Chuck L. in Northern Virginia provides this recollection of a Lost Ski Area in Virginia that used polyethylene “snow” in an attempt to offer year-round skiing:
“Unfortunately, I don’t recall the name of this single-bunny-slope “resort,” but for one season in the early 1970’s there was an operating ski area just northeast of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a few miles from the University of Virginia, on what is known as Pantops Mountain. I tried to find the location again about twenty years ago, but it had become a housing development.
The hill’s claim to fame was that it was not dependent upon the weather. It used plastic snow. In what would today be considered an environmental nightmare, they coated the slope with white astroturf and dumped on truckloads of slightly oblong, white, plastic BB’s. The claim was that you could ski in any weather, but natural snow would make it better. I remember lights for night skiing, and a rope tow. I don’t think there was snowmaking, but they had to redistribute all those plastic beads that got pushed to the bottom of the hill each day.
I skied there only once, but white pellets of polyethylene “snow” continued to fall out of my ski boots for years afterwards.”
I skied there one day in October in 1974. It was pretty cool in that you could ski year round in Virginia. (Which I still do, by grass skiing at Bryce) It was a small area and I remember going fairly fast down the hill. And I will vouch for the fact that the little pellets were in my boots for years!
In my data base I have this area as "Skiland". Opened in 1973. Vertical Drop: 145 ft. A Poma and a Pony. Night skiing.
Our high-school ski club trekked down from northern Virginia for a day. The downhill experience at Skiland was surprisingly good for skiing on plastic. Edging and turning were much like the real thing, just a bit slower. The uphill ride was another story-- hanging onto the pony lift was work-out because the Astroturf provided signficantly more resistance than real snow. Their plan was to add more slopes the following year, but I would assume they didn't draw enough traffic to fulfill their dreams. Ditto on the plastic pellets showing up in my boots for a long time afterward.
I skied this hill once in the early 70's. The "snow" was very gripe, but as a teenager I had a blast. I think we skied it in the fall and there were only 4 or 5 other skiers that day. Not surpised when it never openned agian. It started my love of year round skiing, which I now do in Colordao on the real stuff.
here is a circular reference and a pic of a Ski Land ad on a Charlottesville News Blog called "the Hook"
and here is a pdf of an another newspaper ad
Never been to charlottesville but,I built the same in Ga and Tenn.The problem was the destruction that the skis gave to the turf and vice versa.I witnessed so many people ski on snow their first time and ate it right up ,cause it was easier on snow.The fake surface was wet with a sprinkler system and sprayed with silicone regularly.Repairs were done on a daily basics and hill employees had to ski around with hammer and staples and staple it down.I had a blast and till this day work has not been as fun,but I was very dedicated and stayed in the ski business for another 7 or eight years.I became a safety technician,putting skis togeather.
I was an instructor there in 1973. We had to spray silicone on the slope every day to keep the friction down on the bottom of the skis. LOL
Halfway though the season the ski were worn down to wood right under where the boots were. The PTex was gone. The first time the Pony Lift was completely loaded it blew out the back of the motor housing.
The best part of Ski Land was after we closed all the instructors went up stairs to the custom wood made bar, and we drank like fishes. LOL It was a weird place to work. We got so bored we would do flips off of picnic benches we covered with Poly Snow. I taught skiing for 15 years and that was the craziest place I ever worked.
I assume the Bruce in the comment above is the instructor from Asheville, NC that I taught with at Ski Land along with the Ski School Director, Ken (both of whose last names I can't recall.) I actually worked on the teams laying the original "PolySnow" as the turf was called, and then taught in 1973 -74. It did operate through at least part of the 1974-75 season and I actually helped market the area as a place for colleges to send students for ski instruction.
The area was the brain child of Dr. Robert Vandell, a professor at the Darden School of Business at UVA, who skied in Europe in the early 70's and fell in love with the sport. The PolySnow formula was a white astroturf carpet with small round pellets from Union Carbide that resembled granular corn snow. The Ski School was composed of Ken, Bruce and approximately 10-12 others who were students who skied, or folks from the DC/Charlottesvile ski community. Ken provided an excellent ski school manual based on the Graduated Length method of teaching that produced a high level of teaching skills and we even ran a clinic with Clif Taylor, the acknowledged creator of GLM which was later integrated into the American Teaching Method (ATM) adopted by the PSIA (the professional Ski Instructors Association).
Although I found those darned pellets for years after, the surface itself was a perfect teaching surface because it was totally consistent and we could focus the students on technique, instead of handling changes in snow surface (hardpack to ice to scut, as is East Coast common). It also turned out to be great for teaching what was then called "Freestyle" (the Wayne Wong, Suzy Chaffee era) and we built a wooden flipping jump with carpet on it and an adjustable kicker angle. Tip rolls, aerials and 360's were common tender for those of us who taught and were looking for more challenges on the 2-slope "hill". The ski of the day was the K2 Bermuda Short, and later Winter Heat in a wide assortment of lengths. We even went to the point of building a few "moguls" under the carpet just to see if it could be done.
Ken, the ski school director in 1973, was a highly technical skier and with his direction we all perfected clean carving on the carpet and turned out a class of excellent technical skiers. He was also a stickler for "quiet upper body" skiing and we all adopted the habit of skiing and teaching in cowboy hats because "you had to be good enough, and quiet enough" to keep them on. To this day, I still ski in a Stetson, and I'd just about kill to find a copy of our ski school picture with 15-20 ski nuts lined up in our cowboy hats.
There is a lot more history involved, but I'd love to catch up with any of the other SkiLand alums. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I skied at Skiland several times in their first year or two. It was in the summer. Plastic "split
pea" shaped pellets were sprinkled on a white carpet. If it got warm you would hardly move unless
they sprinkled silicone oil on the slope. The pellets moved down the hill and they would occasionally cart some back up to the top. I kept finding these pellets in my car for years afterward.
Your ski's wore faster under the binding but all in all it was real skiing.