Sydney snow resort to exude ‘Swiss Alps’ feel


Sydney Ski Resort approved Image: Winter Sports World

After eight years of planning, construction is set to begin on Australia’s first indoor ski resort, which will bring a snow field to Sydney that can operate for 365 days a year.

‘’ stated that the development, named Winter Sports World (WSW), has been coined ‘the Giant Esky’ and will be home to a 300m ski run, an ice rink, thermal pools, a snow play area, and facilities for ice climbing. Visitors will be tempted to extend their stay with a range of restaurants, conference and function rooms and a 4.5-star hotel with 170 rooms included in the complex.

Its stakeholders are confident that the new resort can attract global snow sports stars, promising Olympic-grade training facilities for various types of snow sports.

Recently, the WSW announced its plan to build the winter resort complex on a two ha site in Penrith, 55 km West of Sydney, and the same has been given the green light by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Planning and Environment.

The New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment is a department of the New South Wales Government, responsible for effective and sustainable planning to support the growth in the State of New South Wales, Australia.

‘’ further stated that the development is expected to provide a significant economic boost to Western Sydney, generating around 1,350 construction jobs and another 1,350 permanent jobs, and contributing around $220 million a year to the local economy.

Despite facing a prolonged planning phase that began eight years ago, the project’s developers have been steadfast in ensuring their plans come to fruition.

A State Significant Development Application was originally submitted to the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment in June 2018 by the WSW Managing Director Peter Magnisalis.

He said receiving development approval for the mammoth $400m indoor snow resort came as “a huge relief”.

Maintained Magnisalis, “For the first time in eight years, the WSW is no longer a pie-in-the-sky dream, but a real project and on course to bring snow fields to Sydney. It has been all-consuming for me personally for years now and will continue to be. I can’t wait to get it built.”

Magnisalis noted that the resort’s admission price would be “quite affordable” for the visitors – “We haven’t worked all that out yet, but our vision is for it to be affordable for everyone [from] all walks of life.”

The project must have a few more hurdles before breaking ground for construction to begin.

The Penrith site must undergo complex design and engineering work first to put in supporting infrastructure and prepare for the foundations, while a global hunt for contractors and suppliers will begin to secure the materials, resources and labor needed for such a unique development.

This involves finding a construction company to oversee the development, securing snow-making machines and ski lifts, establishing restaurant and hotel operators, and sourcing designers and artists for the resort’s finer details.

Added Magnisalis, “So we need to take the time [during] this crucial preparation stage to ensure we get the project right before it can start to rise above the ground. This project will definitely be a global enterprise. Our goal is for the WSW to have the best-quality snow in the world for an indoor snow resort.”

The indoor snow resort has been designed by the Sydney-based architecture firm Collins and Turner and is inspired by the cold, aiming to reflect the appearance of a blizzard by day and tell the story of melting ice from the mountains at night through its “ice shard” façade.

The WSW also plans to operate as a net-zero carbon facility, with plans in place to reduce emissions during construction and when it’s fully operating.

These include nullifying the onsite use of fossil fuels, establishing onsite renewable and green energy sources and using carbon offsetting for the remaining emissions.

Collins and Turner is a multiaward winning architecture and design studio based in Sydney, Australia. The firm was founded in 2002 by Penny Collins and Huw Turner.

Collins and Turner focuses on the design and construction of innovative environments for living, work, learning, and recreation. Some of their projects include a reverse plate-shaped restaurant and a fine dining venue.

‘Penrith Swiss Alps’

‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ stated that Penrith was the hottest place on Earth just over four years ago when it recorded a temperature of 48.9 degrees. Yet, an ambitious plan for a $400 million indoor ski resort – or ‘fancy Esky’ – on the banks of the Nepean River is one step closer after the NSW Planning Department gave the project the green light to the project.

Visitors would be able to ski until midnight, 365 days of the year, while other facilities such as restaurants and the hotel would open until 11 pm.

The 300-meter-long ski slope will be housed in a building that at its tallest point would be 54 meters. The ski slope will have a gradient of up to 16 degrees with the top accessible via a chair lift, according to planning documents.

Deemed a state significant development, the Planning Department said the indoor ski resort was in the public interest and should be approved subject to conditions.

Developer Peter Magnisalis said he wants to build an indoor ski resort in Penrith to broaden access to snow sports for people who cannot afford to go to alpine resorts – “It’s only the rich who can afford to go to the snow. We also want to address the issue of wasted potential Winter Olympic sport talent and provide a training facility for the future Olympians.”

Magnisalis does not shy away from the challenges of building a ski slope in Western Sydney where heat waves cause temperatures up to 10 degrees hotter than other parts of the City – “Believe it or not, whether they are in Penrith, elsewhere in Sydney or even in the desert in Dubai, the challenges are the same for any of these fancy Eskys. There are technical challenges where you need to create the perfect snow box environment so that the snow is kept perfect for as long as possible.”

Large amounts of water and energy will be required to make snow and cool the facility. Magnisalis estimates the amount of energy will be comparable to an office tower – “It’s having a perfectly sealed snow box with no windows that face the outside. Once you have that, the energy usage is probably less than a commercial office building on a per square meter basis. It’s all about getting thermal mass – once you get the snow in and the building to ideal temperature, which will take a couple of months, it’s very efficient. Much like your air conditioner at home, although our building will be better sealed than the average home.”

Magnisalis said the project had private backers, who he declined to identify, and had not received “public funding to date”.

The project has won support from the Australian Ski Areas Association Chief Executive Colin Hackworth who said it would boost interest in snow sports and the tourism sector and complement the existing alpine resorts.

Observed Hackworth, “I think this is an excellent new public facility that will appeal to a great many people, and will give people living in Sydney’s Western suburbs another recreational option they currently don’t have.”

He also said the facility would complement, not compete with Australia’s alpine resorts such as Thredbo and Perisher, offering people the opportunity to participate in snow sports year-round, not just in the Australian Winter.

Hackworth said he presumed investors had done their homework when it came to the financial viability of making snow in a location where temperatures can soar past 40 degrees in Summer – “Once the snow is made it does not take a great deal of water to maintain it, and no doubt the building will be very well insulated. The project from that perspective should be relatively simple to implement and operate.”

Victoria (Australia)-based the Australian Ski Areas Association (ASAA) is a non-profit organization that represents the ski area owners and operators in Australia. The ASAA develops and publishes policies to make snow sports in Australia safe and enjoyable.

‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ further stated that however, the NSW Greens Western Sydney spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann said environmental concerns such as flooding, water use and biodiversity had not been adequately addressed – “The proponent has not been clear as to how much water will be required, but it could be substantial considering the need to make snow.”

Faehrmann said the New South Wales Government should impose a condition that the facility ceases snowmaking operations during drought – “I reckon it would be a lot for the people of Western Sydney to stomach if they’re subject to tough water restrictions during the next drought while this facility is churning out snow like there’s no tomorrow.”

The Greens NSW, also known as the NSW Greens, is a political party in New South Wales that is part of the Australian Greens. The party was formed in 1991 and is a grassroots movement that aims to drive progressive social change.

The Business Western Sydney Executive Director David Borger said Penrith was the capital of adventure sports in Sydney and “this kind of fits with that theme”. But he said less than half of hotel development applications get built.

Borger also said the State Government should develop a tourism strategy for the region to coincide with the opening of the Western Sydney airport.

He concluded by stating, “Who wouldn’t like to go to the Swiss Alps in Penrith?”

Parramatta (Australia)-based the Business Western Sydney is a business advocacy organization that promotes ideas to improve the economy and livability of Western Sydney. It was formerly known as the Western Sydney Business Chamber.

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