There is plenty that can be daunting about going skiing for the very first time. Unlike the tiny tots who have been zooming around with sticks strapped to their feet from the time that they could walk, learning to ski as an adult is much harder. Adults will typically take much longer to learn something new than children, and of course there is 'the fear'. After all, donning a pair of skis to go whizzing down a snow-covered mountain - particularly when you are not entirely confident about what you are doing - is seriously scary stuff. Fortunately, there is one major hack you can try ahead of your ski trip to help get you ready for the slopes - indoor skiing. HELLO! took a trip to the Chill Factore in Manchester to learn on an indoor slope before heading to the French Alps to give it a go for real...
Heading into the warehouse building, it feels like skiing is as casual a pastime as going bowling. However, instead of red-and-white-stitched shoes, you can hire coats, salopettes, boots and of course, a pair of skis. Once you are all snug as a bug and ready to go, you enter the subzero temperatures of the snow run. On my visit, the wide slope was scattered with a mixture of beginners and experts who just can't stay away from the slopes for too long.
For beginners, there are several different options for how to learn. You can join up with a class of beginners for a six-hour session, which promises that - even if you have never put skis on in your life - you will be zooming down the slopes with confidence by the end of the session. If six hours sounds a bit too much, you can also do the same session in three-hour segments over two days. The alternate option is to have a private instructor for a two-hour session. Since I had already shrieked my way down one or two runs in my time, I agreed to a private session to 'improve' on my skills. And oh, did they need improving.
Starting off at the bottom half of the slope, which was borderline flat, my instructor Mikey showed me how to build my confidence on the run, giving me visual tips, suggestions for improvement and big compliments (which worked like a dream), to make me feel like being a successful skier was actually within my reach. We eventually worked our way up to the top of the run, and as we skied down again and again, I felt each journey to the bottom become smoother and easier. By the end of the two hours, from a clumsy, haltering snow plough, I was bringing my skis together more, making imperfect parallel turns and feeling total control over my movements. By the end of the session, with the help of Mikey, I felt immeasurably more confident.
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But how did my session measure up on the REAL slopes?
Just a week after my session at the Chill Factore, I was on a ski lift to the highest piste of Meribel, France. While previously I would have been riddled with anxiety, probably on the verge of tears and ready to freeze on the run (from fear, not from the cold), on this occasion I enjoyed the journey, and with one glance at the blue run ahead of me (hey, I never said I was an expert), I knew I could do it - and had a great time.
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Of course, indoor and outdoor skiing are never going to be quite the same thing - particularly since outdoor terrain is more unpredictable, and in the outdoors the snow always depends on the weather unlike indoor, measured conditions. But I felt instantly happier, more confident and ready for my ski session than I ever had been before, and spending the first few hours of my trip - where I would usually be painstakingly relearning how to ski from the year before - flying down the slopes was a great feeling.
Find out more about paying a visit to Chill Factore here, and good luck!