Friends of Northern Arizona Forests

Issuing Back Country Permits

Friends of Northern Arizona Forests assists the Forest Service in issuing back country permits at Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort after the ski area opens for the winter season. Each person who wishes to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or alpine climb into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness from Snowbowl or Snowbowl Road must obtain a (free) back country permit.

The goals of the permit system are numerous.

  • To make the public aware of the back country hazards that can be encountered when leaving the patrolled and avalanche-controlled ski resort terrain.

  • To educate the public in basic wilderness preparedness and avalanche safety.Current weather and snow conditions can be found on these two websites:   

    1.  Peaks Recreational Forecast
    2.  Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center Snow Summaries
  • To provide data for further avalanche awareness training sessions.

  • To track winter visitor use in the back country.

  • To record information that would help if Search & Rescue operations become necessary.


Process and Location

The permits themselves are issued by two-person teams from the comfort of Agassiz Lodge between the hours of 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. on weekends. Each person who seeks a permit receives a briefing on winter Wilderness preparedness and avalanche safety. A written list of talking points and some literature to hand out enable even new volunteers to perform the briefing competently. More than 700 of the season-long permits have been issued during each of the last few winters.



Any FoNAF member may issue permits. Unless you have issued back country permits before, you will need to spend a morning working with an experienced person before you take on the job yourself (as a full-fledged member of a two-person team). To make training a productive process, we ask that you be prepared to serve subsequently for three or more mornings during the ski season (provided that you find the job something that you want to do).

Scheduling Your Days

The schedule for who works when will be available on-line. Signing up will be easy, and if you need to cancel, there will be someone whom you can call or send an email.

Getting to Snowbowl

If you have a government driver’s license, then you may use a Forest Service truck (from the Flagstaff Ranger Station) to drive to Snowbowl. Otherwise, you’ll need to use your own vehicle and observe whatever regulations about four-wheel drive or chains are in effect for the Snowbowl road.

Additional benefits

After issuing permits in the morning, you may be able to spend the rest of your day assisting with patrol and contacts within the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area. You may work with Forest Service Snow Rangers on patrol--using skis, snowshoes, or a snowboard--to contact and educate winter recreationalists, both those who remain in the ski area and those looking to travel in the back country. The Forest Service will arrange for ski lift access for these volunteer opportunities. The options depend, in part, on your experience and comfort level. In any event, you'll have the opportunity to spend time enjoying the snow while conveying important forest information to winter visitors.

Your next step

Folks who have issued permits in the past have enjoyed their conversations with the public. It’s warm inside, and you are helping folks have safe winter trips into our wonderful back country. To volunteer or to get more information, please email or phone any one of the following persons.

Dave Downes 522-9207

Jim and Pat McGeorge


Patrick McGervey 527-8234

Dave Downes is FoNAF's coordinator for the Back Country Permits project.

Jim and Pat McGeorge have spent many hours issuing permits and can tell you, first hand, what it’s like.

Patrick McGervey,a Recreation Planner, is the Forest Service person in charge of the entire operation.

The Forest Service describes the backcountry permit and its purpose on its website. The most reliable route: go to and click on "Passes and Permits" in the sidebar.  Then click on "Recreation Passes and Permits" and scroll down for the backcountry information. 

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