Massive aerial park, first in Canada, approved for Snow Valley site

Edmonton’s river valley will soon be home to a towering jungle gym. Snow Valley’s plan to build a $1.7-million aerial park — an outdoor high-ropes obstacle course - were approved by city council on Tuesday morning.

Similar attractions already popular in Germany and the United States, official says

Snow Valley plans to open a KristallTurm tower at its south-Edmonton campsite this spring. (KristallTurm)

Edmonton's river valley will soon be home to a towering jungle gym, the first of its kind in Alberta. 

Snow Valley's plan to build a $1.7-million aerial park — basically a huge outdoor obstacle course — were approved by city council on Tuesday.

The 15-metre tower will include an open-air maze of zip lines, precarious board walks, rope swings and high wires, large enough to accommodate 120 adults at a time.

"You go across a crazy bridge, or climb on your knees through a tube, and the whole time you're suspended on a harness," said Tim Dea, Snow Valley's marketing director.

"And what's great about them is they're not linear. It's so awesome that way."

The futuristic structure will be nestled in the tree line of Snow Valley's campground in south Edmonton.

Though the tower will be the first in Canada, the structures have already been hugely popular attractions elsewhere, including in Germany and the United States, Dea said.

He said he hopes the new attraction helps the ski hill make money through the summer months.

"It's going to make Snow Valley a year-round attraction," Dea said in an interview with CBC News.

The society hopes the playground will help attract 9,000 to 10,000 visitors each summer season. 

Snow Valley first announced its intentions to build the obstacle course when it released its 10-year master plan in May 2013.

But scaling to new heights came with its own set of obstacles.

The site sits on public parkland and is operated by the Snow Valley not-for-profit society through an agreement with the city.

The society had to have an environmental assessment approved and had to conduct public consultations. It also had to take into account city bylaws the deal with development of parkland, and contend with concerns about commercial development in the river valley.

Despite some residents concerns about businesses setting up operations in the river valley, Coun. Michael Walters said he has no qualms about the project.

"The public has had a long time to weigh in, and there is a good business case," Walters said. "There is some need for some summer activity down there.

"Since there is already development, to provide another amenity that's focused on the summer and allows people to continue to enjoy the river valley as they do in the winter, in that particular area, that's completely fine with me."

After years of planning, Dea said council approval came as a relief.

"It was huge," he said. "But we want to make sure everyone is comfortable with this. There's obviously some naysayers, and we need to let those people say their piece about why it's good or bad."

The prefabricated towers are made by German manufacturer KristallTurm, and Dea said Snow Valley has already selected its design, and all the components have been shipped.

Construction will begin this fall. Workers will first install the piles for the tower before the frost sets in so work can begin in earnest next spring.

They expect the first climbers to scale the massive playground by mid-May.