Mt Lemmon is one of the primary attractions in Tucson, Arizona.
There’s a million different ways to explore Mt Lemmon but one of the coolest ways to check out the scenery is to book a ride on the Ski Valley Sky Ride. In this article, I’ll give you an idea what to expect when riding the Ski Valley Sky Ride (outside of ski season).
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Mt Lemmon Ski Valley Sky Ride
The Ski Valley Sky Ride is a ski lift ride that lasts approximately 30 minutes round-trip. It offers sweeping views near the summit of Mount Lemmon and takes you up on a mountain ridge over 9,000 feet in elevation where you can explore different viewpoints and venture down different trails.
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Mt Lemmon Ski Valley Sky Ride Prices
The Mt Lemmon Ski Valley Sky Ride is open every day except for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The prices for the sky ride are below:
- Adult (18-64): $15
- Seniors (65 and up): $12
- Military: $12
- Youth (13-17): $12
- Children (4-12): $10
- Children 3 and under, free
You can purchase your tickets at the Motherlode Gift Shop, were you can also find souvenirs and items like beanies, gloves, stuff animals, etc.
It’s also next to the Miner’s Sweet Tooth fudge shop where you can purchase fudge and Grub Stake where you can grab hot food items like pizza.
If you’re more interested in sitting down at a restaurant there is the Iron Door pretty close by, which is an American restaurant located near the entrance of Ski Valley.
Mt Lemmon Ski Valley Sky Ride experience
As you head up Mount Lemmon, you need to take the turn towards Ski Valley on E Ski Run Road. Just look for the sign for Ski Valley and make sure that you don’t head towards Summerhaven.
Once you get up there, you should be able to find parking in a pretty good sized parking lot. (If you need to go to the bathroom they have portable toilets up there.)
To purchase your tickets head inside the Motherlode Gift Shop.
Tickets will be good for a round-trip ride which will take about 30 minutes total.
You’ll lineup at the base station and handover your ticket stubs and then two people can be seated in each ski lift chair.
They space out the rides to optimize the balance and so there may be 3 to 4 ski lift chairs between each person or couple riding. This is an added plus in my opinion because it contributes to a quieter experience.
When it is your time to board, you’ll be called to stand on a line and the chair will come up behind you without stopping (unless you’re having issues).
You’ll then sit down on it and the tip bar will be pushed down which acts as sort of your seatbelt. You can rest your feet on the bar below you or you can simply let them dangle — it’s up to you.
Tip: Keep your legs pointed towards the edge of the seat so that you don’t get your knee knocked by the bar that comes down in the middle.
It’s a pretty smooth ride up to the top but it may occasionally pause due to people getting on or off. You also might experience a slight bounce but nothing too scary.
Also, you’ll find signs reminding you to not bounce the chair yourself and this is for your own good.
It’s a very peaceful and quiet ride as well which is perfect for taking in the beautiful forest scenery with towering pines and fir trees.
As you admire the vegetation, it feels like you’ve been instantly transported to Colorado which is one of the coolest things about living in the Tucson area.
Be sure to say hello to the bear if you spot him!
Even if it is warm at the base of the mountain when you begin your drive up, temperatures can be quite cool and breezy at the ski lift. So I would recommend wearing some type of jacket especially if you are prone to get cold.
Once you arrive at the top you’ll need to push up the tip bar as you approach the station.
If there are two people in the chair, each person will step off towards the direction that they are seated on. So for example, the person sitting on the left steps off to the left and the person sitting on the right steps off to the right.
A staff member will be up there to assist you if needed but you can just walk off the boarding platform once you’ve exited the chair.
(If you don’t want to hop off you can just stay in your chair and head back down but I would recommend hopping off just to explore a little bit.)
At the top, you’ll be able to walk along the ridgeline which has great views of Tucson.
You can see all of the surrounding mountain ranges like the Rincon Mountain and Santa Rita Mountains, including the tallest peak in the area Mount Wrightson.
There will be a dirt path you can walk along that will lead to a nice overlook and also lead you to different trailheads. This area was recently affected by a bad fire in 2020 so you’ll also see some of the burned areas.
The wind can start to pick up once you are up on the ridge so again a jacket really does come in handy.
If you want to do a hike, you can choose from several different trails.
A few things to keep in mind about these trails.
First, as just mentioned a major wildfire made its way through here so some of the trails are still recovering. You might have to deal with ash and loose dirt which can be a little bit of a problem on steep terrain. For that reason, some of the trails might be closed whenever you arrive.
Second, because you are pretty much starting at the top of the mountain these trails are going to lead you down and up. It will be similar to a canyon hike and so keep in mind that for every step you take down hill you will also need to head back up.
The Meadow and Mount Lemmon Trail #5 Loop is a pretty easy and short trail you can do which will not require you to make a lot of preparation.
One of my favorite trails is the Marshall Gulch Trail/Aspen Trail. You can access the trail from the top of the ski lift but it’s much better to start this at a different trailhead located at the end of North Sabino Canyon Creek Road (near the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area).
If you want to do a strenuous trail consider the Lemmon Lookout, Wilderness of Rocks, and Mount Lemmon Trail Loop. It’s about 9 miles round-trip with approximately 2,300 feet elevation gain.
Those are only a couple of trails you can begin from this area though as there are dozens of trails that go out in all different directions.
If you want to go to the very top of Mount Lemmon you need to book some type of tour that will take you up there.
They have some really cool astronomy stations and telescopes and they offer experiences to the public which you can book in advance.
Also, you can take a mountain bike back down although that is considered a very advanced route so only very experienced mountain bikers should attempt that.
The Mt Lemmon Ski Valley Sky Ride is a nice little attraction, perfect for escaping the desert heat. You’ll get to experience nature in a unique way and take in some great views from over 9,000 feet in elevation!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.