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Snow play: The evolution of snow in visitor attractions | Planet Attractions
     

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Snow play: The evolution of snow in visitor attractions

Almost cold as ice, Bart Dohmen, CEO of Unlimited Snow, explains how new technology is transforming the snow play experience for visitors and improving the bottom line




Snow play is integral to a snow attraction’s business model   Credit: Unlimited Snow

Indoor snow play attractions have never really had a breakthrough moment in Europe and the United States.

Europe does have quite a few indoor ski slopes, while the first one in the US opened only recently. But none of these include significant snow play experiences.

It’s important to understand the difference between ski and snow play. Indoor ski slopes are mainly used by people preparing themselves for winter sports holidays, while indoor snow play is instant fun without having to learn any difficult skills first, making it more of a year-round activity.

In total there are around 130 indoor snow domes worldwide, which feature both ski and play.

In Asia and the Middle East, snow play attractions have become very popular over the last decade. In China alone, there are already more than 30 operating snow parks, with new ones opening frequently.

It’s remarkable that Europe and the US are behind in this market. Indoor snow attractions offer a completely different experience than regular attractions, which in mature attraction markets such as these offer significant opportunity.



An evolving market

Snow attractions have a reputation in being expensive to build, while also being complex to operate. That’s something that might have been true in the past, but with new technologies, this is no longer the case.

Surprising it also seems, is that no one is paying attention to the fact that close to 100% of all indoor ski snow domes opened in Europe since 1995 are still in operation.

These domes offer activities such as skiing and snowboarding, which, as mentioned, requires special skills that require lessons to be able to do. You don’t need any lessons to play in the snow and it can be done by anyone of any age, significantly expanding your potential market. A business model that includes snow play rather than just ski generally shows a way higher return on investment for operators.

Over 30 years, Unlimited Snow has evolved from the company that made the snow for the first snow dome in the Netherlands in 1995, into a one-stop shop for indoor snow parks.

As a company, we have been leading the change in the market from purely indoor ski to complete indoor snow attractions, which today typically characterises the modern snow park market.

Almost all newly-built snow projects will now include snow play and only a few have indoor ski included and while that might seem strange based on the traditional model, this focus towards snow play is logical.

With snow play, less space is needed and playing in snow has a wider target group than ski only, giving you the basic ingredients for a more successful business model. It’s a public secret that Ski Dubai - the indoor ski resort with 22,500sq m (242,000sq ft) of indoor ski area - makes most of its money through its play area.

Like in the “dry” attractions market, snow play can be delivered in all kinds of shape and size. At its most basic, it starts with small tents where you can simply play in the snow. On the other end of the scale, you can have a completely themed, immersive snow park experience, including storylines and more than 40 attractions. These major attractions can reach sizes of up to 40,000sq m (430,500sq ft), with budgets reaching as high as €50m (US$60.6m, £44.3m).



Snow and storytelling

The trend in the general attractions market is shifting more and more towards immersive storytelling and snow parks are no different.

Using a strong storyline in snow parks enabled Unlimited Snow’s design team to create something new.

Previously, a snow experience took place entirely in a low-temperature zone. With the introduction of storytelling, our creative team was able to split the snow park experience, introducing both warm and cold elements to the experience.

A strong storyline will weave these hot and cold zones together, allowing visitors to experience a unified winter wonderland.

By splitting the guest experience over a warm and cold zone, the construction and operational costs become significantly lower, which of course helps the bottom line.

Unlimited Snow has two parks designed in this format, with both under construction in China at the moment.

The first in Beihai will be 36,500sq m, while the other one in Lanzhou will cover 25,000sq m. Both are expected to open this year.

Beyond creating a pure snow play experience, Unlimited Snow even went one step further.

In recent years, the company has invested heavily in Miko and the Alpine Marmots - an IP specially developed for snow park experiences. Using this IP, Miko takes the development and creates an experience similar to that of a high-end theme park. Miko also offers an extra revenue stream, with the IP including its own 3D/4D movie and a merchandise line for retail operations.

Temperature Challenges

Temperature has always been an issue with snow attractions. Most snow domes operate below freezing, which provides operational challenges. Unlimited Snow works with above freezing temperatures at around 3 degrees Celsius as part of an overall patented automated environmentally-friendly snow melt recycling system.

Compared to traditional systems, the Unlimited Snow technology offers a number of advantages, including an improved guest experience, sticking snow that doesn’t turn to ice, lower maintenance costs, enhanced hygiene, always white snow and a lower carbon footprint.

But even with temperatures sitting just above freezing, you still have to invest in sufficient insulation and moisture damage prevention.

Until recently, there was no way to get around this but now we can provide a winter play experience offering real ice and snow, even at normal air-conditioned temperatures.

At these temperatures, guests don’t need special clothing, which is a large operational issue in traditional snow parks.

Business models show that by working at temperatures above freezing, smaller snow parks are becoming really interesting for investors. With total cost starting at less than €3m (US$3.6m, £2.7m) for a fully-themed Miko’s Snow Park, the snow parks option is quickly becoming an alternative for the traditional FEC.

Game-changing developments in recent years have been immense, allowing for simpler operations and significantly-improved business models. Maybe now is the time to take these as a serious alternative, or addition, to any indoor FEC or waterpark.



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Home Opinion In depth Video
Snow play: The evolution of snow in visitor attractions | Planet Attractions

industry

Snow play: The evolution of snow in visitor attractions

Almost cold as ice, Bart Dohmen, CEO of Unlimited Snow, explains how new technology is transforming the snow play experience for visitors and improving the bottom line




Snow play is integral to a snow attraction’s business model   Credit: Unlimited Snow

Indoor snow play attractions have never really had a breakthrough moment in Europe and the United States.

Europe does have quite a few indoor ski slopes, while the first one in the US opened only recently. But none of these include significant snow play experiences.

It’s important to understand the difference between ski and snow play. Indoor ski slopes are mainly used by people preparing themselves for winter sports holidays, while indoor snow play is instant fun without having to learn any difficult skills first, making it more of a year-round activity.

In total there are around 130 indoor snow domes worldwide, which feature both ski and play.

In Asia and the Middle East, snow play attractions have become very popular over the last decade. In China alone, there are already more than 30 operating snow parks, with new ones opening frequently.

It’s remarkable that Europe and the US are behind in this market. Indoor snow attractions offer a completely different experience than regular attractions, which in mature attraction markets such as these offer significant opportunity.



An evolving market

Snow attractions have a reputation in being expensive to build, while also being complex to operate. That’s something that might have been true in the past, but with new technologies, this is no longer the case.

Surprising it also seems, is that no one is paying attention to the fact that close to 100% of all indoor ski snow domes opened in Europe since 1995 are still in operation.

These domes offer activities such as skiing and snowboarding, which, as mentioned, requires special skills that require lessons to be able to do. You don’t need any lessons to play in the snow and it can be done by anyone of any age, significantly expanding your potential market. A business model that includes snow play rather than just ski generally shows a way higher return on investment for operators.

Over 30 years, Unlimited Snow has evolved from the company that made the snow for the first snow dome in the Netherlands in 1995, into a one-stop shop for indoor snow parks.

As a company, we have been leading the change in the market from purely indoor ski to complete indoor snow attractions, which today typically characterises the modern snow park market.

Almost all newly-built snow projects will now include snow play and only a few have indoor ski included and while that might seem strange based on the traditional model, this focus towards snow play is logical.

With snow play, less space is needed and playing in snow has a wider target group than ski only, giving you the basic ingredients for a more successful business model. It’s a public secret that Ski Dubai - the indoor ski resort with 22,500sq m (242,000sq ft) of indoor ski area - makes most of its money through its play area.

Like in the “dry” attractions market, snow play can be delivered in all kinds of shape and size. At its most basic, it starts with small tents where you can simply play in the snow. On the other end of the scale, you can have a completely themed, immersive snow park experience, including storylines and more than 40 attractions. These major attractions can reach sizes of up to 40,000sq m (430,500sq ft), with budgets reaching as high as €50m (US$60.6m, £44.3m).



Snow and storytelling

The trend in the general attractions market is shifting more and more towards immersive storytelling and snow parks are no different.

Using a strong storyline in snow parks enabled Unlimited Snow’s design team to create something new.

Previously, a snow experience took place entirely in a low-temperature zone. With the introduction of storytelling, our creative team was able to split the snow park experience, introducing both warm and cold elements to the experience.

A strong storyline will weave these hot and cold zones together, allowing visitors to experience a unified winter wonderland.

By splitting the guest experience over a warm and cold zone, the construction and operational costs become significantly lower, which of course helps the bottom line.

Unlimited Snow has two parks designed in this format, with both under construction in China at the moment.

The first in Beihai will be 36,500sq m, while the other one in Lanzhou will cover 25,000sq m. Both are expected to open this year.

Beyond creating a pure snow play experience, Unlimited Snow even went one step further.

In recent years, the company has invested heavily in Miko and the Alpine Marmots - an IP specially developed for snow park experiences. Using this IP, Miko takes the development and creates an experience similar to that of a high-end theme park. Miko also offers an extra revenue stream, with the IP including its own 3D/4D movie and a merchandise line for retail operations.

Temperature Challenges

Temperature has always been an issue with snow attractions. Most snow domes operate below freezing, which provides operational challenges. Unlimited Snow works with above freezing temperatures at around 3 degrees Celsius as part of an overall patented automated environmentally-friendly snow melt recycling system.

Compared to traditional systems, the Unlimited Snow technology offers a number of advantages, including an improved guest experience, sticking snow that doesn’t turn to ice, lower maintenance costs, enhanced hygiene, always white snow and a lower carbon footprint.

But even with temperatures sitting just above freezing, you still have to invest in sufficient insulation and moisture damage prevention.

Until recently, there was no way to get around this but now we can provide a winter play experience offering real ice and snow, even at normal air-conditioned temperatures.

At these temperatures, guests don’t need special clothing, which is a large operational issue in traditional snow parks.

Business models show that by working at temperatures above freezing, smaller snow parks are becoming really interesting for investors. With total cost starting at less than €3m (US$3.6m, £2.7m) for a fully-themed Miko’s Snow Park, the snow parks option is quickly becoming an alternative for the traditional FEC.

Game-changing developments in recent years have been immense, allowing for simpler operations and significantly-improved business models. Maybe now is the time to take these as a serious alternative, or addition, to any indoor FEC or waterpark.



 
© Planet Attractions 2020