Sloping off to ski school
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Never let it be said that this Muddy isn’t willing to put her body on the line in the name of new experiences and fun times. This weekend we step inside from the muggy weather, cross the border and head less than an hour down the road to Hemel Hempstead’s Snow Centre. It’s a Winter wonderland at any time of the year, it’s really accessible for all ages and skills, and even better – it’s bloody good fun. Here’s five good reasons why I think you should give it a go:
1. The Welcome
It was so easy to get ourselves organised once we’d entered the Centre. The staff are really welcoming, and bearing in mind we hadn’t visited before, and actually hadn’t skied before, we felt really comfortable as they explained the process and the equipment hire. The temperature is between -2°C and -6°C on the slope, so you’re best to dress for these conditions! You’ll need warm waterproof jacket and trousers, waterproof gloves and thick socks, jeans are not recommended. If you don’t have any of these items you can hire a jacket and trousers from £7 and buy gloves for £10 and socks for £4. All activities include the equipment you need: skis, snowboards, boots, ski poles, sledges and helmets. Steely resolve you will need to bring yourself : )
2. The Instructors – ‘Our Charlotte’
Patience is a virtue that is very much on show at The Snow Centre. Our Instructor, Charlotte, was the epitome of calm and kindness. We’d never skied before and she talked us through the basics with aplomb. Within a few minutes we felt confident enough to snow plough and turn, with Charlotte providing us with the top tips to keep us upright and smiling.
3. The scale of The Snow Centre
The Snow Centre is vast and has “nursery slopes” to set up we first timers – both skiers and snowboarders. There’s also a huge 160m main slope as well as the largest indoor ski lesson slope in the UK. Both ski and snowboarding slopes are over 30m wide and maintained with the perfect snow surface. There’s no danger of serious pile ups as the snow hosts work with the instructors to ensure that all is safe. To be honest there’s such a great feeling of encouragement and bon amie between all participants that it’s fun rather than the fear factor that’s on show.
Within an hour of our first ever lesson, some of our party were told they could tackle the main slope on their next visit (show-off Mr Muddy, who strictly speaking, has skied in Val d’Isère). Again it’s really well laid out and coordinated so regardless of how much experience you have you can be sure of a great (safe) time.
Of course the little nippers (made of rubber) seem to pick up skiing much faster than the adults, but if it’s all too much, then hopping onto a rubber ring in the special ringo slide area is always an option.
4. The Lessons
If you’re new to snow or never skied or snowboarded before, The Snow Centre has a ski lesson for you! They provide expert ski and snowboard lessons for Adults (17+ years) and juniors (4 -16 years) to help you feel confident and comfortable on their slopes. They’ve created a range of specially designed group ski lessons and private ski lessons that will teach you the core skills for skiing and snowboarding.
On the other hand if you’re already a skier, then there are special lessons to help hone your skills, and The Snow Centre offers a “Lift pass” where no lessons are required, you just head up on the slopes and off you go.
5. Apres Ski
Actually this was pre-ski for us (check out the Muddy men’s nervous smiles), but there’s an alpine flavour to the restaurant and bar on offer, including some inspired dishes such as tartiflette, wiener schnitzel and bratwurst. This is all very authentic, but on the other hand if it’s spag bol, a jacket potato or a tasty salad you’re after, then the menu is broad and affordable enough to satisfy all tastes. There’s also a bar on offer – although that would definitely be an “apres” event for me.
Prices for lessons vary depending whether you’re 1:1 or part of a group and on what time of the week you visit and there are also discounts for block booking. I was a tad skeptical having got to the ripe old age of 43 and having never skied, but the sense of accomplishment afterwards was amazing, and it really was properly fun. Verdict: I would thoroughly recommend a visit and may even see you there!
The Snow Centre, St Albans Hill, Hemel Hempstead HP3 9NH