Mount Lemmon Ski Valley has many of the things it needs for a good season: a scenic setting, ski lift in regular operation, cozy restaurant and plenty of parking.
Trails and roads in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson are open during the government shutdown — and visitors to the heights will find cool autumn air and trees showing off in the golden hues of the season.
Summer officially expires on Sunday — but Tucson is still sweltering with highs at or near 100 degrees even as the first faint signs of fall color appear in the Catalina Mountains north of the city.
There is something quite wondrous about breaking a fresh trail - in science, in art and even in a medium as simple, and yet sublime, as new-fallen snow.
Though tracks lead every which way, this snowboarder at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley has a route all planned out. "It's been really good this year - good snow and good crowds," said Graham Davies, general manager of Ski Valley, which opened on Dec. 20.
Skiing enthusiasts Mary Cavada, 8, and her father, Francisco, take advantage of the excellent conditions at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley.
Skiers are schussing the slopes of Mount Lemmon Ski Valley on 29 inches of natural snow - while more northerly ski areas such as the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff rely partly on artificial snowmaking.
The highway up Mount Lemmon remains closed to most travelers due to severe weather conditions. However, the road reopened at noon to visitors with four-wheel drive or tire chains.
It's one of the wonderful, quirky pleasures of life in Tucson: finding fantastic fall foliage in the Catalina Mountains barely an hour's drive from our desert city.
The forest floor near East Bear Wallow Road has a painted look these days, with fallen leaves creating patches of color.
Autumn is subtle in the lower desert, but fall colors abound now in Catalinas.