On Saturday, August 29, 2009, Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, will celebrate the grand opening of the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, the first ski facility in the United States to utilize Snowflex technology. The grand opening festivities will include an exhibition by professionals from both the UK and the States, after which the public will be invited to test their skills on the synthetic slopes. There will also be plenty of opportunities to purchase refreshments, as well as ski and snowboarding gear and accessories.
In July of 2008, Liberty University announced its plan to utilize some its 5,000 acres of mountainous land to build the first year-round ski slope in the United States, in part of an effort to appeal to prospective students. The plan will also offer students a wider array of recreational and physical education options, and enrich campus life by providing skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to form student clubs. The university, which opened in 1971, is also hoping to entice alumni to return to Lynchburg for weekends and short trips, where they’ll have the chance to reconnect with Liberty University. Though Liberty Mountain Snowflex Ski Center will be open to the public, students will receive top priority as far as pricing and use are concerned.
Funded by a charitable donation, the state-of-the-art facility, which has been open since August 2, will offer skiers, snowboarders, and snow tubers the ability to participate in the sports they love all year round. This is made possible by a synthetic material invented by Brian Thomas of Briton Engineering Developments in 1993, which has previously been used in numerous ski facilities in the Europe. Tired of other synthetic skiing surfaces—commonly constructed of materials like brushes, mesh, and steel—that were too artificial to simulate the experience of skiing, Thomas and his team set out to develop something more realistic; three years later, they ended up with Snowflex. Unlike the manmade snow many skiers are used to encountering on the slopes, Snowflex is a synthetic surface that, according to most, accurately replicates the “slip” and “grip” of natural snow. Equipped with many tiny, built-in sprayers that provide lubrication, this unique material is able to provide enough lubrication so that skiers and snowboarders can build up adequate amounts of speed, yet its special design helps skiers retain the resistance needed to ensure optimum control. These two factors combined create a skiing experience like no other—and one that can be enjoyed whether it’s 90 degrees or -9.
In addition to these qualities, Snowflex cushions falls far better than tightly-packed snow can, and requires far less grooming than natural snow, which needs to be repacked and remolded constantly in order to maintain the shapes of freestyle features like jumps and half-pipes, creating the perfect environment for experienced skiers and those just starting out. Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre features two slopes—one for beginners and another main slope for those with more experience. The 40, 537 square foot facility will house a tabletop, big kicker, 11-foot high quarter pipe, two grind rails, and an extreme tube chute. Instructional classes will be offered for beginners, and those who simply want to improve their skills. The facility, which is bigger than all but two of its European predecessors, will also include a ski lodge that can be booked for parties and other special events.
As of August 29, Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre will be open to the public seven days a week. During the peak times of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the public should be prepared spend $7 per hour, and students can plan to spend $4. At all other times, students will pay $2 per hour, while the public should expect to pay $5. Equipment rentals will also be available, and tubing will be permitted at designated times. Visitors are expected to wear long sleeved garments even in the summer months, and those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parents or guardian. Visitors should also come prepared with either their government-issued Ids or, if they are students, their LU Ids.