Given that my parents are sun bunnies and our childhood holidays generally involved the beaches and medieval towns of southern France, I’ve managed to reach the ripe age of 33 (and two thirds) and never made it on to the slopes. Friends generally drop their jaws in awe to learn I’ve never skied, she who loves the thrill of motorbikes, jet skis and throwing herself off mountains (last year I tackled the world’s highest abseil…), yet thus far in my life learning to ski has eluded me. Until now.
Somewhat dubious of forking out on a skiing holiday in case I hated it (and, more to the point, was rubbish at it), I took the sensible decision of heading to Hemel Hempstead’s The Snow Centre
to take my first foray on to the powder and reader, I’m hooked.
The first thing to note - if you don’t have a car, check the trains religiously. I managed to book my lesson for a weekend everything out of Euston was cancelled, meaning I had a three hour mission to get there, and then back via numerous stations and buses. If however everything is running to plan, it’s an easy train to Hemel Hempstead and then ten minutes on the bus to The Snow Centre, situated just outside of town.
I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but nevertheless was pretty awed by the site of the 160m indoor indoor slope peppered with skiers and snowboarders whizzing down; it’s always disconcerting to see people half your size that seem to be pros. At The Snow Centre you can either book individual or group lessons, for adults or children, at Levels 1 - 4, or if you’re already seasoned on the slopes you can simply book a lift pass and go your own way. With temperatures hovering around very real -2°c and -6°c, waterproof ski wear can be hired for a lesson, unless you have your own, however gloves you either need to provide or buy there, for hygiene reasons. Essentially you can turn up with nothing bar thick socks and get kitted up on arrival, good news for newbs like me who have none of the gear as well as no idea.
After getting dressed, helmeted and measured up for skis, we were good to go. With a group of around eight all at a similar level we were met by our trainer Steve; with 50+ years of skiing under his belt I’d say he was a pretty safe bet in terms of teaching. Our two hours on the slopes went in a blur. Having never even stood on skis before, even the sensation of having them strapped to my feet to a bit of getting used to. Level One focuses on the basics; understanding your equipment and slope safety, learning to move on your skis on flat ground, side stepping and perfecting a straight run, developing your balance and posture and an introduction to the snow plough - all the basic essentials to build your ski skills on. Throughout the session some showed more of a natural prowess than others (I was in the others camp….), meaning by the end of the afternoon they’d ticked the box for Level Two and were ready to move on to Level Three. The great thing about the lessons at The Snow Centre is that they aren’t completely rigid; I liked the fact that even though we had booked a Level One, if the instructor felt you were confident and competent in what you’d learnt then you were ready to move up a notch; essentially lessons cover the level you’ve booked plus a bit extra so there’s no barrier to learning more if you’re ready.
The teaching was great, positive, firm and clear but obviously still keeping it fun. I loved my two hours on the slopes and after we gathered for a drink in the bar after our session it seemed the majority of the group were pretty keen to come back again and tackle the next level. I’m hooked already; I’ve booked my next lesson for later this month and hope to be on the slopes for real before the end of the season. Just because I don’t have enough dangerous hobbies already…
Adult group ski lessons from £49 for two hours. For more information and to book visit www.thesnowcentre.com