Indoor Skiing Comes to America with Big Snow

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Olympians catch the first chair at Big Snow American Dream in New Jersey.

This was the first and hopefully last opening day ever for Big Snow American Dream, the only year-round, real snow ski area in the Americas.  New Jersey is now one of the most accessible places to learn ski and snowboard, with two thirds of guests expected to be beginners.  About a dozen similar snow parks operate in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

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The mountain made of steel is one of what will be hundreds of tenants at American Dream, a $5 billion shopping and entertainment destination just five miles from midtown Manhattan.  With Big Snow plus a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, Legoland Discovery Center and DreamWorks waterpark, American Dream hopes to buck the trend of malls in decline by focusing outside of retail.

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The BIG Express Quad, built in 2008, opened to the public today for the first time.

Canadian developer Triple Five Group managed to finish a job which first broke ground in 2004.  What was then known as Meadowlands Xanadu had its lifts installed in 2008, only to see zero snow and not a skier for 11 years.  I’m told the big lift had only about 50 hours on it until a few weeks ago.  After taking over the troubled project, Triple Five principal Don Ghermezian partnered with Snow Operating to bring the ski experience to life.  Snow is the ski industry disruptor behind Mountain Creek Resort and the Terrain Based Learning program in use across the country.  Before today’s first chair, Snow Operating President and CEO Joe Hession presented the Ghermezian family an Austrian bell like those seen at many Doppelmayr lift openings.

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A column in the middle triples as support for the building, foundation for the top chairlift terminal and an emergency exit stairway.

Two main lifts each rise 160 feet with approximately 700 feet of slope length.  The BIG Express quad is a Doppelmayr CTEC Sprint model with a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour at full speed.  A parallel lift called The Poma (though also built by Doppelmayr) runs virtually the same alignment but was not operating today.  It really isn’t needed unless the quad goes down.  What’s wild is all of the towers come down from the ceiling, leaving every inch of snow for skiing and snowboarding.  Rounding out the lift offerings are two 225 foot conveyors from Magic Carpet Ski Lifts.

Olympians Lindsey Vonn, Red Gerard, Donna Weinbrecht and Kelly Clark shared the first quad chair just after 11:00, surrounded by champagne flutes and gathered media.  Alberta native Don Ghermezian kept calling the slope a hill, which it is if you look only by the numbers.  But everything else about Big Snow is substantial – from the 300-plus employees on staff to 5,500 tons of snow and 500,000 visitors expected to ski here yearly.  Snow Operating expects this one facility to increase skiing/snowboarding trials nationwide by more than 10 percent.

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This carpet services the easiest run called Lil’ Dipper.

The experience is designed to complement rather than compete with traditional ski resorts.  Packages start as low as $49.99 and parking is free.  Rentals of skis/snowboards/boots come with jackets, helmets and pants for anyone to walk in and enjoy a day on snow.  Guests purchase an entry time but the clock doesn’t start until they begin skiing, removing the traditional rush to get ready.  Everyone passes through a “gondola,” where a video runs through the basics.

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Big Snow partners include Head skis, Burton snowboards and Prinoth, the Italian snow grooming company which shares ownership with Leitner-Poma.  An awesomely-wrapped Husky X sits at the base of the chairlift and remote controlled versions are available for sale nearby.

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A ride up the chair takes only a few minutes and you can get a ton of runs with only an hour or two of time invested.  Snow conditions were excellent this afternoon as you’d expect when all the variables are controlled.  Radiant cooling from below keeps everything at 28 degrees between 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.  When making snow at night, the Big Snow team drops the temp and humidity.  Apparently very little melting occurs because there’s no sunshine.  As the slogan goes, every day is a snow day.

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17 thoughts on “Indoor Skiing Comes to America with Big Snow

  1. Skiz December 5, 2019 / 6:50 pm

    And a new era of skiing enters the u.s., congrats to triple five group on finally finishing this place!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. powderforever45 December 5, 2019 / 8:06 pm

    Are there any other possible site for indoor ski areas in the US and Canada?

    Like

    • skitheeast February 4, 2021 / 6:22 pm

      Triple Five Group, which owns the American Dream mall, is planning on constructing a second indoor ski slope at the new mall they are building in Miami. There is another proposal in Fairfax County, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. to build an indoor ski slope on top of an old landfill. I do not know of any other serious proposals in the country.

      Cities I believe have a shot at supporting and sustaining an indoor ski slope would also include Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Vegas. Vegas would need to be attached to a casino, like the roller coaster at New York New York.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Utah Powder Skier February 4, 2021 / 7:45 pm

        I think Dallas, Houston and Atlanta have a good chance. Chicago has Wilmot not too far away. As for Texas, it sounds like a great idea to keep Texans skiing in Texas rather than them skiing out of control in the surrounding states. The Vegas casinos make crazy money, they could definitely afford to cool an indoor ski area. People want to get out of the Vegas heat and I think that would do very well.

        Like

  3. Somebody December 5, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    Before it was repainted, the outside of this building actually became somewhat famous in New Jersey because it was incredibly ugly, and at one point (before the rest of the mall went up) you could see it very clearly while driving by on the turnpike.

    Picture before it was repainted:

    Also it’s fairly ironic that you came to Jersey on the one day of the year when there was more snow in the parking lot than inside the indoor ski area. What are the odds?

    Like

  4. Todd December 6, 2019 / 12:06 am

    Even though there is a ski area about 60 miles out
    Side of town, Las Vegas would be a possibility.
    And Phoenix/Tucson.

    Like

    • Utah Powder Skier February 4, 2021 / 5:45 pm

      I don’t think an indoor ski area in Vegas would be a good idea. Not only is there Ski Las Vegas, but if skiers in the area want to go to a bigger ski area, there’s Brian Head, which is about a day’s drive from Vegas. As for the Phoenix area, I think it may have a chance. My only concern is that Snowbowl is a little close for an indoor area to stay in business there. Also, it would take a lot of power to cool down an indoor ski area in both Vegas and Phoenix. They both get some extreme heat in the summer. I’m sure the Vegas casinos have the money for that though.

      Like

      • skitheeast February 4, 2021 / 6:26 pm

        I do not think indoor slopes are really a competition for outdoor ones, as they are really appealing to different demographics when done like Big Snow. In the winter, they are appealing to beginners because they are not as intimidating as actual mountains. As the thought of skiing fades away from first-timers in the summer, more experienced skiers take their place as they are the only option for skiing.

        Like

  5. Thomas Jett December 6, 2019 / 1:13 am

    Would it be possible to build an indoor area onto an existing hill, to cut down costs?

    Like

  6. Will December 6, 2019 / 1:23 am

    I’m sorry, but the inner conservationist in me has serious qualms about places like these. I’m curious about the amount of electricity used to keep the building cool.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman December 6, 2019 / 5:01 am

      A little research pegs the average ice rink consuming around 2,000,000 kWh per year. The square footage at Big Snow is a little over 8 times an NHL rink so maybe around 17,000,000 kWh not including snowmaking, etc. I would be interested to know how overall consumption compares with other northeast ski resorts which make much larger quantities of snow over and over as it melts.

      Like

  7. Ken December 6, 2019 / 10:30 am

    I would think that a bigger issue would be humidity in the summer. Removing humidity requires a lot of energy. In the summer the humidity is very high in NJ unless everyone wants to ski in the fog all summer.

    Like

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