Big Snow Is Coming! - My Family Travels

Every autumn as the winds pick up my family thinks “Big Snow is Coming!” but that’s because we love snow sports. That’s not true in every family. Turning kids into snow lovers can be a big challenge and an expensive one.

Group of skiers at Big Snow, New Jersey
Our media group celebrates our first day on the snow. Photo c. Evan Kay Photography.

That’s why companies like Volkl, Marker, Dalbello and Flyflow are working together to promote healthy winter activities for families. I recently tried out this season’s newest gear at Big Snow American Dream. It was sunny and 58 degrees outside with nicely packed powder inside! Big Snow, North America’s only indoor ski resort, knows how to guarantee snow sports fans a good time. And, we had a great time.

Gear Up to Enjoy the Snow

Collage of ski gear, clockwise from top: Marker Confidant helmt, Market Smooth Operator goggles, Volkl Blaze skis, Dalbello Elevate Chakra boots.
In this collage of my ski gear, clockwise from top: Marker Confidant helmt, Market Smooth Operator goggles, Volkl Blaze skis, Dalbello Panterra 90 GW boots.

The pros from each of the gear company demonstrated a commitment to making everyone in our media group into a snow sports athlete.

My Volkl skis, available from rental outlets, were contoured to improve balance and control. The Marker Confidant helmet – a must — was lightweight yet warm, with removable earpads. Its uses MIPS technology that reduces forces to the head with rotational impact and Junior sizes are available. The Marker Smooth Operator goggles – of the two lenses I wore the ones for overcast light — securely latched at back.

Best yet were the Dalbello Panterra 90 GW boots made at their Asolo, Italy factory. Picture Uggs on skis. The extensive Dalbello boot line uses molded liners padded with foam and a cozy faux fur that make them super comfortable. Plus, their Grip Walk technology using a rocker design and rubber sole to facilitate walking around base villages, works really well.

Why You Will Like This Indoor Ski Resort

The "base village" at the Big Snow indoor ski park has shops, cafes and snow bike rentals if you tire of skiing or snowboarding.
The “base village” at the Big Snow indoor ski park has shops, cafes and snow bike rentals if you tire of skiing or snowboarding.

At first glance, Big Snow seems more like a cold four-acre warehouse than a mountain resort. There are no towering evergreens, no shimmering aspen, no bluebird skies. There is, however, plenty of snow. Lots of fuzzy white stuff tops a 2-foot-deep, packed-snow base kept frozen by an underground cooling system.

There are real pluses to an indoor resort. It never gets windy; the weather is guaranteed. Don’t expect slushy rain showers on warmer days. There’s no need to wear sunblock. And Big Snow has the best of a base village — the cozy cappuccino / hot chocolate bar with Adirondack chairs outside – to make it feel like a resort.

Big Snow’s biggest plus is that it is climate-controlled. Indoors, it stays 28 °F (?2 °C) to make snow sports possible all year round. Add in gear rentals, a pro shop, weekend skills clinics and ski and snowboard instruction for all levels and you have a resort.

Big Snow Trail Map Accommodates All Levels

Interior ski slopes highlight advanced trail, Switchback, at Big Snow in the American Dream Mall in New Jersey.
The Big Snow advanced trail, Switchback (at right), takes advantage of its 1,000-foot run and is a bit steeper.

If you’re beginners, head first to the Lil’ Dipper trail. This beginner run is contoured to promote Terrain Based Learning. (TBL is a method of shaping mountain slopes to force beginners to experience turns, banks and other features they will encounter on real trails.) Tim Smith, who coaches instructors at Whiteface and elites at Aspen, say TBL absolutely accelerates the learning process. “When people can feel their own bodies moving down a slope and staying balanced,” Tim says, “that’s the trick.”

Keep in mind that trails have an altitude of 160 feet (49m). The runs have a maximum pitch of 26% at the top, dropping about 1,000 feet (300m) to a flat base area. That’s certainly enough slope to practice some S turns and pick up a bit of speed. The best news is that beginners will be able to manage these runs on their own, after a lesson or two.

More advanced beginners like the intermediate level Switchback, also served by a moving conveyor system. Advanced beginners, anyone who wants to get their ski legs into shape and guests who are just dying to feel snow in the summer gravitate to the more advanced Northern Lights run.

Snowboarders find a parallel terrain park with a number of small features and rails. The advanced run and terrain park trails are served by a slow and steady quad chairlift. Look out for a two-tube snow tubing ‘hill’ near the entry that’s perfect for younger visitors.

Borrow, Rent or Buy Snow Sports Gear

Big Snow has a pro shop in the American Dream Mall in New Jersey.
American Dream has a pro shop in case your never-evers take to the sport immediately and want to buy their gear.

I hate to say it, but good equipment makes the difference between good and bad snow days. I mentioned that I tried brand new Volkl rental skis at my visit. That’s why we appreciate that Big Snow has a Snow Day Package. It includes ski or snowboard equipment, outer pants and jacket, helmet, two-hour slope ticket and complimentary use of the learning area with tips from the company’s instructors.

Valid for ages 7 and older, a Snow Day package costs $69.99 to $89.99 plus tax. The three-day version costs $179.97, a great value for those on winter break.

Do you own gear? For about the same price, snowsports enthusiasts who own their gear can get a six-entry pass. Additionally, ages 6 and under with their own gear may ski for free. Look to the Customer Service team at American Dream Mall for complimentary ski or snowboard storage while you shop and play elsewhere. Tell the grandparents that spectators are welcomed to watch from the base area for just $14.99.

Trip Planning Details for An Indoor Snow Park

Lift operators groom the snow tubing runs at the Big Snow indoor ski park.
Lift operators groom the snow tubing runs at the Big Snow indoor ski park.

The Big Snow operating calendar varies daily, typically 1pm to 8pm weekdays, and 10am to 9pm weekends. Entry wristbands cover two-hour sessions. The time slots offered online are staggered so that it doesn’t get crowded.

Mornings, the facility is usually rented out to ski clubs and schools so athletes can practice specific skills. Reach out to the Big Snow team about booking lessons in skiing or snowboarding.

Our best tip: Grooming takes place after morning sessions and then again at night. Therefore, the closer you arrive to the public 1pm start time, the fresher the powder.

Big Snow is located in the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Allow time to look around when you visit. Glance into the Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park and DreamWorks water park so you can plan a return visit. Both are open year-round and are amazing complements to the Big Snow experience.

The mall, just 4 miles west of New York City, is easily reached by NJ Transit bus service from the NY Port Authority Bus Terminal. NJ Transit train service is available on game days to the nearby MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands. On site parking costs $5 per vehicle.

By the way, once everyone in the family becomes a snow sports athlete, it’s time to venture out to Mountain Creek, the outdoor ski and snowboard resort that provides operations and management for Big Snow. When you’re ready for an overnight, use our directory of top family mountain resorts to make your pick.

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