - are getting in.

But the restrictions could be a moot point because snow is forecast for the city of Flagstaff this weekend, allowing sledding hills there to open up for the throngs of snow-seekers.

Wing Mountain Snow Play Area said it plans to open Sunday, Christmas Day.

Snow is a big draw around Flagstaff. Phoenix residents who never see a snowflake let alone a snowdrift are drawn to the novelty of it, as are warm-climate tourists in Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon. The result is big traffic backups in Flagstaff as families flock to play in the snow.

“It overwhelms the community and then they park illegally, on highways and private property,” Murray said.

And when there’s no snow in Flagstaff, people head up the mountain to Snowbowl.

“Because snow is such novelty in Arizona, we’ve become a de facto tourist attraction and people want to come up here and play in the snow,” Murray said.

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