Do you ever have a hankering to ski and ride in the summer before the snow falls?
If you live in Minnesota you can ski and ride year-round, particularly if you live in the Twin Cities.
Neveplast Makes it Possible
For the second summer and fall, Buck Hill, a small ski area best known for producing big-time ski racers, is offering warm weather skiing on Neveplast, an artificial surface.
Created by an Italian company in 1998, Neveplast is used for summer alpine skiing and tubing, on indoor dry slopes and for artificial nordic skiing tracks.
It is also used in high traffic areas where snow takes a beating, such as chairlift loading and unloading zones.
Think of Neveplast as a plastic carpet, made of open honeycombs and bristles that skis like natural snow, albeit hardpack snow (but without any ice!).
Screws attach Neveplast to the ground. Grass grows through the open honeycombs, holding the surface in place and enhancing the skiing.
The surface is groomed each day, although with a lubricant instead of a snowcat. This keeps the surface slippery, as does a small trough in the lift line that everyone passes through to lube the base of their skis or snowboard.
Rainy days, rather than being a bummer, are actually among the best days to ski Neveplast as water makes the surface extra slippery. And that’s why on sunny days, Buck Hill turns on the sprinklers.
Once Neveplast is in place, it stays year round, which helps with the transition from fall to winter.
“The Neveplast is great,” explains Dee Oujiri of Buck Hill. “As the snow flies and we don’t have enough to groom we can still have some of the runs open, before the weather truly turns and we create snow for the entire resort.”
Why Ski Neveplast?
“You’ve got to meet Curt and Wally.” My oldest son, my husband and I were in the Buck Hill Rental Shop getting skis, boots and poles, along with the inside scoop from Phil, a long time Buck Hill skier and employee.
“They’re out here everyday, they’ve probably skied the Neveplast 600 times and if anyone knows how it skis, they are the ones.”
Buck Hill has two slopes (and a tubing hill) open for summer and fall: Little Jibber, served by a triple chair and the lower part of Red Tail Ridge, served by a (very fast!) rope tow.
On August 27, the terrain park on Red Tail Ridge busy with kids riding rails and kids kitted out for ski racing, practicing turns on the steeper of the two runs.
Little Jibber, is a mellow green slope where folks who just want to ski, ski.
And this is where we found Curt and Wally.
“I just love to ski,” explained Curt. “Look at this. It’s 70 degrees out, there are wildflowers, bunny rabbits and green grass. When is the last time you skied with bunny rabbits?”
And while I forgot to ask Curt and Wally how often they ski in the winter, they ski as much as they can come summer.
Give It Four Runs
In addition to directing us to Curt and Wally, Phil also gave us this important piece of advice.
“It will freak you out at first,” he warned. “It’s bright green. But give it a few runs and you’ll forget about the color.”
Actually, it wasn’t just the color that freaked me out a bit. It was the idea of falling on plastic.
Buck Hill advises summer skiers and snowboarders to wear jeans and lightweight gloves. The Neveplast surface is mostly open, so if you fall, you’re falling onto hard ground and plastic bristles.
Fortunately, Tom Schulz, the Snowsports School director got us oriented and took some runs with us.
Keep your weight on your big toe edge when turning. This adds stability. Try too much little toe and you may go down (my husband concurs — he tried it and took one for the team).
Give yourself at least four runs to get used to the surface, or as Tom put it, “it takes about four runs to get the giddyup back in your horse.”
After those four runs however, you really are skiing. It may not be steep and deep, but it is skiing and it is fun.
Plus, you’re skiing with bunny rabbits and wildflowers.
No wonder Curt and Wally come back every day.
The Lindsey Vonn Foundation
In addition to local ski celebrities, Curt and Wally, we met Lindsey Vonn while at Buck Hill. As you may know, Lindsey grew up skiing at Buck Hill before relocating to Colorado.
Vonn was at Buck Hill for a two-day mentoring and confidence building event. Held in cooperation with ZGirls, the event involved 100 local girls.
In addition to holding events and sponsoring speakers, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation offers support to girls, “giving the future women of the world the confidence to move mountains through scholarships, education and athletics.”
Fall is a busy time at Buck Hill. In addition to weekend skiing and riding, the mountain is open for mountain biking and tubing. Come fall, Buck Hill gets busy with race camps of all types, as well as the annual Bucktober Fest on October 14th.
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