WINNING BID TO SEE ICE FACTOR GROUP EXPAND INTO ENGLISH SNOWDOME MARKET

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The owner of Scotland’s only indoor snow sports facility has further underlined its expertise in the adventure tourism market after winning a bid to operate a new £30 million indoor snow dome planned for Middlesbrough in NE England.

Ice Factor Group, the independent owner of Snow Factor Braehead to the west of Glasgow and also of Ice Factor Kinlochleven, the world’s largest indoor ice climbing facility (20 miles south of Fort William) has been chosen by Teesside based Cool Runnings (NE) Ltd as the operator of the new snowdome.

On Friday (31 March), the long anticipated development received planning approval from Middlesbrough Council.  Operation of the facility could potentially generate Ice Factor Group over £5m in additional annual revenues.

To be located on a seven-acre site in Middlehaven and scheduled to open at the earliest by 2019/2020, the giant snowdome is expected to incorporate a ski / snowboard slope, ice-climbing walls and ice-bar.  It’s part of a major tourism attraction and regeneration project for the former industrial area for which iconic futuristic architect Will Alsop has created a compelling vision. The £500m plan has the backing of the UK Government’s regeneration agency, English Partnerships and One North East. Ice Factor Group will operate the snow facility on a long lease.

Jamie Smith, the mountaineer and entrepreneur who opened Ice Factor Kinlochleven in 2003 and acquired Snow Factor Braehead in 2011, believes his team’s successful bid to operate for the first time outside Scotland underlines the strength of his business model. Said Smith: “Ice Factor Group is really pleased to be confirmed as the operator of the Middlehaven facility. As a near identical set-up to our Scottish operations, it’s a development that will benefit from all of the finely tuned and proven business processes that we’ve put in place over six years of trading at Snow Factor Braehead.

“I’m proud of our track record.  When we acquired the Braehead site, it had accumulated several million pounds of losses. Our expertise has helped to transform the Snow Factor Braehead business from one of the worst performing indoor snow resorts in Europe to one of the best.

“It is also encouraging that in addition to our successful bid to operate in Middlehaven, Ice Factor Group is continuing to receive serious enquiries from developers throughout Europe and further afield, seeking to apply our expertise to maximise the footfall and operational efficiency of new build and existing snowdomes.”

Employing 137 staff, Snow Factor Braehead has thrived on its ability to give winter sport enthusiasts of all ages and ability the chance to have fun and learn / hone their skiing, snowboarding and ice-climbing skills year-round on real snow.

The facility, named Best Family Day Out at the 2016 Scottish Entertainment & Hospitality Awards, includes a 168m long main and 50m long teaching slope, four tows, ice-climbing walls, a pool of qualified ski / snowboard instructors, Scotland’s only permanent ice bar and a Bavarian styled Bier Halle and Restaurant.

Smith, who notes over 70,000 customers purchased a lift pass for Snow Factor Braehead last year and over 40,000 learned how to ski or board, believes the continued success of his Scottish operations and plans for a further operation in England, highlights the enduring and growing appeal of the adventure sports market.

“A decade ago, skiing and snowboarding indoors on real snow was possibly perceived by many as a gimmick. Today I believe Snow Factor Braehead is increasingly recognised as a significant Scottish snowsports destination and player in our strong adventure tourism sector.

“Year round, we are giving tens of thousands of people the opportunity to enjoy the thrill and fun of snow-sports and we now look forward to delivering similar success in England.”