Saturday, September 1, 2012

Keeping it Real

For the Ski House of the Day here's a quaint and attractive A-frame chalet....

...which looks like a wonderful ski house...but surprisingly, isn't really a ski house at all.  It is, however, located in the same town as a revolutionary new ski hill (whose slopes have been open for skiing all summer and) which is offering free access to the slopes on Community Day, today!

The ski hill is Snowflex, and the town is Lynchburg, Virginia.  Huh?  Skiing in the hot, sultry southwestern Virginia summer?  Here's the thing...Snowflex isn't really snow at's an innovative new material (developed by Briton Engineering) that allows skiers and riders to feel just like they are carving turns on real snow.  I think it's a really interesting innovation...(and if we don't keep an eye on climate change we just might be seeing a lot more of it pretty soon)...but it is not snow.  Most of the skiers I know analyze the constantly changing snow conditions daily or even hourly, to multiple degrees of specificity...from solid ice to deep powder, we like to know what we're heading out into.  At Snowflex the conditions are totally predictable and consistent:  it's white, wet and slippery;  but it isn't the real thing.

Snowflex, the first of its kind in the US, is located in on the campus of Liberty University...which is one of the most conservative, Christian/evangelical institutions in the country  and was founded by Jerry Falwell (conservative Christian political activist and the organizer of the "Moral Majority"...who dismissed global warming as a myth).   Maybe the surface isn't real, but the skiing appears to be real on Snowflex;  and yes, they're skiing in August believe it or not.  The university website says that among Snowflex's features is its "Authenticity:  (it) creates the thrill of real snow."  Okay, so it looks like real snow, and according to Liberty it  "thrills" like real snow...but it is not real snow.

Not really a ski house...not really snow...what else isn't really what it appears to be?  Is it real skiing if it isn't real snow? Where does reality leave off and illusion begin? Can we tell the difference?

Liberty seems an unlikely place for a progressive, groundbreaking ski hill with an innovative new skiing surface like Snowflex.  But upon further reflection (if you agree with Bill Maher's assessment -- regardless of his crude off-topic conclusion), maybe it's the perfect place for something that looks like snow, and "thrills" like snow, but isn't really snow at all.

Who knows...if we allow global warming to continue, Snowflex might be the only kind of snow we'll have left.  That would be some real irony.

As for the chalet...even though it isn't really a ski sure does look like one - right down to its gorgeous stone fireplace in the great room.  This really cute house appears to be on the market right now...and year-round "skiing" at Snowflex is right across town.

I probably won't be skiing Snowflex anytime soon (let's just say I prefer to keep it real).  But if I do, hopefully I'll be able to distinguish the real from the artificial, the actual from the illusion, fact from fiction.   Snowflex is pretty cool...just not real snow.

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