Winter Fun in the Summer Sun
You can never get too much of a good thing, right?
But if your idea of a good thing is making turns on your skis and/or snowboard, the months between April and December is hardly a period of good times. After the snow is gone, it’s simply rocks, brush and weeds delineating your favorite lines at the local ski hill. You’re jonesing for a big powder dump, and winter seems a million light years away.
However, thanks to modern technology, you can scratch that itch with synthetic snow.
This offshoot of artificial turf, which comes under a variety of brand names (Neveplast, 365 Synthetic Snow, Snowflex) and has been popular in Europe for quite some time, has the same gliding surface as real snow and simulates conditions you might find on a groomed run in the middle of January.
And three smallish resorts in the eastern half of the United States have installed synthetic snow over all or part of their hills, allowing for year-round skiing and snowboarding.
This suburban Minneapolis resort made a name for itself by churning out great ski racers, the most famous of whom is Lindsey Vonn. Now it’s rebranding itself as a summertime ski and snowboard mecca.
Buck Hill has two lifts servicing a couple of beginner/intermediate runs, a terrain park and an airbag jump. There’s a small day lodge, a full rental shop ($29 for skis/boots/pole or snowboard/boots packages) and lift tickets won’t break the bank ($12 weekdays, $18 weekends).
As at the other summer ski hills, Buck Hill requests that guests wear gloves, long pants and long-sleeve shirts; knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards are recommended.
Located in Middlefield, which is smack dab in the middle of Connecticut, this year-round resort has installed a 500-foot ski/snowboard run and two tubing lanes, both of which are accessed by a couple of magic carpets.
Powder Ridge, which is open Friday-Sunday, is full-service resort in the winter, and you can expect many of the same amenities in the summer months. Ski and snowboard packages go for $35 all day ($25 for kids under 7) and lift tickets are $32 all day and $18 for four hours.
An adjunct of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre is essentially a huge terrain park, with a quarter-pipe, an airbag, a few kickers and nearly a dozen other features serviced by a drag lift. There’s also a two-lane tubing hill and a ski/snowboard teaching area separate from the main hill.
Liberty Mountain, which open afternoon and evenings Sunday-Friday and late morning to evening on Saturdays, has a full-service lodge and rental pool (ski and snowboard packages are $14 per day) and lift tickets are $6 per hour or $25 per day during non-peak usage days and $8 and $30 during peak periods.