Are you a ski beginner, heading to the mountains for the first time this winter? Or do you just want a taste of the sport before you commit to a proper holiday? If the answer’s ‘yes’ to either of those questions, get yourself to an indoor ski slope as soon as possible.
There are currently six in the UK: the SnowDome at Tamworth, The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead, Chillfactore in Manchester, Snow Factor in Braehead, and the Snozones in Milton Keynes and Castleford. Each is, essentially, a giant fridge – complete with added snow cannons and underfloor cooling. And there’s no better place for ski beginners in the UK to start their skiing career.
1. You can get a taste of snow for less than £30
First of all, you don’t have to commit to a big spend. A taster session at an indoor ski slope will take you from your first click into ski bindings all the way to the snowplough turn. The price includes skis, boots and your ski instructor – and you can hire ski clothing too (though you’ll need to bring a pair of gloves).
Prices vary. At the Snow Factor in Braehead, for example, a 90-minute taster costs £29 for adults and £25 for children if you join a group. Or you could book a 90-minute private lesson: £129 for a family of four.
At the Chillfactore a 50-minute taster is £27 for adults, £22 for children and £88 for a family of four.
Groups of friends/school children/university students etc can usually get discounts – visit the Go Ski Go Board website for details.
2. There’s more than enough slope to learn on
Yes, it’s only a fridge. But when you’re a complete beginner, you only need a few metres of snow. Your first taster session/lesson will be spent partly on the flat, and partly on a little bit of nursery slope next to main ski area. It’ll take two or three hours of lessons to progress from there to the big slope – where you’ll be happy for several more lessons after that.
3. There are several ways to progress
In most indoor ski slopes you can book a course of lessons over several weeks, or go for a “learn to ski in a day” session: expect to pay £160 – £190pp for this. However you do it, the costs are going to add up. But let’s face it, it’s a lot cheaper than a ski holiday: and by the time you’ve completed a whole course of lessons, you’ll have got as far as you would have on day 3 or 4 in the mountains.
Bear in mind that you can often cut costs by becoming a member of your local indoor ski slope – which will unlock a range of discounts.
4. Tuition is well structured – and British
Instruction is broken down into bite-size chunks, and even the most nervous ski beginners can cope. You start by pushing yourself on one ski, and only move onto two skis when you’re comfortable. Nevertheless, in spite or perhaps because of this patient approach most beginners will be happily sliding downhill in their first snowplough by the end of the first lesson.
It really helps that your instructor is a Brit, too: he or she will know instinctively how Brits like to be taught, and understands (unlike some Alpine instructors) that you don’t have to suffer when you learn to ski.
5. When you do get to the mountains you’ll be well ahead of the game
The biggest payoff of all comes in the mountains. Complete beginners find the first few days in a ski resort bamboozling, and pretty exhausting, too. But after a course of lessons at an indoor ski slope, you’ll be familiar with the equipment, the techniques and even some of the lifts. Chances are, before the end of the first week, you’ll be cruising the easier intermediate pistes with ease.
By the way, you can also get taster sessions and beginner courses in the many outdoor ski slopes dotted around the UK – find your nearest one on the Go Ski Go Board website.
You can also head to one of the branches of Skiplex, the moving-carpet ski slope in Basingstoke and Reading, to fine-tune your snowplough. We wouldn’t recommend it for your first-ever ski lesson: but the continuous downhill experience it provides will do wonders for your strength and technique once you’ve had a few hours on an indoor ski slope. See more about Skiplex here.
That said, there’s nothing quite like learning on proper snow, in a place where the temperature is permanently low. The only surprise you’ll get on your first proper ski holiday is how beautiful the scenery is.
Here’s how a typical first lesson works – at the The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead. Note that most beginners don’t get quite as far as these two did in their first hour…