Sliders flock to Eagle Island snow park

rphillips@idahostatesman.comJanuary 2, 2014 

The snow park is open from 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends and holidays.

BY ROGER PHILLIPS — rphillips@idahostatesman.com

It’s a late Christmas present and a happy New Year for skiers, boarders and inner tubers.

After much discussion and debate about putting the tubing hill and terrain park at the Ada/Eagle Sports Complex, which hasn’t gotten any results, Gateway Parks on Tuesday opened a similar park at Eagle Island State Park.

“We were really excited to hear something was going in so close,” said Sylvia Caroselli of Boise. Her family gave the park a try at its free opening day on Tuesday before the official opener on Wednesday.

It costs $10 a day to use the snow park, plus a $5 parking fee if you don’t have an annual Idaho State Parks Passport. The Passport is available for $10 at Idaho Department of Motor Vehicle offices.

Season passes for the tubing hill/terrain park are also available for $99.

“One of the key things is we’re trying to create affordable activities for people,” said Josh Davis, brand manager for Gateway Parks.

The Eagle Island snow park is a smaller version of what is planned at the Eagle Sports Complex, but that didn’t detract snow sliders on Tuesday.

“It’s super fun. It looks like people are stoked,” said Ryan Neptune, owner of Gateway Parks, which operates the snow park.

He estimated the free-sliding day on Tuesday attracted more than 500 people by mid afternoon.

The snow park is operating as a one-year pilot project with Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

“If it is successful, we would love to have him come back,” park manager Gary Shelley told the Idaho Statesman last month.

The snow park was created on a grassy slope with man-made snow using water from the state park’s ponds.

Neptune and his crew made and sculpted snow into a groomed tubing run with rollers and berms, and added a jump and three rail slides for skiers and boarders. They installed a rope tow that pulls everyone back up the hill.

There are 50 tubes available, and more could be added if there’s a demand.

The park also features a heated gazebo, fire grill, and more amenities are in the works.

Neptune said he’s going to make more snow and built a snow fort and snow castle that kids can play on.

“We’re going to make it an overall experience and make people want to hang out here,” Davis said.

Despite only having one jump and three rail slides, snowboarder Max Downey, 12, of Meridian, said he’s excited to see the snow park open at Eagle Island.

“It’s great to come here and practice jumps, only pay $10 for the whole day, and get to hang out with my friends,” he said.

Gateway is still hoping to put another snow park at the Eagle Sports Complex if a dispute between Ada County and the City of Eagle is resolved.

“They’re planned to run in conjunction with each other,” Davis said. “This in no way changes what we have planned at the Sports Complex. The two are meant to complement each other.”

With snow-making machines, the current snow park won’t have to rely on natural snow, and it may have a longer season than most of the nearby ski resorts and tubing hills.

Davis said the man-made snow is much denser than natural snow, which makes it much slower melting.

He said if there’s demand, the park could remain open as late as May.

The proposed park at the Eagle Sports Complex is in limbo until a dispute between Ada County and the City of Eagle is resolved.

Ada County owns land upon which the Sport Complex is located, but the City of Eagle has a 99-year lease on the property and has spent about $1.7 million improving it.

Eagle City Council approved Neptune’s proposed snow park at the Eagle Sports Complex, but the county balked at allowing it.

Ada County commissioners and Eagle City council disagree whether a private concessionaire — which Neptune’s park would be — is allowed under the terms of the lease.

The Eagle City Council recently offered Ada County $4,000 an acre for 35 acres of the 267-acre Eagle Sports Complex and canceled the lease on the remaining 232 acres of country property.

If the sale goes through, or the commission and council renegotiate the lease, Neptune can build another park, but it’s unlikely to happen this winter.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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