Vernon native opens indoor ski area

Business. Vernon native Joe Hession open the United States' first indoor skiing area in the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, taking lessons learned from the opening of the Great Gorge Ski Area.

09 Dec 2019 | 12:01

It was a day in December 1965 and the opening of the Great Gorge ski area was greatly anticipated.

Jack Kurlander the visionary founder invited world renowned skier Stein Erickson to demonstrate his famous skiing technique. The problem, there was no snow. Erickson had to do his demonstration on ski mats. On the first run down he caught an edge and fell. Thus began the legacy of big time skiing in New Jersey that fathered the opening of the indoor BigSnow Ski Resort at the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Thursday, Dec. 5.

BigSnow did not experience the problems that faced Great Gorge at its opening in December 54 years ago. The indoor ski resort was designed to maintain an ideal 28 degrees Fahrenheit with snowmaking capacity to cover the 180,000 square foot surface of a perfect 2 feet of snow providing skiers and riders with 4 acres of perfect snow.

The BigSnow did not just happen. For nearly a decade the visionaries who pioneered the idea of an indoor ski area struggled to make their dream a reality. It took a graduate from the Great Gorge legacy to transform their original idea into what it is today. Vernon native Joe Hession, the owner of Snow Operating, the company behind the opening of BigSnow got his start in skiing as a high school student in Vernon working as a parking lot attendant at the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski resort. His hands-on experience derived from working the rental shop, and snow operations lead to his eventual promotion to General Manager when the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area was taken over by Intrawest. He knew the workings of a ski resort from the bottom up and inside out because he had been there.

After some time spent in Colorado building his Snow Operating company into one of the most respected ski industry consulting companies, Hession returned to Vernon to take over the management of the Mountain Creek Resort with the support of his father Joe Sr., brother Patrick, good friend Hugh Reynolds and Emmy Award winner wife Halley O’Brien. Based on their track record for success the Hession team was pursued by principals of the American Dream Mall to make indoor skiing a reality. That reality came on Thursday, Dec. 5 as hundreds of invited guests celebrated their achievement by becoming the first to ride the lifts and ski the slopes at BigSnow.

As with the founding of the Great Gorge Ski Resort, the opening of the BigSnow ski area did not come easily. The concept of an indoor ski area was an idea that has been pursued for over a decade but evaded reality until Hession’s Snow Operating got involved. The indoor ski slope is one of the oldest and most recognizable pieces of American Dream. dating from the days when the project was called Xanadu. As of Thursday, Dec. 5, it is open and operating with reports that its first week of operation is already sold out.