Skiing for £19.99, equipment rental and expert tuition included? It may sound like someone has dropped off a zero or is playing a summer April Fool, but that’s what it costs for a solid 30 minutes of linked turns this week. However the slope is not at 2500m in Bad Gastein, Banff, or Bormio, but at just 88m above sea level in…Skiplex Basingstoke.
It’s just 12 metres long so it’s a pretty short piste by any standards. But that doesn’t matter at all, because you are skiing on a revolving carpet. Just as you battle against a counter current in a small swimming-pool fitted with a Jetstream, you don’t actually go anywhere. You ski on the spot as the slope comes up to you.
It sounds strange and feels even stranger when you first step onto a Skiplex slope, which takes three skiers at a time. Even an advanced skier will find him or herself initially putting their snowplough technique to the test.
It’s not skiing as we know it, but it’s a whole lot more fun than classic plastic – and there’s no time wasted on lifts. As a ski exercise it’s hard to beat. You use exactly the same set of muscles, so it’s an ideal way to fine tune a new pair of boots and sort out any pressure points before heading off skiing in the Alps. It’s also the perfect way to maintain fitness out of season or to prepare with some extra tuition for the winter ahead.
For beginners it’s a great introduction to skiing. A course of lessons gives you a feel for snow and gets the basics out of the way before you go on holiday – and you’ll discover that it’s all a whole lot easier on real snow. Ideally bring your own ski boots and socks (although free rental boots are included), you won’t need ski clothing, but you must use their skis.
After a few minutes you soon start to get the hang of it, although it takes a little longer to go fully parallel. If you catch an edge on snow you have a good chance of recovery. On Skiplex you usually wipe out, although your instructor has a remote control and can quickly stop the slope if you lose balance. He can also vary both the speed and pitch of the piste. The trick is to look at yourself in the mirror at the foot of the slope, not down at your skis.
What’s the Verdict?
The cost of building and maintaining Skiplex is a fraction of that for an inside ‘real’ snow slope. Basingstoke is the third one to open – the others are in Chiswick and Reading. If it proves successful the owners plan to open centres in as many as 50 towns across the UK.
Skiplex Basingstoke is located in a new building in the Leisure Centre and it also feature Airkix skydiving (on a cushion of air), racing car simulators, and brushboading (surfing on plastic). Open weekdays 9am-11pm and weekends 8am-11pm.