EAST RUTHERFORD – Instead of hitting the beach this Memorial Day weekend, you will now have the option of sliding down the indoor ski slope.
Eight months after a fire shut down American Dream’s Big Snow indoor ski resort, and after construction and manufacturing delays further slowed its return, the winter retreat reopened on Friday, just before the start unofficial summer.
For the owners of the Meadowlands mega-mall, it’s another chance to make a fresh start for a project that has endured decades of financial problems, the COVID crisis and other headaches. American Dream recorded a loss of nearly $60 million in 2021, according to financial reports.
The story continues under the gallery
“Some people love the beach, some people love the snow,” said Hugh Reynolds, Big Snow’s vice president of marketing, as about 100 customers enjoyed the first day back from the trail. “It’s nice here in New Jersey to not have to choose between one and the other.”
The 180,000-square-foot, 16-story Big Snow bills itself as the first indoor ski and snowboard center in North America. It is kept at 28 degrees Fahrenheit and intended to be open year-round.
The site is aimed at beginners and “those just looking to keep their skiing skills intact this summer”. It’s part of American Dream’s bid – like other malls – to offer more “experiences” and entertainment events to counter the loss of retail traffic to online shopping giants. like Amazon.
“A lot of people want an entertainment outlet” that American Dream is trying to capitalize on, said Craig Parcells, a broker in Parsippany with real estate services company JLL. “You don’t get the same effect walking into a strip mall where you’re going to come across a CVS. It’s actually a destination place where you spend two hours.
The September 25 fire was confined to a small area of the snow dome inside Big Snow and occurred early in the morning before the site opened. No injuries were reported.
Schedules, tickets for Big Snow
The track will be open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Packages to spend two hours on the ski slopes and rent equipment cost around $80, or $40 without rentals, according to Big Snow’s website. A three-day pass can cost upwards of $180, but “spectator tickets” to sit down and watch the action are $15.
Summer passes, which allow access until September 30, are sold out, according to the website.
SNOW Operating, which manages Big Snow, also manages the Mountain Creek slope in Vernon and works as a consultant for major resources in Canada, Colorado and other ski destinations.
“There’s no snow in Mountain Creek, so we have to come here,” said Vernon competitive skier and ski coach John Whiting. He and his wife Buffy have skied the Meadowlands site several times since it opened and were back on Friday.
“It’s a bit better than a typical starter track – a bit longer, with ideal conditions,” he said.
After a slow start at the 1 p.m. opening, crowds at Big Snow steadily built up throughout the afternoon, with around 100 visitors on the track at any one time. LJ Henriquez, 14, of Little Falls, found the initial atmosphere disappointing compared to Mountain Creek.
“There are so many more people; it’s just a better vibe overall,” he said.
The American dream: 40 million customers
The 3 million square foot site has marketed itself as both a retail and entertainment destination, opening in 2019 with the aim of attracting 40 million visitors a year.
The project added a 300-foot Ferris wheel in April with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, and also operates an ice skating rink, Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, and DreamWorks water park. The owner of American Dream, the Canadian conglomerate known as the Triple Five, relies on such attractions to stand out in an area already saturated with shopping destinations.
The first plans surfaced in 1991 for a mega-mall in the Meadowlands, but construction dragged on for decades as various companies involved with the site went bankrupt. Even after American Dream opened in October 2019, the site faced a cascade of misfortunes.
‘Sleight of hand’ :The betting game was behind the filming of American Dream, documents say
After:Garden State Plaza for sale as French owner seeks to shed its $13.2 billion mall portfolio
A phased opening planned for spring 2020 has been put on hold by the coronavirus lockdown and ongoing concerns about the safety of crowded public spaces.
In February, the mall was at 76% occupancy in its windows, according to figures provided by JLL. Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus was 85% occupancy, while nearby downtown Bergen was 94% full.
However, given the disruption of the pandemic and the project’s relative youth, it’s too early to determine American Dream’s prospects, said Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai, market researcher based in California, which analyzes pedestrian traffic in shopping centres.
“There’s clearly promise there,” he said of the East Rutherford site.