On one side, local skiers look at the possibility of the “Fairfax Peak,” indoor ski slope in Lorton, as an opportunity. Fairfax County resident Aidan Lewe thinks the indoor slope could be a healthy escape from the evils of drugs and alcohol that sometimes impact teenagers. “Snowboarding is my passion and all the struggles of life are suddenly lifted when I’m on snow,” he wrote.
Resident Anthony Haynes was supportive of this initiative as well, citing energy, enthusiasm, and employment that it could bring to the area. "As a very active snowboarder and long time employee in Lorton, I'm very excited about the possibility of having an indoor ski resort in Fairfax County. Lorton is already an outdoor recreation destination. Fairfax Peak would act as an anchor facility to help improve ski and snowboard skills," he wrote.
“This would be a great addition to the Laurel Hill subdivision,” said Robert Arnakis. “I believe it would be a terrific opportunity for exercise and fits well within the adaptive reuse of the greater Lorton Penitentiary area,” Arnakis added.
“Very supportive of this initiative. Will bring energy, enthusiasm, and employment. Hope this proceeds quickly,” wrote Salim K Saifee.
Not all the comments were supportive.
THE OTHER SIDE cited environmental issues, transportation and racial inequalities that the Fairfax Peak could generate.
“My comments focus mainly on the potential loss of a large area of outdoor green space, particularly natural grassland habitat that shelters
declining species of birds and pollinators,” wrote George C. Ledec, Ph.D., a local biodiversity conservation specialist who called it “economically risky as well as environmentally problematic.”
The Fairfax County chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby looked at the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) already in place. “We believe a public-private partnership of this scale must not conflict with the ambitious goals being set forth in the CECAP process,” wrote Jim Gearing of New Alexandria. This large indoor facility would need to be cooled to the point of allowing snow to be generated. This would take a lot of cooling and energy. “It completely disregards living in the environment we have and it sends a completely wrong message about global warming,” he wrote, noting that the expense of skiing adds into the equation. “Fairfax County already has enough social equity issues without creating a facility that half or more of the county residents would not be able to afford,” Gearing said.
Mary Paden, Chair of the South County Task Force, brought up some questions she felt were not answered: Are there economic benefits to low income families from this? What about the increased jobs for people who rely on public transportation?
“We hope you can provide answers to some of these concerns—especially those regarding energy use, environment, equity, and costs to the county— before the project advances much further. It is crucial that community members be able to understand and discuss this information,” Paden wrote.
The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia was against the project as well, citing the county’s environmental statements in the past. “ASNV recommends that the Board of Supervisors reject the proposed interim agreement with Alpine X LLC for the Fairfax Peak ski resort complex,” they wrote.
Catherine Ledec cited the racial inequalities for park land, and affiliated her comment with an NPR radio show from Aug 5 called "Parks in Nonwhite Areas are Half the Size of Ones in Majority-White Areas, Study Says."
Weighing all the comments, the Board of Supervisors entered into an “interim agreement” on Nov. 18 with Alpine-X and the project is moving forward.
Supervisor Dan Storck (D-Mount Vernon) is strongly supportive of moving forward with the process to determine if this location is viable for an indoor ski facility and the additional amenities proposed by Alpine-X. “Once due diligence is complete and County staff and Alpine-X come to a mutual understanding to build on the site, I look forward to working with the community through a series of public engagements on the proposed development. I understand its potential environment, recreation, transportation and community impacts. I also look forward to continuing to realize the vision and transformation of Lorton, consistent with our on-going visioning and planning efforts,” Storck said.
The whole thing is being planned to be built on the mountain of trash at the Lorton Landfill, right off I-95 in the southern part of Fairfax County. The ski facility plans may include multiple slopes for skiing and snowboarding with a variety of ramps, jumps, rails, boxes and other features, capable for use in national snowboarding and freestyle skiing competitions.
At the top of the 20-degree slope there are plans for restaurants, a ski shop and sky bar. A 100-plus room luxury hotel is planned at the base of the indoor snow facility.
It could be connected to Occoquan Regional Park by a gravity-powered, mountain coaster that would slide from the summit to the park. A gondola could ferry riders from Occoquan Regional Park and the facility’s base to the summit where Fairfax Peak sky terrace could be built, one plan states.
Fairfax Peak would be built as a public-private partnership, so the county would lease its land to Alpine-X, and the company would build, own and operate its facility. Details of the agreement are pending.
The project is moving forward but there are no concrete dates on the county website under the heading “2021 and Beyond,” so it is not r clear when the first mogul might be jumped at Fairfax Peak. The immediate future includes more public meetings, traffic analysis, application review and studies.
Skiing or snowboarding is not a cheap sport. Here’s a look at what a skier pays on average for a day on the slopes - these prices may be what a Fairfax Peak skier may have to come up with*:
Skis: $179.99 new or rental $53/per day
Snowboard: $197.95 new or rental $53/per day
Helmet rental: $42.95 new or $14/per day
Lessons: $139/two-hour lesson
Lift Ticket: $91/per day
Lodging: $130 a night, per person
Total ski trip: $427 for a day on the slopes
- Based on rates at Seven Springs Ski Resort in Pennsylvania