Bigger, faster Snow Mountain opens to sold-out crowd

From the joyous cheers of children and grown-ups climbing the slick 400-foot hill in inner tubes to the toddlers intently packing snow into igloo bricks, the consensus seemed to be that seeing the white stuff in the South was a cool treat.

Six-year-old Gabriel Spain of Roswell was too focused on his construction project to offer comment, but his dad, Jesse, was impressed by his first visit to Snow Mountain.

"I think it's almost more fun for me than it is for him," he said. "I'm from Ohio, but I haven't seen snow in 15 years. It's awesome to be in Atlanta where it's usually in the 50s in winter to be able to do this."

Some of the kinks from the attraction's debut earlier this year have been ironed out. The park has upped the number of tubing lanes from seven to 12 and added one additional moving sidewalk to schlep snow fans from the bottom of the hill to the top.

"Our mission this year was to make sure people spend less time in line and more time playing in the snow," said project manager Paul Creasy.

Jesse Spain said he waited half an hour to get to the top of the hill, and others said it took as little as 15 minutes.

Park officials and crews of workers slowly started transforming the laser lawn into the winter wonderland it is today back in October, and began making snow Nov. 1. The park's machines have the capacity to spit out 240 tons of snow per day, even if temperatures rise into the 80s. It's an icy, less powdery type of snow made from Stone Mountain Lake water, which is treated to a drinking level, and after it melts is drained back into the lake, Creasy said. Snow Mountain contains about three football fields-worth of snow.

The park had solid reason to go the snow route. In 2006, they outsourced a survey of Atlanta families and found that 70 percent of metro kids had never seen snow and that 40 percent had never experienced snow as a family.

Laura Ramos, Stone Mountain Park's marketing manager, said the inaugural season was a big success, bringing approximately 100,000 visitors through Snow Mountain in early 2009.

"My strongest recommendation is to purchase your tickets online before you arrive at the park," she said. "And to try to get here 45 minutes prior to the start of your scheduled session."

Here are more tips and info to ensure Snow Mountain is a good time for all:

  • Tickets for the tubing hill are sold in two-hour sessions with new sessions starting every hour, but access to the two play areas is not timed. There is a 42-inch minimum height requirement for the tubing hill.
  • The Little Angels play area is designed for children 3 and younger. There is no minimum height to play there, but there is a maximum of 48 inches. Toboggans are available for little ones to go down smaller hills.
  • The Snow Zone area provides shovels and toys as well as hats, scarves and other snowman accessories and also features a snowball shooting gallery where snowballs can be fired at targets that flip, spin and turn.
  • Dress in layers, and wear snow boots, hats, gloves and a water-resistant outer layer. Consider bringing a change of clothes along. Locker rentals are available.
  • Individual Snow Mountain tickets are $25. There is a $10 vehicle fee.
  • Visit http://www.snowmountainpark.com/tickets_reservations/ to buy tickets, and bring confirmation number of purchase and credit card used for the transaction with you to the park.

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