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Pasco shuts down Snowcat Ridge for ‘unsafe’ conditions, code violations

The Dade City attraction opened on Nov. 20 but several inspections had yet to be performed, according to Pasco County officials.
Mahogany Kendrick, foreground, and her husband, Akbar Mercer, of Quincy splash down at the end of the 60 foot tall, 400 feet long, snow-covered tubing hill at Snowcat Ridge alpine snow park on Nov. 20 in Dade City. Pasco County officials on Thursday shut down the park for code violations.
Mahogany Kendrick, foreground, and her husband, Akbar Mercer, of Quincy splash down at the end of the 60 foot tall, 400 feet long, snow-covered tubing hill at Snowcat Ridge alpine snow park on Nov. 20 in Dade City. Pasco County officials on Thursday shut down the park for code violations. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Dec. 10, 2020
Updated Dec. 11, 2020

DADE CITY — Pasco County officials on Thursday shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after officials said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations they call “a significant threat to public health and safety.”

Officials said they first became aware of issues at the park on Nov. 25, five days after it opened. They said the park did not have the required permits, inspections or certificates of occupancy for structures now deemed “unsafe.”

“The park will remain closed until all life-safety violations are corrected,” the county said in a statement.

Related: Snowcat Ridge launches Dade City tubing hill five years in the making

Snowcat Ridge includes a 60-foot sledding hill, an Arctic Igloo were kids can play in the snow and an Alpine Village with picnic tables and vendors. It markets itself as Florida’s first and only alpine snow park.

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, marketing director Jon Pianki said county officials arrived at the park Wednesday evening and forced them to close.

“We are working closely with the county to resolve these issues,” Pianki said in a statement. “At this time, we don’t have any additional information and will provide updates soon.”

A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction.
A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction. [ Pasco County ]

County officials released 48 photos that inspectors took at the attraction that focused on violations regarding the electrical connections and shipping containers used as structures. One photo shows several extension cords and power taps bunched together on top of wet ground.

Typically the permitting process begins when an owner or contractor applies for a permit seeking county approval for all construction work. When the work is finished, county inspectors must examine and approve that work.

But in this case, officials said that while the Snowcat Ridge project sought permits, the inspection process was never completed. When it opened on Nov. 20, just one permit had been inspected and closed. Park officials did not request inspections to close out the other outstanding permits, according to the county.

“Pasco County is committed to working with Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park to address all outstanding life-safety issues, and we look forward to the reopening of this unique attraction,” the county said in a statement.

A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction.
A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction. [ Pasco County ]

Thursday’s closure was announced on the park’s Facebook page, news met with dismay from several customers in the comments section, some of whom said they drove hours to visit the park the day it was shutdown.

Camryn Stewart, 21, of Orlando, said she purchased tickets late Wednesday night for herself, her boyfriend and two friends. They accidentally purchased tickets for Friday, however, and paid a $5 fee to have the tickets changed to Thursday. Still, they weren’t notified the park was closed until they were about 15 minutes away from Snowcat Ridge.

“I was pretty upset,” Stewart told the Times. The group tried to find something else to do in the Tampa Bay area, she said, but by that time it was already 3 p.m. and most places were about to close.

A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction.
A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction. [ Pasco County ]

After hearing about the park on the radio, Tampa resident Nickolas Collazo was excited to visit Thursday night with his partner. When they received notice that Snowcat Ridge was closed, Collazo said he became curious as to why.

The 23-year-old, who works at a law firm, said he thought it odd that the park’s Facebook page did not explain why it was closed. Collazo said he reached out to Pasco County and obtained documentation of the park’s code violations.

“It is disheartening for a brand new park to have this many violations,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the Dade City amusement park company owned by owner Benjamin Nagengast has faced scrutiny from officials. In Oct. 2019, Scream-A-Geddon — which is under the same ownership as Snowcat Ridge — faced a $23,500 fine for failing to operate with the required business license.

A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction.
A photo taken by Pasco County officials who shut down the Snowcat Ridge alpine sledding park after they said they found electrical, fire, building and plumbing code violations at the Dade City attraction. [ Pasco County ]