Big SNOW indoor ski slope opens in New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen gave New Jersey his “Tunnel of Love.” More than three decades later, American Dream gave the state a tunnel of snow.

Big SNOW at American Dream, the steel neck craning out of the new Meadowlands mega-mall and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, opened Thursday. Billed as North America’s first indoor, real-snow ski and snowboard center, the slope opened to hundreds of skiers and snowboarders, joined by Olympic champions Kelly Clark, Red Gerard and Lindsey Vonn, a new New Jersey resident.

Donna Weinbrecht, a West Milford native and 1992 gold medalist, said she has been excited about getting onto the slope for years. Having never skied indoors, the 54-year-old said it was a wild thought that she could have an Alpine experience in mid-summer.

“I started on smaller ski areas. This is very similar,” she said. “It’s a great little test. The conditions are fantastic … I didn’t feel any difference.”

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While the steel-trussed backdrop and still-unfinished faux-lodge facade fail to live up to the LED-powered hype of its winter fantasy-land renderings, the slope itself is ideal, said Anthony Melchiorri, a 54-year-old Travel Channel host and one of the first guests.

The slope is two escalator rides up from a parking lot. Wristband scanners are used to usher guests through the locker rooms, onto the slope and to the ski lift.

“It’s easy in, easy out. It’s clean and it’s affordable,” Melchiorri said. “Kids that never would have thought of skiing can come here and experience it.”

Part of the Big SNOW concept is to use the controlled environment to introduce newcomers to skiing, officials said. The operating company, SNOW Operating, runs Mountain Creek in Vernon and works as a consultant for major resorts in Canada, Colorado and other ski destinations.

Ski and snow boarder enthusiasts try out on the slope for the first time during the grand opening of Big SNOW American Dream in East Rutherford  on 12/05/19.

Hugh Reynolds, the head of marketing for SNOW Operating, said the slope was booked to 80 percent capacity for the weekend, even before the doors opened to the public. Visitors book time slots. That helps to maintain a steady flow of guests and prevent overcrowding, he said.

Reynolds said the slope, offerings and visitor experience will be refined over time. He nonetheless said Thursday was the highlight of his five-year association with American Dream developer Triple 5 Group.

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