Inside The First Year-Round Snow Dome In North America

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This article originally appeared on Snowboarder.com and had been republished with permission.

First things first… there is a video coming. Stan (our editor with the most of the clips filmed on his phone) just dropped his “water-resistant” iPhone in a sink at a bar while enjoying his last night in NYC. But don’t worry… we planned for that. So while Stan sits in a waiting room hoping his files are saved, sit back and enjoy this recap the old-fashioned way—words and photos. – Mark Clavin

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Red Gerard, Blake Axelson, and Nik Baden hiking up before the official “first chair” on opening day. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, it is always 28°f inside the dome. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine

It all started a few weeks ago. Stan and I found out that the never-going-to-open snow dome right outside of NYC had magically set an opening day for early December. Opening inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, it was going to be the first snow dome in North America. We had to go. We also knew we had to lie and tell riders we were going to New York instead of Jersey for a snowboarding trip if we wanted anyone to show up.

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Up until then, it had been considered quite the eyesore along the Jersey Turnpike with years of doubt surrounding its completion. But to that we say, what isn’t an eyesore along the Jersey Turnpike? MetLife stadium is no grand Venetian masterpiece. The most beautiful piece of art to come out of that area is OBJ’s one-handed NFL catch a few years back and he is long gone. Jersey jokes aside, we heard Red Gerard was going to be at Big Snow for the opening so we called up his part-time roommates, Nik Baden and Blake Axelson, to see if they wanted to join. A few hours later, along with some raised eyebrows on flying into Newark instead of Laguardia for the “NYC” trip, and the crew was set.

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Everything done on an opening day of the new resort is technically a “first” right? Blake Axelson getting a textbook first in for himself. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Nik Baden scoring some powder. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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We are just glad they finally remembered their board bags at the airport. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine

Cut to Dec. 4 … we arrive on our cross-country flight at midnight in Jersey. Blake and Nik landed thirty minutes before us, and let’s just say that was enough time for Stan and I to have plenty of catching up to do. Their boards were still spinning at baggage claim, but they had an easy time finding the bar. We secured the bags, and with no need to drink the next day’s sky blue on account of the ceiling we’d be riding under, our motley crew piled into an Uber to meet up with Red at the hotel and get ready for the opening.

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It might not be his backyard, but it definitely wasn’t part of their park. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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The poma lift wasn’t running for opening day, but we got plenty of use out of the yellow safety pads. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Hollis Dupree doesn’t like to grab, but he did grab a shot in front of the local news camera. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine

If you want the simple report, here it is: Big Snow is pretty sick. No, you won’t ever have a powder day there… but we all know that. They will also never close. The snow is fast if you wax, and just as good if you don’t. It’s not too bad of a trip from downtown Manhattan (about 35 min in traffic), and if you are already in Jersey… what else do you have to do? There is no ice, and the park is handled by the same builders that put up the consistently celebrated Mountain Creek rails (Editor’s Note: Mountain Creek is another suitable thing to do in Jersey).

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They have a sixteen-story slope with four acres of rideable terrain. One quad chair, a poma lift, and two magic carpets puts Big Snow in the same realm as some midwest resorts that quickly come to mind. With no season pass program available yet, a two-hour session is around $30.00, with an option to extend your time. They limit the amount of people in the dome so everyone has a chance at getting in laps, and surprisingly it never felt like there was a crowd. Oh, and once again… THEY NEVER CLOSE. Even year-round glacier riding has weather days or terrain roped off due to seasonal melt. There is now a possibility for an endless winter right outside the most populated city in the United States. Lifties are already hoping for Airblaster’s SKOLF to consider the location for an indoor stop. And all we can think of is who is going to be the first rail prodigy to come from the new North American Indoor Scene. LJ Henriquez was making a strong case on opening day. Keep an eye out for that kid.

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THAT’S WHY WE BROUGHT HIM! Baden, up close. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Baden, from afar. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine

But back to our trip. We sessioned the opening weekend setup for two days and the park crew couldn’t have been more accommodating. A small jump, volcano, and a handful of jibs were right under the lift. The lift and laps were quick, even hiking inside the refrigerator was mellow. Baden and Blake put on a display of style that was fitting for New York Fashion Week, while Red and local Burton rider Hollis Dupree hit about everything in sight… set up for snowboarding or not.

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Kelly Clark carved her way down the hill, and George and Timi Carpenter had a pretty heavy session of their own on the jump. The surfing wave pool wasn’t open yet, but the once-classic California trifecta trip just became possible all within one building deemed the “American Dream.” We were assured by management that more rails will be put in as they get everything dialed for their never-ending season, and by the looks of it just a week removed from the trip, they are already delivering. Via eyes glued to social media, a down bar is currently set up, with endless possibilities to go.

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If you made the case that Stan cased this hit, you would be right. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Baden cleared this one with ease. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Not too bad of a view from Jersey. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine
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Much better though. Thanks for the spot to crash, Red! Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine

We rarely get to go to New York City for snowboarding, so this was a also sightseeing affair. After riding, we did the whole Time Square and Rockefeller tree viewing, and Red even got upgraded at his hotel. Pro tip: Travel with Olympians who let you crash on the floor of their free penthouse somewhere in the East Village. Burton happened to throw a JOY premiere at their SoHo location where we celebrated the life of Jake Carpenter with family and friends, which made us all feel right at home. Eventually spilling out into the New York streets, after grabbing a pumpernickel bagel and catching the sunrise from somewhere on 8th Ave, we headed back to Newark to fly out. We had two days of riding well spent on the East Coast, with all of us itching to go back. Hopefully we will make it again this winter, but if not… you will definitely find us there this summer.

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Red Gerard and The American Dream. Courtesy of Mark Clavin/SNOWBOARDER Magazine