Having returned from a season in La Rosière, France Jonny has first-hand experience of tackling questions about where to learn to ski back home. He takes us through some of bigger indoor ski centres for learning to ski in the United Kingdom.
Learning to ski at indoor ski centres in the UK before heading out on a ski holiday is arguably one of the most discussed topics I had during my season as Resort Representative. A lot of guests with whom I spoke told me that they had wanted to, but there was nowhere close, or that the prices didn’t really marry up to the experience.
Yet, of the 78 possible places to ski with clubs and in centres around England, Scotland and Wales (not including the many highland mountains!) there are six indoor ski centres of interest to me and they’re not all that expensive, all things considered. The focus on these six comes from the ‘real’ snow effect. As close as can be to the true thing, it allows for a greater natural feeling whilst learning to ski. If you want to hear more about what is available in your region, stay tuned with the Esprit Ski blog for a region by region breakdown.
By far and away, skiing is always going to be a lot easier for our Northern counterparts. The highlands, with such places as Ben Nevis have excellent skiing opportunities and, certainly as was the case for Winter 14/15 at times, the snow can occasionally rival that which can be found in the Alps. But in terms of indoor ski centres, the only one that is classed as using ‘real snow’ (it’s still artificial, of course!) can be found in Renfrewshire.
Snow Factor claim to have taught over half a million people to ski and snowboard since their doors first opened. Skiing for adults has a few varying prices, see their website for more details. But principally, what
There is a relatively large chunk of the country missing, when it comes to indoor snow centres using ‘real snow’. Between Scotland and Yorkshire, there isn’t all that much going on, which is disappointing. With the loss of the Sheffield Ski Centre to a fire back in 2012, options have been somewhat limited.
That said, for my fellow kinsmen in the North, we still have Sno!Zone Castleford, part of the chain which also has a centre in Milton Keynes.
In terms of what is available, you are best off ringing the centres themselves, however I understand there to be a variety of instruction available ranging from Private Lessons (1:1), to a 13-week Academy with even the potential for summer holiday week-long care and lesson packages.
Now, here is one that I know well, having spent a number of years at university nearby. Chill Factore (Manchester) has a lengthy 180m indoor ‘real snow’ slope (the longest in the UK they claim), with several options available. With passes available for recreational time and a strong selection of lesson choices available, if you can get there then I would personally recommend it.
With nine separate levels of skiing divided between Beginner (1-3), Intermediate (4-6) and Advanced (7-9), there is surely a group for everyone. Two-day (2x 5h30) courses starting from £135 for juniors and Three Week courses (3x 1h50) starting from the same, there’s a wide range of flexibility for not too much difference in price.
SnowDome Tamworth represents the indoor ski centre population for the middle of England on this one. Not far shy of Chill Factore’s 180m slope, the SnowDome provides skiers and snowboarders with 170m of ‘real snow’ to learn and have fun on. With separate Snow Academy areas (a 30m and 25m slope respectively), you can certainly learn away from the hustle and bustle of the main piste.
Lessons start for children aged 4+ (although double check for children under this age!) with the Kinder Lessons. Taking place for 45 minutes every Saturday, Sunday and school holiday morning this set of lessons can start from anything as low as £27. Not bad? It keeps coming.
Junior lessons, for children aged 8-15 years, have a wide range of lessons available too! With choices such as 2-hour group lessons and 3-hour fast track lessons available, it is worth taking a look at.
South of England
As mentioned above, Sno!zone has a centre in both Castleford (Yorkshire) and in Milton Keynes. Please see above for details regarding lessons.
Aside from this, the Southerners among us have access to The Snow Centre (Hemel Hempstead), a 160m main slope with the largest indoor ski lesson slope in the UK (according to their website at the time of writing). They welcome snowsports fanatics of all levels and offer lessons too. Check the website or give them a ring for more details as they have a great selection of lesson options available.
SKIPLEX Ltd are an indoor specialist with a twist. Whilst I’ve already covered my six ‘real snow’ suggestions for learning to ski indoors, you simply have to check out some of Skiplex’s videos to witness their unique and genius way of learning to ski. Even for experienced skiers, this provides a new challenge with Skiplex freely announcing that a higher level of technical ability is required for skiing on their system.
Available for both children and adults, there are a number of options available: Discover Skiplex, a variety of courses and even parties.
With three locations currently available, Skiplex can be found in Reading, Basingstoke and Chiswick.
Learning to ski in the United Kingdom can help with technique and endurance in preparation for those awesome full days of skiing, but nothing beats the feeling of the Alpine air rushing past you as you whizz down one of the fantastic runs in your chosen resort.