Grand Prairie Plans To Build Largest Indoor Ski Center In United States | KERA News

Grand Prairie Plans To Build Largest Indoor Ski Center In United States

Dec 13, 2014

The city of Grand Prairie wants to build an indoor ski resort with a run as tall as Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. The $400 million project would be the largest in the United States, with seven slopes, a snowboard course with an Olympic half-pipe, and the first Hard Rock Hotel in Texas. 

The ambitious venture is called The Grand Alps. If completed in four years, evergreen trees would dot a mountain-like resort on roughly 60 acres of prairie, just off Interstate 30 and Belt Line Road.   

“The front of it looks like you’re pulling up to a Swiss Alps ski resort, year around,” said Ron Jensen, mayor of Grand Prairie.  

“You’ll be able to see it for miles around," he added. "That’s the vision I have. … A 350,000-square feet indoor ski resort where you can ski down to the bottom of it, and have your cappuccino just like you would at Breckenridge. You can stay at the hotel and have your room look out onto the ski slopes while you’re at the hotel. It’s just going to revitalize our area.”  

Project will cover six football fields 

Jensen says the project will generate about 2,000 local jobs. The Grand Alps developer says half of the price tag for the entire project has been secured -- that’s about $200 million. Construction for the Hard Rock Hotel is scheduled to begin in late January, says Marco Roca, an executive for Hard Rock International.

“I don’t think we’re at a point where it’s an if this is going to happen,” he said. “I really think we’re at a point where this is going to happen. You are central to everything in Grand Prairie. Sometimes by being in the right place, that’s all it takes.”  

The snow park, including the hotel, will cover about six football fields. It’s expected to be bigger than Ski Dubai in the Middle East. There, locals and tourists can go from desert temperatures into snow and slopes for less than $100.

Winter utopia

Dubai makes 30 tons of snow a day. To make the perfect winter utopia at Grand Prairie’s Grand Alps, we’re talking 40 to 45 tons of snow, and serious energy to keep it cold. 

“It’s a massive freezer -- a huge football stadium-sized freezer that has to be kept cold, all year around, 24-7," said Zac Trahan, statewide director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.  

“West Texas right now, and the panhandle, and soon South Texas and the gulf coast are some of the country’s biggest producers of wind power. Texas leads the nation by far in wind energy and renewable energy," Trahan said. "If the designers of this facility are serious about environmental sustainability, they will purchase their energy from those wind farms, from renewable energy sources.”

Going green with this snow facility is also about heavy insulation, says Bob Bittle, a professor in the engineering department at Texas Christian University. Looking at the design of the Grand Alps Resort, he points to its 1,200-foot slope.

“It won’t be stuffed,” he said. “But they’ll take advantage of dead space, to insulate, and my bet is all along here, if this is the slope, they’ll have surfaces that actually have that cold, ethylene glycol running through there.”

It’s hard to estimate how much energy would be needed to run an indoor facility like The Grand Alps, Bittle said.  

“When you plug your refrigerator in, it runs the compressor, which is costing you money,” he said. “The compressor for a ski environment like this are these chillers, they’re huge, and I can’t imagine how many it’s going to take.”

Texans love to ski -- elsewhere

Bittle says his sister and her family recently returned from visiting Ski Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  

“They had skied before, so they knew how to ski, but doing it inside a facility that’s built in the desert, that was definitely a new experience," Bittle said. 

The experience impressed them, snow quality and all, he says. And that’s what the Grand Alps developer and Jensen, the Grand Prairie mayor, are banking on.

“People have said, 'who’s going to ski at this ski resort?'” he said. “I’ve been to Breckenridge, Red River, Santa Fe, Angel Fire. What’s in the parking lots? Texas plates.” 

Learn more about plans for The Grand Alps.

Video: Explore Ski Dubai

Dubai: A Skier's Journey EP2 S3

Grand Prairie Video About The Grand Alps

Video: The Science Behind Indoor Skiing