Fairfax indoor ski resort plan may spur economic flurry
Vail. Breckenridge. Aspen. Fairfax?
You read that right.
Skiers — someday — could swoosh over fresh powder at an indoor ski resort if everything falls into place for a proposed public-private partnership project on portions of the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton.
Fairfax Peak, as the project is known, would feature a 450,000-square-foot indoor snow sports facility, a 1,700-foot ski slope and a 100-plus-room luxury hotel, among other features.
An interim agreement with the developers — Alpine-X LLC, a Virginia firm linked with Netherlands-based indoor ski resort company Snow World International B.V. — was passed by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors on Nov. 17, extending a study period to Dec. 31, 2021.
The complex, projected to cost more than $200 million, would be the first of its kind in the nation, says John Emery, a partner with Alpine-X and one of the original developers and former CEO of Great Wolf Resorts Inc. The latter company maintains nearly 20 indoor water parks nationwide.
The Fairfax ski facility, he estimates, would generate annual revenue in the $50 million range and employ more than 600 people.
The interim agreement gives the developers a lock on further property studies and the feasibility of the project through 2021, as well as an option to renew the agreement for another year.
Concerns about environmental impacts figured prominently at an Oct. 6 hearing on the interim agreement.
“We’re all facing irreversible warming of the planet — this is happening now,” said Renee Grebe, with the environmental advocacy nonprofit Audubon Naturalist Society, who was among the speakers at the hearing. “Is producing snow inside, year-round, the best use of energy?”
The concept of indoor ski resorts — including on top of closed landfill sites — is not new, Emery says.
“I am aware of six of them in Europe,” says Niels ten Berge, another Alpine-X partner, referring specifically to resorts built on former landfill properties. Emery said the developers have met with environmental advocates about the project and share concerns about energy conservation.
“That’s in our best interests as well,” he says.
Energy-efficient technologies the developers could use include collaborating with Covanta’s nearby waste-to-energy plant to capture and reuse steam, along with using solar energy. Other parts of the I-95 Landfill Complex — including a recycling facility and a household hazardous waste drop-off — will continue to operate if Fairfax Peak becomes a reality.