Lynchburg-area residents can now look forward to winter all year-round. Liberty University has opened a ski slope that relies on a synthetic material called Snowflex. It provides skiers, snowboarders and tubing aficionados with the same feel and slipperiness as snow — whether in July or January.
The Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre is the first of its kind in North America. Since opening in late August, it has drawn visitors from as far away as Canada. The complex offers three runs, including a bunny/tubing slope; jumping hills and drops for freestylers; a ski lift; and two-story lodge. The facility plans to add two luge-like tubing runs by the end of the year.
Students pay $2 to $4 per hour, depending on the time of the week, while the rate for the public is $5 to $7 per hour. The daily rental fee for skis, poles and helmet is $12. By comparison, a lift ticket at a ski resort can cost more than $65 on weekends.
“It’s huge,” says Beckie Nix, director of the Lynchburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, noting that the attraction has drawn media coverage from the Discovery Channel, ABC News and Southern Living magazine, among others. “We know that this attraction is going to bring money into Lynchburg and up our visitor expenditures significantly.”
The main objective of the Snowflex Centre, however, is to attract students, says Lee Beaumont, Liberty’s director of auxiliary services. “It’s not a traditional model as with a for-profit like Wintergreen or Snowshoe,” he says.
Because of Liberty’s Christian focus, “we don’t have co-ed dorms, we don’t have wild beer parties, and we don’t have Greek social fraternities and sororities. So we look for ways to give the kids good, clean fun, and we do that through a variety of ways,” Beaumont says.
That type of effort apparently pays off. When Liberty built an ice rink a few years ago, the number of Canadian students jumped from 30 to more than 400 in a student body of nearly 14,000. The school now has four club hockey teams and its NCAA Division 1 hockey team was recently ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Liberty plans to start a ski team and a freestyle snowboard team. It also has developed cross-marketing agreements with Wintergreen and Snowshoe. “As a result of this, we’re going to get a lot of students that love snow sports who would not necessarily have thought of Liberty before but are now thinking Liberty,” Beaumont says.
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