Who needs the Alps? Indoor slopes are ideal for total beginners and experienced skiers
- Credit: Archant
Emma Bartholomew checks out two totally different ski centres in London – one with real snow and the other a revolving carpet - where you can brush up on your technique or learn how to ski for the very first time.
The ski season in the Alps and Pyrenees has got off to a shaky start, with only a light brushing of snow since November and warm temperatures, making conditions more spring-like than wintry.
For any beginners whose ski holidays are imminently on the horizon, this could signal bad tidings – nursery slopes tend to be lower in the resort and therefore more badly affected. But with the possibility of learning the basics in the UK before you head off to the mountains, it’s not necessarily a complete disaster.
For absolute beginners, the sooner you can make the switch over from a wobbly snowplough to the makings of a flowing parallel turn, the more fun you will have on holiday.
Intermediates and experts can also benefit from refining technique, and even if you’re not going on a ski holiday, with the Christmas holidays in full swing, the indoor slopes make for a fun packed family day out.
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You can get fit and have heaps of fun, without the hefty price tag of travelling abroad.
From the outside of The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, you would never imagine that it’s really a massive tardis-like freezer containing an impressive 160m high real snow slope.
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This is where celebrities trained before Channel 4’s The Jump, and I found the surface incredibly authentic, resembling a perfect day on the slopes.
Evidently to keep the snow pristine they need to keep the temperature down, so be sure to dress up warm and don your clothes that you’d wear on the mountain.
If you are already a proficient skier, all you need to buy is a lift pass, which works out at £38 an hour per adult and £29 per child for an hour at the weekend, or £85 for a family.
But if you’ve never been skiing before you will need to book in for a group lesson or with a private instructor.
We took an hour-long private family lesson for four, at £189, but of course of group lessons would work out a bit cheaper, starting at £139 for six hour-long lessons for a child.
You should try and arrive about 40 minutes before you are due on the slopes, allowing time to get fitted for your boots and then skis.
You can grab a helmet on your way in, and you’re off. Pamela our teacher gave us all some tips, advising my sons - who tend to be kamikaze speed lovers - to concentrate on facing downhill, and for me to keep my skis wider apart.
For anyone about to embark learning to ski, time spent here would be really beneficial, so as to maximise on your time abroad. For more information see thesnowcentre.com.
Meanwhile the revolving carpet surface at Skiplex in Chiswick offers a continuous slope with no lifts or queues.
It really is a fantastic way to learn or brush up on your technique, with even the most advanced skiers being able to raise their fitness level.
A qualified instructor oversees every lesson with no more than two on the slope at the same time, meaning you effectively get a personal private lesson every time you go.
Getting kitted out takes no time at all, because there are no queues, so you just need to arrive a few minutes before your lesson starts.
Although I am quite a proficient skier, you need to go back to snowplough basics here in order to get used to the surface, before attempting parallel turns.
This is because the carpet less forgiving than snow, and evidently you need to be very precise with your movements.
The skier to be more dynamic in the turn than might be required on a normal snow piste, meaning it is great for technique.
You stand holding the bar, as the astro-turf carpet begins to move, and the motion of it takes you to the centre of the slope where you can hypnotically concentrate on your movements whilst watching yourself in the mirror.
The slope’s gradient and speed is adjustable so complete beginners can deal with less of a gradient and a slower rotation than expert saisonnaires.
Value for money is superb, with a single hour-long session costing £43 or £29 off-peak.
Time invested here will really help you enjoy your holiday on the snow and with repeat visits it would be an intensive way to learn or improve, and great fun too.
For more information see skiplex.co.uk.