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H2Oasis

Indoor Water Park in Anchorage, Alaska

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Quick, what images does Alaska conjure in your mind? Snow? Glaciers? Huskies? How about palm trees and bikinis? In February? The temperature might be 25 degrees below zero, but at the indoor water park, H2Oasis, where the air temperature is always a balmy eighty-six degrees, mukluk-wearing Alaskans can wear bikinis in the winter.

Things to know:

  • Location: Anchorage, Alaska
  • Scheduled to open: Around Thanksgiving, 2002
  • Open: Year-round
  • Phone: (888) H2OASIS (426-2747)
  • One-day pass: $19.95 adult, $14.95 child

Highlights

  • Master Blaster uphill water coaster
  • Wave pool
  • Lazy river
  • Children's lagoon

At first glance, an indoor water park in Alaska might seem like an off-the-wall idea. But indoor water parks, which began a few years ago in the Wisconsin Dells resort area, have exploded in popularity. It's not hard to appreciate their appeal; instead of hopping on a plane for an expensive escape to a tropical retreat, winter vacationers scrape the ice off of the family car and drive to a nearby indoor water park's tropical facsimile. If frost-nipped folks in the lower forty-eight think indoor water parks are a great way to shake off cabin fever, longjohn-wearing Alaskans, who have to endure six-plus months of winter's woes, probably jump at the chance to doff their layers of clothing.

Still, it's an eyebrow-raising concept. "It's a pretty bold move," admits Dennis Prendeville, H2Oasis president and CEO. "My bank would agree," he adds with a laugh.

Prendeville and his team haven't stuck a couple of slides onto a pool and called it a water park. This is be a world-class facility, with a wave pool, a 575-foot long lazy river, a Pirate Ship-themed interactive children's play area, two enormous hot tubs, and the centerpiece attraction, a Master Blaster uphill water coaster.

Developed by the waterpark wizards at Texas' popular Shlitterbahn, the wild Master Blaster technology uses blasts of water to propel riders up waterpark slides for a coaster-like experience. H2Oasis is the first North American indoor water park to feature a Master Blaster ride.

Will they come?
Prendeville says that regional residents are the primary market. There is no competition, but only 200,000 people live in the Anchorage area. Alaskans do enjoy swimming. "We better know how to swim," Prendeville says. "If we fall through the ice, we have to know how to get out."

But do they enjoy swimming enough to keep the 1400-capacity park busy year-round? Prendeville says that H2Oasis makes a splash. He notes that the high season is during the summer months, when schools are closed for vacation. But the colder months are successful as well. "If you want to escape Alaska's winter, we've got the route." He's even installed a few tanning beds to help sun-starved Alaskans--daylight only lasts about six hours in the dead of Anchorage's winter--catch a few artificial rays.

Indoor water parks like H2Oasis are part of a larger trend to extend theme park-like entertainment beyond the traditional summer mindset. Who says the fun has to stop on Labor Day? Many seasonal theme parks have jumped on the Halloween haywagon and keep their parks open through early November. Some even reopen for Christmas celebrations. Despite the snow that sometimes falls, guests at Tokyo Disneyland still hop aboard Dumbo.

So why should a pesky inconvenience like a wind chill temperature of seventy degrees below zero prevent Alaskans from zipping down some water slides? "We need some recreational activities, too," says Prendeville.

Official Web site: H2Oasis

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