What used to be a relaxing wave pool with guests laid back in the shallow end or jumping in the deep end as waves crashed nearby has turned into the landing pad for a massive snow tube hill.
“This is a really cool project,” said John Lush, chief operating officer of Safe Harbor Development, which has been the driving force behind the creation of Margaritaville.
In early November, snow was blasting out of pipes to cover the hill by the wave pool before the attraction’s opening Nov. 16.
License to Chill Snow Island
Where: Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, 7650 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford
When: Nov. 16 through Feb. 24, hours vary
How much: All-access passes, $39.99 for adults, $29.99 for children, seniors, military and groups of 15 or more; evening passes for snow tube hill, $24.99 through Nov. 16, then price increases
More info: www.lanierislands.com/margaritaville
“It’s actually powdered snow,” Lush said. “If you’ve been here before, it was chipped ice … we have six machines going right now, and it’s literally fluffy snow. It’s not ice.”
Guests have room to slide tubes down 10 lanes, each one about 6 feet wide, on the snowy hill. Snow is piled up between each lane, creating berms so riders don’t bump into each other.
As riders make their way down the hill, scaffolding at the bottom has created an incline to slow the tubes down as the hill turns to white turf and riders land in the empty wave pool.
With 420 feet of snow for guests to slide down, Lush said Margaritaville’s snow tube hill is “as long as or longer than any of our competitors.”
“The company who built it said it’s going to be the fastest,” Lush said. “That was important to us.”
He’s not sure exactly how fast it is, but when asked, he laughed and said, “I think too fast, but I don’t know.”
Margaritaville has three people who share work around the clock, 24 hours each day, making sure there is fresh snow on the hill.
But visitors won’t have to work too hard. They can skip hiking up a mountain to ride their tube back down the slopes.
“There’s a magic sidewalk, and it’s really just like a conveyor system you’d see in an airport,” Lush said. “It just takes you straight to the top.”
Lush said he’s not worried about much when it comes to the snow tube hill. He’s made sure it’s safe and has all the logistics worked out. It’s all up to Mother Nature now.
“The only thing that would really hurt you is if you get a summer weekend in December with rain,” Lush said. “If we get two or three days in the 60s or 70s, no big deal because we’re making enough snow everyday where that melt off wouldn’t bother us. But if you’ve got three or four days days of warm rain, what happens then is you start combining snow.”
Remaining snow would be combined into fewer lanes, creating longer wait times and potentially upset guests.
When summer really does come, though, Lush said he still has plans for that hill. When it’s not covered in snow, he’d like to bring in bubble balls that guests climb inside of and roll down the hill.
“We'll certainly do something,” Lush said. “If nothing else, we’ll do some sort of a slide up there, but I just think (bubble balls) are so unique right now.”
Throughout the rest of the park this winter, water and sand will be replaced with snow. Over on the other end of Margaritaville, Santa Claus will be visiting for photos under the Fin Dunker and across the way on the shore of Lake Lanier will be an area filled with snow and targets for guests to throw snowballs at.
If it gets too cold, Margaritaville has you covered, well, heated, too. There will be warming stations throughout the park. There will be fire pits, too, available for families to gather around and roast marshmallows together.
Tickets to License to Chill Snow Island begin at $24.99 and can be purchased online at lanierislands.com/margaritaville. The attraction will be open through Feb. 24.