Indoor ski center Snobahn takes former department store for second location

052316 Snobahn 0002 scaled

A skier practices on Snobahn’s slopes in Centennial. (Courtesy Snobahn)

From Stein Mart to a ski mountain, sort of.

A former department store in Thornton will become the second location of Snobahn, an indoor ski and snowboarding training center that has operated in Centennial since 2016.

Snobahn, founded by Sadler Merrill, expects to open in 36,000 square feet at 14200 Lincoln St. in February. The space is more than twice the footprint of Centennial, where the company has 15,000 square feet.

S. Merrill Headshot 3

Sadler Merrill

Merrill, who grew up in Fort Collins, started Snobahn to create an accessible, affordable and efficient place for people to learn how to ski and snowboard before hitting the snow. 

“Action sports in general, people have a lot of trepidation or anxiety about entering those sports and we try to lower the barriers, hold people’s hands, shepherd them into the sport,” he said. 

The business also offers other recreational activities such as skateboarding and trampolining, part of a push started in 2018 to make the business less seasonal. But its bread and butter is teaching people how to ski. 

The 30-by-20-feet slopes are made with less than an inch of soft carpet that moves like a treadmill. Instructors can control the height, speed and difficulty of each run. Merrill said in an hour, you can ski about 21,000 vertical feet. 

“It’s convenient – show up as you are, there’s no requirement for gear, it’s a comfortable environment,” Merrill said. “We are a steppingstone to the outdoors.”

IMG 0031 scaled

Looking down the slopes at Snobahn’s Centennial facility. (Courtesy Snobahn)

In general, Merrill said he recommends about eight lessons before someone hits the mountains, but even one lesson to learn how to control speed and direction helps. According to its website, a private adult lesson in Centennial costs $120, while a group lesson is $60. Gear is included.

He said the core customer is someone with no experience, but the facility can also help experienced skiers to refine their skills because you can control the slopes and have a mirror right in front of you. 

“Snobahn, we say it’s a truth serum,” he said. “It’s less than one inch turf, so it’s really evident all the flaws in your technique … everyone has certain weaknesses or bad habits and that becomes obvious right away because of the nature of the surface.” 

In fact, he said, some ski teams train at Snobahn, like the University of Denver and Team Summit. Merrill, who has been skiing since middle school and was a freestyle skier for the University of Colorado Boulder team, said Snobahn “reinvigorated” him in the sport. 

“It’s enough to be on the slope, enjoy the fresh air, the exhilaration of it – but it’s another level to also be improving skill,” he said. 

He declined to disclose revenue figures but said it’s grown every year, apart from 2020 when the business temporarily closed because of COVID. The business has been profitable since 2019, he said.

Merrill said the Thornton location, which is located in The Grove shopping center, has been in the works for nearly two years. Missouri-based The Staenberg Group (TSG) developed the center, according to Max Gansline, the company’s vice president of leasing and development. 

“We spent the last two years putting our heads together to solve for what is a really unique and exciting use for a piece of property that was formerly occupied by Stein Mart,” Gansline said. 

SNOBAHN Center 2 Renderings cafe viewing slopes

A rendering of the Thornton location. (Courtesy Snobahn)

Gansline said TSG has been developing the 100-acre center since 2013, when it opened Cabela’s, which is still the anchor. With Snobahn moving in, he said the center is 99 percent leased with only one vacancy. 

Merrill, meanwhile, said Snobahn’s expansion won’t stop in Thornton. He thinks the concept would do well in other states. Right now, he said, Snobahn is raising $13 million from investors to fund construction in Thornton and potentially Texas. 

“We want to make sure we land our second before we grow,” Merrill said. “This is a very portable model. Had I had something like this as a kid, I would’ve been there all the time.”

Comments are closed.