Two Flagstaff natives are working with the City of Flagstaff to open a snow-play park within the city limits. John Crowley and T.J. Dana promise a first-class tubing park that will offer activities for all ages – if they can get a lease agreement and approval from the city. Plans for Flagstaff Sno-Park include gentle slopes for youngsters and “ripping fast adrenaline pumping runs” for teenagers and adults.
Dana and Crowley worked with the City of Flagstaff to determine the best location for the proposed Flagstaff Sno-Park. After considering three locations on city land, the abandoned skiing and snow-play area west of Coconino High School on McMillan Mesa was chosen as the proposed site.
“Until the early ‘80s, there was a skiing and snow-play area located there – you can still see the old electrical power lines and lights in the trees,” said Dana. Although the old power lines and lighting will be removed because they are not to existing code, the plan is to maintain as much of the forest and grassland as possible. “According to the plans now, we will retain 97 percent of hillside,” added Dana.
A reclaimed water pipeline runs down the side of the hill on the proposed site and the pair hopes to get approval to tap the pipeline for snowmaking. The pipeline connects the holding tank at Buffalo Park with the City of Flagstaff reclamation plant that produces reclaimed water for irrigation for Flagstaff parks and area golf courses. “There will be a net positive to recharge the aquifer,” said Dana. A water basin at the bottom of the tubing hill will percolate and recharge the aquifer.
“We’ve talked with Siemens – a 125-year-old company in water purification. They sampled the water. From their reports, our reclamation plants do a great job of reclaiming water. We will add our own purification system that will purify the water above Flagstaff standards,” explained Dana. According to their website, Siemens Water Technologies works to help municipalities around the world find sustainable solutions that reduce energy consumption, recycle/reuse water, minimize waste and reduce life-cycle costs.
The duo will invest in the latest technology, including Magic Carpet lift systems to move recreationists to the top of the runs. “Magic Carpet is a giant conveyor belt – a continuous belt that keeps moving. People just step on the Magic Carpet and are given a ride back up the hill,” explained Dana, who attended Sinagua High School. Magic Carpet lifts – described as moving sidewalks – transport winter sports enthusiasts at other tubing parks such as Elm Creek Park Reserve in Minnesota, California’s Big Bear Snow Play, Mount Snow in Vermont and Perfect North Slopes east of Cincinnati, Ohio. Arizona Snowbowl also recently added Magic Carpet lifts to their state-of-the-art beginners’ area.
The Flagstaff Sno-Park business plan taps into the winter sports market. Hot concessions, an observation deck with heat lamps and lighting for evening tubing will be offered once the plan is approved. Entrance fees, which include the use of the snow tube, snow tube runs and Magic Carpet lift, are still under negotiation with the city. “We’re trying to shoot for the same admission price as going to a movie,” said Dana, also owner of D&C Snowplowing and a student at Coconino Community College.
“All the equipment will be removable – everything comes off the hillside minus the observation deck,” explained Dana about the low-impact land development plan.
“We hope to employ three to five full-time, year-round employees, and have 35-45 full-time/part-time employees through the winter,” said Dana, who added that they are looking ahead to a 2012-13 winter snow season opening.
“Since the lease for the land is only for half the year, October through March, we hope to attract employees with a whole year salary for a portion of the year,” said Crowley, a Flagstaff High School alumnus.
“We have looked at models for other snow-play areas to get an idea about what is working for them. The best model, Perfect North near Ohio, built the first Cadillac snow-play area. We were looking at a rope tow before we consulted with them. They helped with grading and slope innovations and told us that the event tent was the way to go. The event tent helps us to stay true to our concept of removable infrastructure,” said Crowley, formerly of LJC Development.
“This is an idea that I have been fostering for quite a while. Just watching Wing Mountain and taking my kids out there, I thought, ‘There’s a better way to do this.’ It is long way out there, you pay to get in and then there is really nothing to it. You are just paying to park. Just thinking about the opportunity for people to have fun, I thought we could probably do better,” Crowley said.
“We both live in Cheshire – we saw the need to have a different location for a snow recreation site. We need to divert all that traffic from 180,” added Dana.
But nothing will move forward on an alternate snow-play area until a lease agreement is reached and the City of Flagstaff stamps its approval. FBN