Apr 28, 2009

Donation funds Snowflex Project

by Matthew Coleman

After more than five years of planning and development, Snowflex, the snow sport exhibitionist’s answer to summer, is rapidly nearing its completion on Liberty Mountain. To accompany the Snowflex’s rental facility and lounge, the Chalet is also under construction.

About a half mile away from the Wingate hotel, the Chalet will sit between the two sets of ski slopes. Two stories tall with 4,000 sq. feet of space on each floor, it will serve as the Snowflex’s rental facility and lounge, according to Askew. An additional 2,000 square feet of space will be available on the outer deck.

The bottom floor of the Chalet will serve as the one-stop shop for lift tickets and ski, snowboard and boot rentals, according to Askew. Everything required to get students on the slopes and into the action will be available for a small fee.

The second floor of the Chalet will be devoted to relaxation and comfort for students who just want to sit back and enjoy the view. While use of the ski slopes comes with a price, the lounge area on the second floor and deck area will be free to everyone. Designed to recreate the look and feel of a traditional ski lodge, it will allow students to enjoy all the amenities of a snow-covered ski resort, even in the middle of August.

To enhance the authenticity and feel of the Chalet, wood flooring and walls and a working fireplace have been installed.

The room will be decorated with donated mounted animal trophies, collected by Dr. Al Barrick. Barrick hunted every animal in North America and claimed at least one of each species over a 40-year period. He donated all the trophies to Liberty a few years ago. To provide refreshments and food, a Café A La Carte will be on the second floor for students. Whether meal points will be accepted is still under debate, according to Askew.

In addition, a variety of seating arrangements will be available for students on both the second floor and the outer deck.

The decision to build the Snowflex came from the desire to do something productive with Liberty Mountain, according to Chancellor Jerry Falwell.

“Liberty has owned a 5000-acre mountain for many years and our first choice was to use the mountain for student activities, athletics and recreation rather than selling it off to residential or commercial developers,” Falwell said. “(But) we learned that Lynchburg is not cold enough for artificial snow to be useful more than 40-50 days per year.”  Built in Spain, France, Lebanon, China and now on Liberty Mountain, Snowflex is making its mark on the snow-loving world.

Designed by Briton Engineering Development, it promises to be the next best thing to actually having snow on the ground, according to snowflex.com. Unlike every other artificial snow product on the market, the synthetic materials used to make Snowflex were designed specifically for snow sports.

“(Snowflex) is not a by-product from another industry and was invented from a ‘what do customers want’ viewpoint,” according to snowflex.com.

To recreate the feel of snow, Snowflex uses several layers of a synthetic, composite material that is coated in liquid via an internal misting system to keep the surface slick. The wet material allows skiers and snowboarders to easily glide over its surface while providing the necessary grip for them to change direction or slow their descent.

Snowflex has many of the advantages of real snow without the major drawback — it never melts. It will work just as well in the cold as in the heat, and the materials will not have to be replaced for five to 10 years, according to snowflex.com. Ironically, because of the misting system required to keep the material wet enough to use, Snowflex is the least effective when there is actual snow on it.

The Snowflex on Liberty Mountain will have four separate ski slopes: a bunny slope, a tubing slope and two advanced slopes with jumps built in, giving everyone with skill levels from novice to expert something to enjoy.

A recent survey showed that nearly 60 percent of students did not know how to ski or snowboard, according to Project Manager Allen Askew. To remedy this, Liberty will offer lessons from trained instructors for students who would like to learn the basics of skiing and snowboarding or for those advanced students who want to hone their abilities.

“We are trying to find a really good instructor who can teach some good tricks off of the banks and jumps,” the Assistant Director of Auxiliary Services Bryan Evans said.

With the Snowflex nearing completion, many students are already forming club sports that were previously not possible, according to Falwell.

“Some students are already organizing club sports to compete against other colleges in the area that already have winter sports teams,” Falwell said. “(Also), we have worked out an agreement to train at Wintergreen (Resort) for the alpine events.”


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