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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus; Fairfax Peak on track for indoor skiing complex

22nd March 2021 | Craig Altschul

Approved Virginia indoor snow center

Approved Virginia indoor snow center

Copyright: Virginia.com

The New York Metro area, at long last, has BigSNOW in the Meadowlands, an indoor ski and snowboard center that had languished in controversy and false-starts for years before becoming a welcome realty in December 2019. The road to the opening of Fairfax Peak atop a landfill in Lorton, Va. appears to be a lot smoother.

Fairfax Peak, a 450,000-square-foot indoor facility with its longest slope at 1,700 feet, won approval from the Fairfax County Supervisors in November 2020 allowing the project to move ahead. The developer is currently in the public engagement and environmental impact study stage and is aiming to break ground after that. It is expected to take about two years to build out the first phase of the project.

The “ski resort” will be built in a part of the country that is generally missing the key ingredient needed — snow. Lorton averages a mighty 14 inches a year. So, why?

Fairfax Peak, in suburban-packed southern Fairfax County, will ultimately be a public-private partnership. The developer, Alpine-X (more about them later), will lease the county-owned landfill to build the project. It is estimated to bring about 1,300 jobs and $1 million in tax revenue to southern Fairfax. 

The first phase of Fairfax Peak indoor ski slopes in Virgina

The first phase of Fairfax Peak indoor ski slopes in Virgina

D.C. area skier market is huge

Projections call for the complex to lure some 400,000 visitors per year, most coming from the Washington, D.C. region and suburbs, generating considerable sales, hotel and property taxes for the county. Fairfax Peak also would allow local schools to add ski teams. The slopes would be available to law enforcement and military for cold-weather and snow training, too. Those slopes, by the way, will be built to FIS specifications for International competition. 

Further, Fairfax Peak opens up a day-trip market for Northern Virginia residents that ought to be very attractive for beginners and learners before heading to the big outdoor ski world out there, as well as those who don’t recognize summer as an off-season.

“If you look at the market for avid downhill skiers, you have a market base within about a 50- to 75-mile radius in excess of 300,000 people who downhill ski annually and are crazy for it,” Barry Biggar, CEO of Visit Fairfax, the official tourism organization of Fairfax County, told media.

The relatively easy pathway to actually getting this one built and open, as opposed to the laborious route endured in New Jersey, comes because the 30-year-old  Lorton landfill was capped in 1992 so a lot of the decomposition has already occurred. It appears any environmental pushback won’t derail the project, unless the current study uncovers any big issues.

Unlike BigSNOW, which was originally called Xanadu for years before the  idea finally moved ahead, the start of a groundswell for Fairfax Peak began in 2016 when a partnership between SnowWorld, a European company also registered in Delaware as SnowWorld USA and has built two successful indoor ski resorts in the Netherlands, and Alpine-X, a McLean, Va. holding group. SnowWorld will apparently operate the facility.

Netherland indoor slope lookalike coming to Virginia

Netherland indoor slope lookalike coming to Virginia

Just the first?

Alpine-X has a “stay tuned” mission posted on its website that looks to starting in Lorton, but moving out later on: “Our mission is to develop unique mountain and snowsports destinations throughout North America while providing a safe, consistent, and memorable family entertainment experience.  We strive to create properties that are both financially and environmentally sustainable, while making a positive impact on local communities.”

SnowWorld Landgraaf, 20 miles from the German border, includes four lifts (one a six-passenger ride). SnowWorld Zoetermeer, between Den Haag and Utrecht (easy access off a major highway), has 10 lifts and claims to have one of steepest indoor runs in Europe, where indoor ski centers have taken off over the past few decades. Fairfax Peak will use the Landgraaf center as its model.

The Alpine-X development team includes, among other experienced sports and entertainment investors, John Emery and Jim Calder. The pair are former CEO and CFO respectively of Great Wolf Resorts, a group of 17 family-centric resorts built around indoor waterparks stretching from Southern California to Atlanta. 

The complete project

So, what’s the buildout picture for this landfill just off I-95 and overlooking the Occoquan Bay?  First and foremost, the indoor ski slope will serve as the centerpiece of the huge development, which will include multiple ski runs, a sky bar and event facility at the summit, a 100-plus room hotel at the base, multiple dining and drinking establishments and a tubing slope. 

A large wave/surf park, producing 6-inch to 8-foot waves, with other outdoor recreation facilities and activities such as a mountain roller coaster, biking and hiking trails, a ropes course and zip line and an area for radio control plane flying are planned down the line. Also on the drawing board is an Alpine Village with retail, entertainment and potential accommodations.

With the support of Supervisor Pat Herrity, the path looked pretty smooth right from the beginning when he was approached: “The fiscal, sports and community benefits of this opportunity are numerous, including new jobs, exciting new snow sports opportunities, the potential for high school ski teams, new hotel and restaurant amenities for the South County area, premier national competitions and financial benefits to our taxpayers from the lease, sales tax and hotel tax revenue streams. I am extremely excited to partner with Alpine-X to develop a unique downhill snow sports destination right here in Fairfax County,” Herrity told local media.

So, denizens of D.C. and environs: Sit back a couple of years and this once and former, uh, dump (OK, landfill) is about to bring you year-round skiing and riding and much more while significantly boosting the entire area’s economic and tourism fortunes. All presumably without the angst of the gestation period in the Meadowlands.

BigSNOW NJ opened in 2019

BigSNOW NJ opened in 2019

 

 

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