North America has proved an interesting testing ground for indoor snow centres.
More than 100 of these centres have been built in around 40 countries on six continents over the past three decades, yet an indoor snow centre – at least one for skiing or snowboarding – is yet to actually open in the US or Canada.
It’s rather odd and it’s not for want of trying. There have been dozens and dozens of indoor snow centres proposed in both countries since the late 1980s, when the first appeared in Europe, Australia and Japan.
One was actually built just over a decade ago in a multi-billion pound leisure and retail development currently known as ‘American Dream Meadowlands’ (but then as ‘Xanadu’) in New Jersey which is now on to its third corporate owner and still hasn’t opened.
Snow was actually made in the completed facility in 2008 but the project stalled with the global economic crash… It has been moving again in recent years though and the latest of very many hoped for opening dates is “sometime this summer” (following on from “sometime in spring 2019, since that date passed).
The lack of an existing indoor snow centre for skiing and boarding in the US is not for want of trying. But of there numerous proposals over the past 30 years, only Meadowlands managed to secure finance to actually build one.
One project for Anaheim in California nearly 20 years ago even secured the backing of Mammoth Mountain to run it, but it was never built.
In the meantime, indoor ski centres have opened in countries like India, New Zealand, Viet Nam and even ‘Ski Egypt’ from the team behind Ski Dubai, so Africa got indoor skiing before North America.
There is an indoor snow centre in the Americas too, it’s just south of the equator in Brazil, South America.
An indoor snow centre has in fact opened in the US though, in Pigeonforge Tennessee – it’s just that it only offers tubing, not skiing or boarding.
There’s some bemusement among the companies that help build indoor snow centres and an unshaken belief that once they finally get a centre open in North America it will be the golden egg and many more will follow.
To that end, the latest announcement from a new US division of one of Europe’s biggest operator of indoor snow centres, the SnowWorld group, that they indeed have plans for a series of at least 10 indoor snow centres across the US could, finally, be the start of something big.
Working with American partners under the name AlpineX, SnowWorld has initially unveiled plans for the slope which could be built on a former landfill site in Fairfax County, Virginia.
The plans announced in March and recently reported to be moving forward through the planning system are for a 450,000- square-foot snow sports facility with a 1,700-foot ski slope. That’s about 510 metres, in line with SnowWorld’s existing biggest centre at Landgraaf in the Netherlands and one of the 10 longest in the world at present. It would also be around double the length of the existing unopened ‘Big Snow’ facility at the Meadowlands development in New Jersey.
The local government in the area say they were first approached with the idea two years ago, and that they’re keen,
“The fiscal, sports and community benefits of this opportunity are numerous, including new jobs, exciting new snow sports opportunities, the potential for high school ski teams, new hotel and restaurant amenities for the South County area, premier national competitions and financial benefits to our taxpayers from the lease, sales tax and hotel tax revenue streams. I am extremely excited to partner with Alpine-X to develop a unique downhill snow sports destination right here in Fairfax County,” said Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity.
As usual, the facility would have multiple runs, a terrain park, nursery slope and support facilities including a 100-plus room luxury hotel at its base and additional attractions like a gravity-powered, mountain coaster that will slide from the summit to Occoquan Regional Park.
The project would be environmentally sustainable as well. Fairfax Peak plans to incorporate green and energy efficient technologies in its buildings. For example, the company says it will collaborate with Covanta’s private waste-to-energy plant to capture and re-use steam; reuse grey water and use solar energy. The facility also will open its doors to local colleges and universities that wish to test new environmental technologies.
Further planning and feasibility announcements are expected over the coming months but Alpine X is reported to be considering more venues for additional facilities too.
North America would certainly be the last big market for indoor snow centres to capture. Most of the facilities built since the economic crash have been in China, India and elsewhere in Asia, with construction in Europe largely stalled although one of the world’s biggest will open in Oslo in January and a new site is due to start construction shortly at Swindon in the UK, with another planned for Wales.