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(I've rewritten and reposted this, because the significance of this project in the history of skiing should not go without comment. Or should it?!)

No one quite knows what the Tokyo Ski Dome cost to build eight years ago, but I doubt if was less than $300 million. It is an absolutely monstrous and magnificent structure, dominating the eastern suburbs of Tokyo. I've stood underneath the thing, gazing in awe at the scale of the steelwork, and skied its two slopes, each served by high-speed quad chairlifts.
Whatever the cost, it would have been enough to equip several mountains with state-of-the-art lift systems, and their related infrastructure.
Anyway, in six months, it's all over. The Tokyo Ski Dome will close.
Was it all just a magnificent folly?
Was it really such a crazy idea, and could ski domes on this scale ever make money?
In a nutshell, will it ever be repeated?

Here's the story, from the Ski Club of Great Britain website

Photos of the Snow Dome:

World’s Largest Indoor Snowdome To Close in September
Date 15 March 2002
The world’s largest indoor snow ski centre, the SSAWS dome in Tokyo, will close on later this year. A spokesperson for SSAWS confirmed the slope will close on September 30th.

The ten-storey high centre, visible for miles around, opened in 1994 following a $400 million (US) investment and has remained the giant of indoor ski centres ever since. The ski slope was built in an earthquake zone on reclaimed land in Tokyo Harbour. Special construction techniques make it earthquake proof, in part to prevent collapse and allegedly also to prevent any danger of an indoor avalanches being set off. A German dome opened early in 2001 with a slope of similar 500m (1700 feet) length, but not the 100m (330m) width of the Tokyo dome.

A feasibility study carried out for the dome in the early 1990s indicated that the centre would take 11 years to reach profitability and repay its debts after 18 years. However its opening coincided with the downturn in the Eastern Asian economy which remains in recession. The figures relied on visitor figures of 1.3 million per annum, spending an average of $80 per visit and generating $104 million annual. Tax and interest on the initial investment to build the centre was over $30 million per year and operating costs $40 million.

Since SSAWS opened around a dozen more domes have open in Japan and neighbouring countries in the region, although none on the same spectacular scale. There are constantly circulating rumours as to the financial health of several other snowdomes around the world, and the vast majority of dome development projects never get off the ground because their figures don’t bear close examination. However most new projects are on more realistically sustainable business models and operating costs to maintain the snow surface have also fallen dramatically since SSAWS was built.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 19, 2002 03:09 PM: Message edited 1 time, by David Goldsmith ]</font>