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At 7,000 feet above sea level, Flagstaff historically has been one of the snowiest cities in the United States, receiving an average of thirty-five days of snow a year. Though annual snowpack is highly variable, total accumulations frequently exceed 100 inches. Over the years, students have made snow a part of campus culture.

In 1933, Arizona State Teachers College at Flagstaff held its first annual Winter Sports Carnival. Activities such as sledding, skiing, snowball fights, and snow sculpture contests quickly made the carnival one of the students’ favorite events. The winter carnival has changed over time and is now often held inside the Field House in mid-February.

Also founded in 1933, the College's ski club developed runs on the western slopes of the San Francisco Peaks. Created in 1938, Arizona Snowbowl built upon this early trail system and is now one of the oldest continually operated ski areas in the country. In the 1960s, students could enroll in beginning and intermediate skiing classes for college credit. Today, a downhill skiing/snowboarding class is still offered.