If you're a skier living in the oceanside city of Copenhagen, Denmark, up until now your options for making turns involve driving seven hours to a 500-foot hill in southern Sweden or flying to the Alps. But thanks to a strange yet captivating new design by one of the world's most creative metropolitan architects, soon you will be able to ski laps on the roof of a massive incineration plant in downtown Copenhagen, using an elevator to zip back up to the top.
A group led by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, 36, recently won a contract to build the city's new $700 million "trash to energy plant," a 330-foot structure that will replace the 40-year-old Amagerforbraending plant and will rank among the tallest and largest buildings in Copenhagen, which has no skyscrapers. Part of why Ingels' 100-person company won the contract is because instead of just making the incineration plant look nice, it proposed a radical way to add functionality: build a 7.7-acre ski slope on the roof, complete with beginner to expert slopes and a restaurant at the top of the elevator.
"Copenhagen has the climate but not the topography for Alpine skiing," Ingels said in a phone interview with ESPN from Manhattan, where he is building a waterfront skyscraper. "We floated a lot of ideas, but we kept coming up with ways to gift wrap the plant. We thought, rather than merely gift wrap it, let's make it into an actual gift for the citizens. The ski slope began as an extreme idea; once we started chewing on it, though, we realized there was hardly any argument against it."
Based on the horseshoe-style design, the three slopes will vary in pitch off the top, then merge near the bottom and funnel back to the elevator. The easiest run would trace the outskirts of the roof, and the hardest would take more of a direct route downhill. Copenhagen averages about 50 days of snow each year, but it's generally cold enough to make snow, as well, so the plan is to combine the natural snow with the artificial snow. Ingels said the base will be an "AstroTurf-like mat designed to create minimum friction."
"We imagine it could be open on the weekends during the summer months," he said, adding that his group consulted the Danish national ski federation when designing the plans. "We don't know how much it will cost to go skiing yet, but the ambition is to make it as affordable as possible."
The Amagerforbraending project seems perfectly aligned with the Danes' environmental ideals. The entire country puts only 4 percent of its trash into landfills, Ingels said, recycling 42 percent and incinerating the other 54 percent to create energy. In fact, almost all of Denmark's homes are kept warm with heat left over from power production.