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Snowcat Ridge launched Dade City Tubing Hill for five years

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DADE CITY Isaac Ruiz wasn’t sure what to expect until he headed to the new snow park that opened on Friday in the heart of the Sunshine State.

The 38-year-old man from Wesley Chapel said he previously lived in New York City and was familiar with snow. But this is Florida. And as he lined up for Snowcat Ridge, a 60-foot hill on a snow tube with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, he just hoped to have some fun.

I wasn’t sure how they were going to make this happen, but I really thought it was something we had to come and see, he said.

Imagine a large artificial slope, like the wide slide with lanes at the State Fair where thrill seekers fly on a carpet. But this one is icy and the mode of transport is a snow tube or raft. Prices vary but start at $ 24.95 for a two-hour pass.

It didn’t disappoint, Ruiz said. Everyone in the family said they enjoyed the slide, which is the closest thing to sledding in Florida.

Dozens of visitors made the trip for the opening of the winter-themed attraction, which is on the same property as the Halloween destination Scream-A-Geddon. They traveled all over the state, curious about how someone managed to open a tube slide park in the Deep South.

Mahogany Kendrick, in the foreground, and her husband, Akbar Mercer, of Quincy, FL splash around at the end of the 60-foot-high, 400-foot-long snow covered hill at the Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park on Friday, November 20 .  2020, in Dade City.  Kendrick was visiting the park for his birthday.
Mahogany Kendrick, in the foreground, and her husband, Akbar Mercer, of Quincy, FL splash around at the end of the 60-foot-high, 400-foot-long snow covered hill at the Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park on Friday, November 20 . 2020, in Dade City. Kendrick was visiting the park for his birthday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Park operators have spent more than $ 1 million to study the snowmaking process, CEO Benjamin Nagengast told reporters. He jokingly called the snow two parts of magic, one part of water. But Nagengast wouldn’t delve into trade secrets when pressed by guest reporters at the opening. He said it was a process that would take hours to explain.

He allowed that creating a snowpark in Florida was not without challenges. And that was before figuring out how to open with the necessary safety precautions to operate during a pandemic. And then there was Tropical Storm Eta, which swept through the Tampa Bay area last week, wiping out the energy needed to make snow and ice.

Several factors determine the ability of parks to maintain snow cover, beyond temperature, including humidity, dew point and cloud cover, Nagengast said.

It’s around the top end of what may have worked, Nagengast said on a balmy sunny morning.

Layla Forst, 5, of Tampa, leads an automated conveyor known as the Magic Carpet Lift en route to the top of the 60 foot snow capped tube hill on Friday, November 20, 2020, during a visit to Snowcat Ridge Alpine snow park in Dade City.
Layla Forst, 5, of Tampa, leads an automated conveyor known as the Magic Carpet Lift en route to the top of the 60 foot snow capped tube hill on Friday, November 20, 2020, during a visit to Snowcat Ridge Alpine snow park in Dade City. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Afternoon temperatures were in the 70s on Friday. While the hill was frosted, there was no snow yet when the parks opened.

Much of this was due to the temperatures, said Winston McDaniel, chief marketing officer. The park hopes to harness its technologies to full capacity by the end of the weekend. The formation of snow and ice on the hill is an ongoing process, McDaniel explained.

The park encouraged guests to dress in layers, but with the sledges warming the sun, many winter coats were skipping. And even though there was no snow on the ridge yet, runners were still screaming as they climbed inner tubes on individual lanes on an icy, slippery hill and crashed into puddles of water. fondues at the end of their run.

Although the hill itself has yet to have snow showers, a Arctic Igloo offered families the chance to see snow made in Florida. Visitors pushed their children through the alleys of mini snow hills in the igloo and frolicked in an icy substance the consistency of a snow cone.

At the foot of the hill, in the parks of the Alpine village, vendors sold barbecue and other food. A gift shop was stocked with teddy bears, sunglasses, and various items. The Christmas lights were twisted into pine garlands. The smell of log fires drifted from the smoky pits between the containers.

Kids play in the outdoor picnic area on Friday, November 20, 2020 at Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park in Dade City.  The area, known as the Alpine Village, provides a few log fires and is surrounded by vendor tents.
Kids play in the outdoor picnic area on Friday, November 20, 2020 at Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park in Dade City. The area, known as the Alpine Village, provides a few log fires and is surrounded by vendor tents. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Melanie Cubas, 23, drove two hours from Gainesville to visit the park she saw on Facebook.

I want to see snow, she said as she waited to enter the park. She said she was very excited to see her one-year-old son Jay Nubin perform there.

I liked that he could go there, she said after taking her son down the slide.

Ellen Benedict, 16, of Crystal River came to the park with her family, wearing an Olaf jumpsuit from the Disney Frozen character and a To the top mask. When Benedict heard about the park opening, she thought it was a crazy idea. She was still excited.

After going down the hill a few times, Benoît was pleasantly surprised.

It was actually better than I expected, she said.

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