Keeping Cool in Texas: Indoor Ski Resort Coming to the US
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Even if you hate the cold and the snow on principle, there’s a certain something about jetting down the slopes at high speeds on skis. Winter sports have been synonymous with extreme athletes on one end of the spectrum and keeping your sanity by staying active during the North’s long winters on the other. But a new trend of indoor ski resorts suggests that winter sports offer an experience worthy of exploring, regardless of the destination. Excitingly, a new indoor ski resort may be coming to the sweltering plains of Northern Texas.
Indoor ski slopes aren’t a new idea. These climate controlled environments feature faux snow from a snow cannon and allow guests to ski, snowboard, and generally frolic regardless of what’s happening outdoors weather-wise. From an experience design perspective, they have a long and storied history. The first indoor snow slope opened in Vienna in the 1920’s, and stayed open until the 1940s. Subsequently, entrepreneurs commercialized the idea in places as far afield as Southern Australia.
Today, brands such as Chill Factore in the UK, SnowWorld in the Netherlands, and Alpin Center in Germany are carrying on the tradition. Perhaps the development that has attracted the most attention in this entertainment category in recent years is Ski Dubai. Ski Dubai was the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort. The contrast between the interior chilled environment and desert exteriors that often reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit created a novelty for international travelers. Meanwhile, local enthusiasts have found it to be a great way to escape the heat during hot days in the UAE.
A significant amount of theming and engineering goes into the design of both the slopes and the systems that make it possible to create and maintain the necessary cold temperatures. The Science Channel (see the video imbedded in this post) explained the process used by Ski Dubai. A high-end cooling system is essential for keeping the snow from turning into slush. The facility uses technology similar to your refrigerator, but on a massive scale. Sixty miles of pipes below the building feed ammonia gas which is electrically cooled to – 29 degrees Fahrenheit and liquefied. Then it passes through a heat exchanger, where another chemical cocktail in turn has its temperature reduced. The cold fluid passes through a pipe system embedded into the floor and cools the water used by the snowmaking machine.
Eager guests may soon have a chance to experience an indoor ski resort right here in the US. A group of investors are planning to develop a 58 acre plot of land in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie. The ski resort would feature a 300 room Hard Rock hotel and a 1900 foot indoor ski slope. According to a press release by the organizers: “The indoor ski resort will be a year-round, world-class fourth generation indoor facility with restaurants and specialty retail, and will be integrated with the Hard Rock hotel. The snow dome will offer indoor ski slope measuring nearly 300 feet tall and 1200 feet long, an indoor ice climbing wall, luge track and winter wonderland play area.”
If the concept sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time that an indoor ski resort has been proposed in Texas. But as the Dallas Morning News so eloquently put it, those opportunities “melted with the economy.” Still, enough signals are in place that suggest The Grand Alps resort might be a go. A group of foreign investors, a great location, and a partnership with the Hard Rock Hotel group are all in place.
If the Grand Alps succeeds, will this kick off a trend of indoor ski resorts in other parts of the country? How will the design go beyond just “a ski slope” to offer an immersive experience that’s interesting enough to keep people coming back for more? A lot of questions remain unanswered, but we’re interested to explore what the Grand Alps project has in store.