Over the weekend huge news dropped that Buck Hill in Minnesota will be making a massive installment of artificial material to provide year-round skiing in a normally short-term market. The news is huge and could signal a massive shift in the American ski industry. Buck Hill will be using a product called Neveplast, a synthetic based material that the ski director described as “[feeling] like a fresh groomed run.” Buck Hill’s goal is to extend the training season for their race team to more appropriately compete with their western rivals, something they take very seriously. A quick history lesson, Lindsey Vonn reportedly got her start skiing with the Buck Hill program.
What Is Neveplast?
I’ve only seen it in person once, but as I remember it Neveplast basically looks like someone took a bunch of plastic scrub brushes and fixed them together upside down. It can be laid directly on the ground and left as a permanent install allowing grass to grow through the “bristles” and snow to all overtop. According to pictures and videos, there’s little to no interference caused by skis poles, terrain or gates while providing full access and maneuverability on skis and snowboards.
What Can It Do?
The introduction of a large scale Neveplast installation could potentially change the ski industry as a whole, especially for your small market local hills. The big mountain resorts will (hopefully) always have snow, but for those of us not living deep in the mountains, but for markets in the Midwest & Appalachian Mountains, the season is desperately limited to the weather. And not just during the summer months either. Michigan, home to over 50 different skiing areas and one of the largest markets of skiers saw one of its worst years ever in 2015 due to warm late-season temperatures and a serious lack of snow. As seen in the latter half of the above video, weak snow seasons and dirt patches can be aided through the installation of a false bottom such as Neveplast, possibly preventing the damage to local hill’s economy. As an extension, an installation such as this can bring skiing to areas and countries that have never seen snow. Requests on Neveplast’s Facebook page range from other local hills to places as warm as the Caribbean islands.
All in all, the development being installed at Buck Hill is something to keep an eye on. As someone who grew up skiing on the traditional “mid-western” ski hill, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to train my skills even in the summer months. Needless to say, we hope it works out.