Tucson skiers and riders got a boost when Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley opened in late December. The small ski hill in the Coronado National Forest high above Tucson is the southernmost resort in the continental U.S. It doesn't always get a chance to open for many days, but the El Niño weather brought enough snow to crank up the lifts for the season.

Twenty inches of snow allowed Mt. Lemmon to start up its lifts Christmas Eve. The lifts continue to operate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days per week, Thursdays through Mondays.

Lift tickets cost $37 for adults and $20 for children 12 years old and younger. Seniors and military personnel can get discounts. Half-day tickets starting at 12:30 p.m. are also available.

Both skis and snowboards are available to rent with rated running $17-35. Those renting snowboards with boots also need to leave a $300 deposit. Mt. Lemmon's Ski School offers lessons for skiers and snowboarders. Group and private lessons are available for $21-55.

The Grub Stake patio café is open weekends during the ski season. The restaurant serves up burgers and chili.

Call to be sure the ski area is open before driving about one hour from Tucson. It's a good idea to check Pima Country road conditions before driving through the Santa Catalina Mountains to the slopes. Chains or four-wheel drive vehicles are often required above milepost 14 during storms.

More information. Or call the snow report, 520-576-1321; road condition hotline, 520-547-7510.