Test your skill on a never ending ski slopeBy Jon Nurse
December 17, 2012
Wishing you were heading to the slopes this winter?
Jon Nurse tried out the next best thing in Woodley...
When I was at school we were challenged to invent the ultimate leisure experience.
I came up with a genius idea – the never-ending ski slope. Tiresome journeys being lugged up ski lifts would be no more – simply push off and ski to your heart’s content.
So imagine my surprise in July when a planning application popped up for an ‘endless ski slope’ in the sweeping mountain range of Woodley.
Last week Skiplex opened its doors in Headley Road and I made sure that I was at the front of the queue to see how it worked.
My plans had relied on a portal zapping skiers back to the top of the run, but apparently this isn’t feasible. Skiplex have come up with a much more practical idea.
The Woodley centre, only the second of its kind in the UK, has revolving slopes that work a lot like giant treadmills.
Two slopes, which are made of a smooth, dampened carpet type material, glide under your feet, with the speed and gradient controlled remotely by an instructor who skis at your side.
I geared up, shuffled on to the machine and grabbed hold of the beginners’ handrail. With the flick of a switch the slope began to slide underneath me and, hey presto, I was skiing.
The first trick to learn was how to move the skis into a snow plough which causes you to slow and drift towards the back of the slope and its ominous crash mats. Pointing the skis parallel down slope reduces the drag and eases you forwards.
This took a couple of minutes to get used to, but soon I was weaving around the slope with little trouble.
I’m no expert on skis but I’m no novice either and was really taken aback by how smooth the run swept beneath me. There are no bumps or depressions to throw you off balance, just endless glorious skiing.
Helping me on my way to skiing brilliance was my instructor Drew, who was watching closely and commenting on the manoeuvres.
A huge mirror faces the skiers as they weave from left to right and staring closely at your movement really does help you improve.
In fact, the instructors claim you can learn up to eight times faster on a Skiplex slope than on an actual slope: you have constant one-to-one tuition, no time wasted on lifts and the mirror there to help you tweak your technique. From my time in Woodley, I can believe that.
My scepticism arriving at Skiplex was safety. Would a fall on the surface give horrible carpet burn or hurtle you towards the back of the room, You’ve Been Framed style?
I had a couple of wobbles but before I was even falling the slope would grind to a sudden stop allowing me to regain my balance before starting over again – no drama, and no arms flailing in the air.
The Skiplex experience is exciting but it did leave me pining for the real thing. The smooth slopes and the shimmering vistas decorating the centre’s walls are a good imitation but a poor cousin to the rush of hurtling down a mountain.
But then Skiplex isn’t claiming to offer everything you can have in the Alps. It’s a great way to learn to ski or snowboard and it’s pitched itself as being as useful for beginners as it is for those familiar with the slopes.
Some time spent at this indoor centre could save you frustrating hours on a nursery slope on holiday or be something different for an adventurous birthday party.
Ski lessons are £39.99 an hour for adults and £34.99 for children. Skiers as young as five can learn on the slopes, with youngsters aged 10 and under required to wear safety helmet. Visit www.skiplex.co.uk