Skiing on artificial turf — to most Americans it’s a concept that sounds like some lame amusement park ride. But the fairly common practice in Europe might be catching on for the first time in the U.S. All we can say is, finally.
Residents of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, low-lying countries with few domestic skiing options, have known about synthetic skiing mats for years. A number of artificial slope companies have been immensely successful in tapping into these previously ski-deprived countries. Skiers and snowboarders in Europe flock to dry slopes for their convenient accessibility, year-round opportunities to train, and most of all the surprisingly realistic simulation of the feeling of snow.
Now Americans are getting their chance to find out what the craze is about. This month Buck Hill Ski Resort in Burnsville, Minnesota, known as the old stomping grounds of Lindsey Vonn, will inaugurate their first summer ski season with a Neveplast artificial ski slope.
An Italian company known widely throughout Europe, Neveplast has brought its innovative snow-simulating synthetic material across the Atlantic to join the ranks of just a handful of other dry slopes in North America. The synthetic material is arranged in a series of concentric bristles, sort of like your run-of-the-mill toilet scrubber or toothbrush, which, according to Neveplast’s website provides a “high degree of slipperiness without the use of water” guaranteeing “conditions equal to those of natural compact snow.”
The material isn’t only useful on barren, snow-starved hilltops in the summer months. It’s also designed for use throughout the year, providing an extra layer of slickness when snow hasn’t piled heavily or evenly.
Buck Hill had rolled out an initial stage of its four-acre Neveplast slope last fall, allowing ticket-holders to get a jumpstart on ski season before the first snowfall. But this will be the first time guests will get a chance to ski and board on the hottest days of the year.
The Neveplast slope will also have a new look than past visitors may remember. The resort announced on its Facebook page that it was in the process of reconfiguring the setup for the upcoming season, stating, “This new layout will be a blast and will better suit our guests' needs.”
In an interview with CBS Minnesota, Buck Hill ski trainer Jacob Olsen said, “A lot of the competition we’re racing against in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains get to have a much longer season, so we’re hoping to gain a competitive advantage by [offering] being able to ski all year.”
With a similar artificial dry slope made by British company Snowflex on the Liberty University campus, and an already-massive popularity in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, we could be seeing the start of a summer skiing boom in the States.