A friend and I were on a business trip to Lynchburg, Virginia recently, when one of the clients got us free tickets to a year round ski and snowboard mountain called the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. It's a synthetic material that looks and feels like rigid carpet, developed in the UK by BRITON Engineering Developments, so riders can hone their skills in and out of season. We were both skeptical as to how "carpet boarding" (as we called it) would treat us, but the results were a fun night of unexpected riding.

A sprinkler system sprayed mist intermittently to help ride, but it also made you slide out -- the only real criticism I had of the mountain.
Liberty University is a non-profit institution, and so they were kind enough to spend some extra funds on this little slice of imitation-wintery fun, with free rentals and admission for students. The general public can enjoy the mountain as well, with nominal charges at $5-7 (per hour) for admission, and $12 equipment rentals.
The mountain itself is short, but littered with enough jumps, jibs, rails and whale tails to keep you entertained for hours. My personal favorite was the bomb drop into their jump section, with a sizable quarter pipe at the end. They even had a jump into a giant inflatable, but sadly it wasn't in use while we were there.

But how does it ride? Well, it rides a little better than icy snow. We could carve, but not too hard or we would slide out, which was our biggest problem (as the video below shows). The obstacles and features all rode well, and once you got over the fact that you were riding on glorified carpet, it was really fun. The other good thing is that there was about an inch of padding underneath the top layer, so falling didn't hurt so bad. (except for the occasional rug burn!)
So if you can't wait until winter, I'd suggest dusting off the boards on your rack and heading for your nearest Snowflex mountain (find a list of locations here). It's no Breckenridge, but it'll do until winter blesses us with its first snow.

[Originally published on the blog]