In the UK you can ski or snowboard on dry ski slopes or indoor snowdomes across the country. They’re a great way to learn and are an affordable way to develop your skills
Confidence is a huge factor for first time skiers. Before heading out to the mountains going to local dryslope or snowdome will give you a headstart for your first ski holiday. This expert guide explains the types of facilities you can use in the UK before going away.
In the UK there are artificial and real snow slopes all over the country. If you can master basics like stopping and turning before your first holiday on snow, you can make more use of the mountain when you’re there.
Dry Slopes use a synthetic surface to mimic the feeling and physics of sliding on real snow. This can include smooth sheers of material or a material similar to doormat fibres lacaed in a diamond pattern, covered with a sprinkling of water. There are dry slope centres all over the country, with several large ones located in Aldershot,Southampton, ChristchurchSnowtrax, Sunderland Silksworth, and Hillend near Edinburgh. Unfortunately, Sheffield Ski Village – once Europe’s largest and proving grown of Olympians such as James Woods and Katie Summerhayes – is no longer open after suffering a series of fires and arson attacks.
The main benefits of learning on a dryslope are that they can be reasonably priced for lessons or freeski sessions, plus you’re out in the open air rather than indoors. The surface maybe hard but if you master the basics on a dry matt surface you will find snow a dream. Olympians such as Billy Morgan, Dave Ryding, Laurie Taylor and James Woods have all trained on dryslopes in their early snowsport careers.
Before you head out to a dryslope make sure you bring a long sleeve T shirt at least to protect yourself from the bristles if you fall. Gloves are also essential too to protect your hands from the aurface. Even though it can be warm your own ski socks are useful too to help with fitting into rental ski boots. It’s important to cover up even if it’s the summer.
Many dry slopes have rental facilities for equipment such as skis/boards, boots, poles and helmets but it’s best to check what your local slope offers before you head there.
Indoor snowdomes are becoming more and more popular in the UK and there are now five indoor snow slopes which produce real snow – the temperature is usually kept between -1°C and -5°C, allowing snow cannons to produce snow in the same way as those used in many ski resorts. Castleford (Snozone), Manchester (Chill Factore), Tamworth SnowDome, Milton Keynes (Snozone) and Hemel Hempstead (The Snow Centre) are currently in operation. Several plans have also been afoot for centres in East London, on the South Coast, South Wales and in Swindon, although various challenges have delayed progress or outright cancelled these schemes. Similarly, sadly, an indoor centre at INTU Braehead, Glasgow, has been shuttered for over a year.
All the snowdomes in the UK have rental facilities for skis, boards, boots and poles so you don’t have to lug your own kit there. Even though you may only be on the snow for an hour or so at a time it is still important to stay warm. Think about wearing ski pants or waterproof trousers, warm gloves, warm mid-layers and a ski jacket. Although eye protection is not essential as it outdoors, it’s a good idea to wear a helmet, especially when the slopes become busy. All slopes feature a kit shop too, either a Snow+Rock or Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. You can often demo the latest skis and snowboards on the snow, and don’t forget your membership card to save money on everything you buy!
Indoor snow slopes in the UK have helped to fuel the growth of freestyle skiing and snowboarding, with local freestyle nights and competitions helping to uncover talented young athletes. The indoor snow centres regularly update their websites and their Facebook pages with details of these events. Olympians such as Jamie Nichols and Katie Summerhayes still use indoor snow centres to train on features when they’re in the UK.
The Ski Club regularly hosts events at snowdomes across the UK, but especially at the Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead, and Chill Factore, Manchester. Join us for a Ski with Chemmy Day, a Warren Smith technique tune up, or a Get You Kit Out event throughout the year! We also have discounts on lift tickets and rental at some centres too.
Our UK slopes map has more information about dry slope facilities and indoor snow centres, plus details of the discounts which Ski Club of Great Britain members are entitled to receive. Join the Ski Club and you’ll enjoy these discounts as well as many other member benefits!