There will be no powder, cold wind on the face or hot toddies by the chateau fireplace, but if a United Kingdom company has its way, there will be land-based skiing in Grand Cayman.
Slippery Slope Ltd. is proposing to build an artificial slope on the George Town Landfill, assuming it gets capped and remediated. The company’s Anita Bath said the venture would mainly target children and adults wishing to learn how to ski.
“Although Mount Trashmore is high by local standards, it’s obviously not that high by skiing standards,” she said. “Our designers think that with some minimal earthworks, we can add another 40 feet or so to the existing height of the landfill and get a nice, long, gently-sloped run out of it.”
Artificial ski slopes – also known as dry ski slopes – have become increasingly popular during the past decade in various countries that don’t have mountains or snow. Different materials can be used to create the skiing surface, but Mrs. Bath said Slippery Slope will use a carpet-like surface in tandem with shock-absorbing padding underneath.
“The surface really skis like snow,” she said. “It contours to the ground so you get the same kind of bumps as you would on snow and the shock absorbing blanket underneath provides a soft landing surface when there are falls.”
Mrs. Bath said the ski slope will allow for straight running, carving, traversing and edge control.
“For seasoned skiers, it will at least be good practice before a ski holiday,” she said.
Slippery Slope also intends to open one run just for snow boarders.
“For beginners, it is less of an investment to buy the equipment for snowboarding than for skiing,” Bath said. “With snowboarding, we can also build some challenging ramps for jumps and tricks.”
Just like with most snow skiing, the slope won’t be open year-round, Mrs. Bath said.
“The surface can take rain just fine, but it wouldn’t do very well in a hurricane,” she said. “Therefore, we will close the slope for the six months of hurricane season. In addition, having the surface removed for the summer will take it out of the sun when the ultraviolet rays are strongest, extending its life expectancy significantly.”
Mrs. Bath said removing the surface during the summer months would also reduce the chances of explosions.
“We are fully aware that we’re creating at ski slope on a landfill that hasn’t had any mitigation whatsoever for methane gas,” she said. “If we lay the ski carpet down and leave it there, there’s the chance that over a period of years, pockets of potentially dangerous methane could accumulate under the carpets.”
Mrs. Bath said that if that were to happen, the extreme heat of the summer months could cause combustion.
“If someone were to create some friction with a carve over that methane pocket, they could cause an explosion,” she said. “It’s better to remove the surface once a year and let the site pass gas naturally.”
Another potential challenge for the project is sourcing the water that is needed to mist the skiing surface. This not only makes the surface faster and prolongs its life, but it reduces wear and tear on skis and snowboards. Mrs. Bath said the price of fresh water would make the project unfeasible, but there are a couple of other options.
“One option is to use well water from under the site, but since there’s been a toxic landfill sitting over that water for decades, we’re afraid it could create a health problem,” she said. “The other option is to use post-treated water from the nearby waste water treatment plant. The government tells us it is perfectly safe and that we could buy it at a very good price.”
The Water Authority’s Noah Fence said he knew nothing of the project.
“I don’t know Anita Bath, but something smells rotten with this landfill story,” he said. “Call me back on April 1st and I’ll let you know if it holds water.”
To view a video showing skiing on a dry slope, please click here.