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Denmark turns trash into a mountain of fun

Ski enthusiasts can hit the trails on the roof of a waste-treatment plant.

Copenhagen, Denmark, is trying to solve the problem of how to cope with a mountain of trash. The city built Copenhill, a waste-treatment center with a ski slope on top. (Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen via Reuters)

What to do with the mountain of garbage a major metropolitan area produces is an age-old question. Copenhagen, Denmark, has come up with a brand-new answer: Ski down the mountain.

Well, not exactly. The waste is actually inside Copenhill, a waste-treatment plant 10 minutes from downtown Copenhagen. Its main facility is a futuristic building with a sloping roof nearly 280 feet high that’s covered in a material called neveplast. It looks just like a ski slope, except it’s green.

“I think everybody is surprised to start with when they look at it and it’s not snow,” said Christian Ingels, the director at Copenhill. “It’s green dry-slope material. After one or two runs, your mind is automatically adjusting so you feel exactly like skiing.”

Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels — the firm that created the BIG Maze at the National Building Museum in Washington nearly five years ago — the plant is an important step in Copenhagen’s ambition to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital. It’s an attempt to build a waste-treatment plant that local residents are happy to see come to their neighborhood. It seems to be working.

“It’s a fantastic experience in the middle of a city to be able to do what you do like the most,” said visiting skier Pelle Hansen. “Instead of having to go six, seven, eight or 10 hours to a ski destination, you can be here in 10 minutes.”

The plant also will burn waste from about 600,000 residents and 68,000 businesses to produce electricity and district heating that will be sent back to the resident. It also will recycle some of the waste.

The plant began operating in 2017, and the recreational part will open permanently this spring. The slope will be open year-round.

“It’s fantastic that one can ski without snow,” said ski slope visitor Tommy Christensen. “It’s a slightly different experience than to skiing in real snow, but it’s my second run and I’ll try it again. It looks promising.”

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