The UK isn’t known for its snowy Alpine skiing, so how do Brits gliding down European runs all winter get so good? There could well be a few blessed with the natural ability of a Norwegian three year old and quite probably more than one or two with pockets deep enough to afford a year-round pursuit of perfection on slopes worldwide. But most ordinary skiers have a much cheaper and easier secret: indoor ski centres.
Not a new innovation by any means, synthetic stand-ins for snow strewn mountains have been around for decades. Admittedly the first of the breed were fairly basic, designed mainly for kids and a bit haphazard on quality. That’s all changed for the better. Today’s indoor slopes are as much about brushing up on mogul technique as they are about baby steps for beginners. The runs are crisp and fresh and you can have just about anything from intensive private tuition to family coaching.
So if this is the year to snap on skis for the first time, give your family a head start at one of these super-duper ski centres.
1/6 Chel-Ski, London
This conveyor belt style slope means you won’t waste time and energy making your way back to the top of the slope and can concentrate on perfecting your technique.
Chel-Ski’s learning-only indoor ski centre has an instructor/pupil ratio of no more than 1:3 (resort lessons are normally 1:10). All sessions are with qualified instructors so you won’t be going it alone on long, snowy runs – you can’t use any UK centres’ main slopes until you can ski anyway, so no loss here for total beginners. A central London location with long opening hours is another advantage and they also offer private family lessons and tuition for over fives.
When: 8am to 10pm, seven days.
Where: Michael Road, London SW6. Eight minute walk from Fulham Broadway tube station.
Price: Hour long adult beginner lesson from £39.95
Find out more about ski lessons at Chel-Ski, London
2/6 Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead
This indoor ski centre is the closest real snow option to the centre of London and about as near to a resort experience as it comes right down to having lift passes and sledging.
Group lessons for kids start at age four and there’s private snowboarding and ski tuition for over seven’s. Adult beginners can book a FastTrack course or family classes and the centre specialises in Learn Before You Go packages for holiday first timers and improvers – if you’re not sure about your ability, look at their online Level Checker.
When: Opening times vary, check online for specific dates.
Where: Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead. Five minutes from junction eight on the M1 and 30 minutes by train from Euston to Hemel Hempstead Station.
Price: Two hour adult beginner’s lesson from £38.40
Find out more about ski lessons at Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead
3/6 Snozone, Milton Keynes and Castleford
Snozone indoor ski centre has taught over 1.8million beginners to ski on real snow since 2000.
Private lessons, group instruction, kids’ classes from as young as three and intensive one day courses for beginners are all available. They also offer a Plough to Parallel course so if you can ski a little but get stuck in a rut, eight hours training could change that. And, unusually, warm-up techniques and exercise tips are included in Snozone’s training.
When: Monday-Friday 10.30am to 10pm, weekends 10.30am to 6.30pm
Where: Snozone Milton Keynes, Eight minutes drive from Milton Keynes’ centre. Snozone Castleford, Yorkshire. Five minutes drive from Castleford centre.
Price: 90 minute long adult beginner lesson from £38.99
Find out more about ski lessons at Snozone
4/6 Chill Factore, Manchester
At 180m, Chill Factore’s indoor ski slope is the longest in the UK. It’s also real snow – no less than 100 tonnes of the stuff and regularly refreshed.
They offer ski and snowboarding lessons for absolute beginners all year round and private tuition and kids’ classes from age three. If you already know enough to control your direction and link turns, skill-building courses and advanced coaching are also available.
When: 9am – 10pm, seven days.
Where: Trafford Quays Leisure Village, Manchester – 20 minutes drive from city centre on M60.entre).
Price: 50 minute Fun Taster session for family of four from £88
Find out more ski lessons at Chill Factore, Manchester
5/6 Snow Factor, Glasgow
You can learn to ski or snowboard in one day at Snow Factor, good if you’ve left the learning bit of the holiday to last minute.
If you have a bit more time to play with, central Scotland’s biggest indoor ski centre also has individual lessons and group classes for adults and children. The main slope is 168m long and the snow’s real. For ambitions beyond skiing this winter, there’s an Ice Wall too, with taster sessions for novice climbers.
When: Monday – Friday 10am to 10pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 10pm.
Where: Braehead, 20 minutes drive from Glasgow city centre on M8)
Price: Learn to Ski in a Day (8 hours) £169
Find out more ski lessons at Snow Factor, Glasgow
6/6 Cardiff Ski & Snowboard Centre
One of the first dry ski centres in the UK, Cardiff might not have authentic snow, and not indoors, but its teaching credentials are excellent.
The Saturday morning Junior Ski-School for 7-16 year olds is a bit of a local legend – you can’t book, so go early for a place. There’s a Mini-Snow Bears Club for ages three to six at the weekends. And, as well as personal and group tuition, they offer intensive two hour lessons designed to have first time skiers run-ready in time for the holidays.
When: Tuesday–Friday 12pm to 9.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5.30pm.
Where: Fairwater Park, 10 minutes drive west of Cardiff city centre.)
Price: Private ski lessons from £35 per hour.
Find out more about ski lessons at Cardiff Ski & Snowboard Centre
If you can’t find an indoor ski-centre near you or there’s anything at all you want to know about learning to ski or snowboard before you head off on holiday this year, Go Ski Go Board is an excellent, reliable and unbiased source of info for UK beginners.