30/05/2006 - 22:00

Snow experience like skiing

30/05/2006 - 22:00

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Forget Mt Buller, Perisher or even Queenstown in New Zealand, a pair of local entrepreneurs wants to put Perth in the mix of winter sports destinations.

Snow experience like skiing

Forget Mt Buller, Perisher or even Queenstown in New Zealand, a pair of local entrepreneurs wants to put Perth in the mix of winter sports destinations.

WA Snow Park Pty Ltd joint directors Nick Forster and Steve Pretzel are gathering support from the business sector and wider community to build a $45 million snow dome centre in Perth.

The facility would include a 400-metre main slope with intermediate and expert zones, a half-pipe/freestyle/mogul slope, beginners’ and snow play area as well as an equipment hire shop, gym, apres-ski bar, ski training school, and retail stores including a ski/snowboarding shop.

Mr Forster, who is a professor at the UWA Business School, said the plan was met with some scepticism during its initial feasibility study held last year.

But his research has indicated a demand for the facilities, with more than 50,000 snow sports enthusiasts living in Perth.

“The interest in this project has exploded and currently about 2,000 people have signed up as supporters, as well as 36 informal expressions of interest from project engineers based in Perth,” Mr Forster said.

The company spent a year consulting with a snow dome refrigeration company and other experts in the field, including Dubai SnowDome creator and engineer Malcolm Clulow, Neil Williams, who was behind the Mt Thebarton SnowDome in Adelaide, as well as former professional skiers, snowboarders and mountain bikers.

“There’s been a worldwide resurgence in snow domes and with that comes advances in technology that can substantially lower both the capital and operating costs. Couple that with the Western Australian tradition for innovation and we’re confident of putting together a package that will be attractive to investors and that will result in a landmark tourism facility for this state,” Mr Forster said.

The company is looking at five possible sites around Perth that have the right mix of industrial, commercial and residential within 40 minutes access of the city. Areas under consideration include Joondalup, Armadale, Midland and the Kwinana/Rockingham corridor.

Mr Pretzel said other snow dome projects in Australia had failed principally because energy costs had proved too prohibitive and the slopes were not long enough to sustain user interest.

“We’re confident our project will be a major success as we plan to minimise energy costs by using thermal insulation and state-of-the-art refrigeration and snow-making equipment,” he said.

Fees for the snow dome are expected to be comparable with outdoor skiing day tickets and visitors will have the option to purchase one- and two-hour tickets and off-peak discounts.

Tourism WA executive director of industry development and visitor servicing David Etherton said that, if the project was successful, the snow park would be great for the people of Perth as an alternative to expensive trips to the east or overseas to indulge their passion for skiing.

“The project will benefit tourism in WA by giving Western Australians an option instead of flying east or overseas to ski,” he said.

“This will keep important tourism dollars in WA. The ongoing viability of man-made attractions in a state with the population of Western Australia can be challenging, but like any project that will depend on the operational costs of the venue and the capital structure.”

Successful snow dome projects around the world include SnowPlanet in New Zealand, SnowDome UK, SnowWorld in the Netherlands, Ski Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the Jever Skihaile in Germany.

Next for the WA project is a full financial feasibility study and potential capital raising.

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