Wild River Country to transform into snow park in November


Photographs by Toby Isbell

Wild Winter Country is set to kick off its first winter season on Nov. 22, the park's vice president of operations Chris Shillcutt said. A full-day admissions ticket to the winter park is set to cost $5.43 plus tax, he said.

Arkansans will be able to enjoy snow in November this year when Wild River Country converts into a winter park, the owner said Thursday.

The winter park, which will be called Wild Winter Country, is tentatively scheduled to start its first season Nov. 22 and end April 1, according to Chris Shillcutt, the park's vice president of operations.

An all-day admission pass, which does not include snow tubing, will cost $5.43 plus tax per person, he said. For those who also would like to tube in the snow, it will be $16.29 plus tax for a 90-minute session. No age restrictions will be set at the winter park, Shillcutt said.

"We thought this would be great, because nowhere in central Arkansas do you have snow-tubing," he said. "We're trying to make [Wild Winter Country] a family-type event — that's what our motto is at the park."

The winter park will feature a snow-play area, a snowball target area, a children's sliding area, a fire pit for s'mores and four-to-six snow-tubing lanes. However, Shillcutt said, the number of snow-tubing lanes could change since organizers won't know exactly how many will be made until they begin laying snow down.

The park will not have an ice-skating rink or a ski slope for its first winter season, Shillcutt said.

"I know Little Rock has [an ice-skating rink] by the River Market area, but we don't plan on putting one in this year," he said. "[We're] not against it in the future."

Shillcutt said he anticipates the park to be closed on Mondays, open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for group events, and open 5-9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. For the weekend, the park should be open all day from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 or 7 p.m. Sunday.

Choirs and high school bands may play during the first inaugural season of the winter park, but Shillcutt said nothing has been set in stone. When it's close to Christmas, the park will have holiday lights on the trees and Santa Claus decorations throughout the park, Shillcutt said.

"We're going to make it a whole kind of festival thing — not just snow-tubing," he said.

Shillcutt said the company has been consulting Stone Mountain — a winter park in Atlanta, Ga. — on how to implement a winter park in Arkansas.

He said they will build about a 2 1/2-half-foot compact snow base on top of their paved roads starting the first week of November. The snow base should work like "an ice machine," Shillcutt said.

He said he doesn't know exactly how much it will cost to convert the water park into a snow park, but estimated it should cost about $500,000.

Wild Winter Country employees will be chosen from the pool of the best summer employees to be trained as snow-guards, Shillcutt said. He estimates the park will hire between 30 and 60 part-time employees and three or four full-time employees.

"We hope [the winter park] is a hit," Shillcutt said. "Sure, it's going to be a learning curve for us, but we hope people in Arkansas come out and enjoy it."

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