Operators of a ski area that has struggled amid warmer and drier winters in New Mexico are moving closer toward developing a roller coaster that they envision could become a year-round attraction in the mountains overlooking Albuquerque. Sandia Peak Ski Co. invited the community this week to view its design plans, site map and timeline for its proposed mountain coaster nearly two years after the company announced the project, The Albuquerque Journal reported.
The company plans to invest $2 million into the project that it hopes will draw visitors to the resort in the summer to help offset the financial struggles incurred during lean snow years.
“It’s just good business to be able to maintain your workforce throughout the year,” Sandia Peak General Manager Ben Abruzzo said. “ The coaster is currently designed crisscrossing one of the less popular ski runs.”
Under current design plans, the coaster would run nearly 3,000 feet and would be elevated 3 feet off the ground for the majority of the ride. Along with stomach-churning twists, turns and dips, the coaster will also feature a vertical drop of nearly 400 feet and would reach speeds of 25 to 30 mph.
The roller coaster requires approval from the US Forest Service because the ski area is on federal land. The Forest Service “will conduct a thorough environmental analysis to determine the potential effects that the use will have on resources such as wildlife, vegetation, cultural sites and the watershed,” the office said in a statement. Abruzzo said he expects to a decision to come in the next six months. “Assuming they say ‘yes,’ construction would begin in spring or summer of 2019, with an opening later that year,” he said.
The proposed mountain coaster also would have “nice synergies” with the new restaurant being built on Sandia Peak, Abruzzo said, as well as helping to boost business and employment opportunities at the recreation area, especially during times of year when business is slow – specifically the summer.
“Year-round recreation around the mountains and especially the ski area is something we are very interested in. We’ve had a lot of tough winters, so we do have a need for year-round opportunities,” Abruzzo said.
The coaster is manufactured by Wiegand, the No. 1 producer of mountain coasters worldwide. Abruzzo said Wiegand has sold the rides to five operators on Forest Service land in the West, including the Vail, Copper Mountain and Purgatory resorts in Colorado.