Thought you’d seen it all in the ski world? Try Big Snow American Dream, a ski resort so unorthodox it’s not even a mountain—instead, it’s a man-made construction that’s fully indoors.
While many people love summer, it can be a hard time for avid snowboarders and skiers. Sure, the weather is beautiful and everyone loves bright, sun beaming days, yet many of us winter shredders catch ourselves thinking about the snow and how much we miss it. This was exactly my predicament late last summer when I finally made the choice to load up my Nissan and make the four hour trek to New Jersey to experience the unfathomable: indoor snowboarding on real snow (in a mall nonetheless)!
For those of you who don’t know, Big SNOW American Dream is the first and only snow dome in the United States, in North America, and in fact in the Western Hemisphere! Located in East Rutherford, N.J., inside of the American Dream Mall at the Meadowlands, Big Snow opened its doors in December 2019 and has quickly become well known throughout the country. But with all the hype around this place, I hope to answer the most important question about it: is it worth the trip?
Size: 180,000 Total Square Feet (150,000 sq ft of Slopes)
Skiable Acreage: 4 Acres
Vertical Drop: 160 Feet
Slope Grades: 26% Max, 3% Min, 10% Avg
Let’s start with the obvious here: Big Snow is small—like 4-acres-of-skiable-terrain small. With a 160-foot vertical drop and just four trails, Big Snow is not the place to go for variety. It is not like spending the entire day at an outdoor ski resort. With that being said, any time on snow in the middle of summer is better than no time at all on the snow, so let’s break down what we’re working with.
The snowdome is essentially one mild hill broken into a few sections. One half is dedicated to a terrain park from top to bottom (Northern Lights Park), and the other half is rated as a blue square/intermediate at the steepest point on the top (Switchback) and a green circle/beginner on the bottom (The Perfect Slope). There’s also a small bunny hill learning area (Lil’ Dipper) off to the side for those just getting their first turns in. Check out their trail map here to get a better idea of how everything is laid out.
The terrain park is where I spent most of my time and I’ve got to say, I was quite impressed! Despite not having a ton of space to work with, there were still about 7-8 features on the hill, including a medium-sized jump. The spacing between features was perfect and there was plenty of speed available to hit everything.
There was also a good variety in feature style and difficulty, including a few different rails, boxes, a pole jam, and the jump I mentioned before. The terrain-park crew at Big Snow is really on top of their game and went so far as to switch around a couple of features each night during the few days I was there. Helmets off to the park crew for keeping things fresh and interesting; it definitely makes it more appealing to go back!
Regardless of the terrain available, nothing matters if the snow is bad, thus it feels important to discuss snow quality as I imagine some of you are wondering what skiing/riding on entirely manmade snow indoors feels like. Snowboarding on the East Coast, you know we have crazy icy conditions to deal with. To be entirely honest, I was quite impressed! It certainly wasn’t the best snow I’ve ever ridden, but it was also far from the worst. The snow was relatively dry, not quite fluffy, but definitely not hard pack. It was like stepping inside a giant 28-degree room on a sweltering day was refreshing, like walking into the freezer section of the supermarket — the perfect temperature to keep the slopes covered in 5,500 tons of snow, with an average depth of 2 feet. The temperature feels ideal for skiing. But without wind, it was easy to forget it was well below freezing.
Lifts: 4 Total
2 Magic Carpet Surface Lifts
1 Fixed Grip Quad Chairlift
1 Poma Platter Surface Lift
Despite this place being rather small, the number of ways to get to the top of the “mountain” was impressive. Their main lift (The BIG Express Quad) is a high-speed, four-person chairlift that goes directly over the center of the trails with a runtime of about 3.5 minutes to ride the lift up and less than 30 seconds to ski down. There was also a rope tow on the far right (Platter Lift) that opened on busy days. There were also not one, but two magic carpets on the bunny slope!
Crowds And Atmosphere
Throughout my entire experience, what shocked me the most were the crowds or lack thereof. One of my main concerns about a place like this is that it could easily become overcrowded with a max
capacity of 500 people. However, I didn’t find the number of other skiers/riders to ever be an issue. I don’t think I ever waited more than five minutes in the lift line, I had plenty of space to carve on their main trail, and even in the park I hardly ever found myself waiting for other riders.
Another slight concern I had was the atmosphere. Was it going to be intimidating with nothing but seriously talented riders and skiers? Was it going to be pure chaos caused by an alpine race team setting up a course in the middle of the slope? Maybe a combo of both? The point is, I really had no idea what to expect when riding on an indoor ski slope. The honest truth is it felt just like riding at any other mountain. There were really good riders training for next winter, total newbies trying skiing out for the first time, and of course, a fair share of weekend warriors just taking some turns for fun! If you’ve ever been to any other ski resort, expect it to feel like that, just on a smaller scale.
As you might imagine, Big Snow is not the cheapest. Seeing as it’s such a unique experience with virtually no competition, they are able to charge just about whatever they like. With that being said, I felt the pricing was actually pretty fair. The snow dome opens at 11 am every day and closes between 8 pm and 10 pm depending on the day. Tickets are sold in two-hour time slots and range around $59.99 per participant, depending on the demand for the day. For this reason, I'd advise buying tickets well in advance as that’s the best way to get the lowest possible price. Time slots can be stacked, so if you anticipate riding or skiing for more than two hours, you can purchase back-to-back tickets and go for the entire time they’re open!
A little life hack for if you plan on spending a couple of days there: get the “6-pack” offer, which is $239.94 for six two-hour times slots and can be redeemed whenever you want or a '3-pack" at $199.98. This breaks down to about $19.95 - $33.33 per hour and is a better value in the long run! They now offer monthly Snow Pass subscriptions starting at $299.99 and $99.99 a month if you live locally to get the best out of your pass.
Your lift ticket is a scannable bracelet that also controls the lock for your locker where you can store your gear while riding. An employee at the doorway scans the bracelet to check in for your time slot.
If you don’t want to lug your gear all the way to the complex, Big Snow offers rental packages to go along with lift access. These packages include jackets, helmets, and snow pants; glove rentals can be purchased as an extra-cost add-on. At $89 per two-hour session for lift access and rentals, the package is a decent deal compared to many outdoor ski resort rental shops - As well this is perfect for starting out, as most ski resorts don't provide packages for outer wear.
Ease Of Access
I was lucky enough to be within a reasonable driving distance from Big Snow (about four hours), but if you’re not from the East Coast, ease of access is likely a concern. Luckily, Newark Liberty International Airport is only about 20 minutes away from the snow dome, making it quite easy to fly into New Jersey and get right to the action.
It’s also worth noting that if you plan to make a multi-day trip, there are no hotels on the premises since Big Snow is inside of a mall. However, there are a dozen hotels within a 15-minute radius, and it’s easy enough to find lodging if you plan ahead. The American Dream Mall is the perfect getaway trip as there are many on-site activities, fun for the entire family.