The Snow Centre
Reviewed by David Savage
We recently visited the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead for 30 minutes sledging followed by a 1 hour private ski lesson. Our party consisted of 2 adults and 3 children. I have never tried skiing before and neither had 2 of the children, although I have been and tried the sledging previously. The smallest child in our party was very apprehensive about it all as she had never been before.
The Snow Centre is very easy to get from the M25 or M1 and is situated in a large modern building with a large 160 metre main ski slope , the training and sledging slopes are smaller but all have real snow.
On arrival we headed to the first floor to the check-in desk, if you book online you can use the fast track ticket machines and your reference number to save queuing. While queuing you are facing a large window that looks out onto the main slope and you can watch the more experienced skiers. The check-in staff were friendly and helpful and explained where we needed to go to get our clothing and boots. After receiving our tickets that you need to attach to your jacket we went off with our printed clothing hire tickets to get the necessary equipment. There are plenty of lockers to store your coats and bags and although these cost a £1 you do get this back once you are finished. There are also plenty of large changing rooms for you to use.
After getting our boots, gloves and helmets we were all set to get out onto the sledging slope. We were met by instructor and taken out on the sledging slope. The different slopes are all separated by netting so there is no danger of you accidently moving into the wrong place.
The sledging sessions are 30 minutes long and while this sounds like a nice gentle activity be prepared for lots of exercise. While myself and the oldest child selected the small plastic sledges that you sit on the 2 youngest girls both decided bigger was better and took the large rubber rings. Now it’s tiring enough walking up the slope a few times with the plastic sledge, with these large rubber rings it is exhausting. Once we had been down the hill a few times we were allowed to have races and go down in pairs. Towards the end of the session the youngest girl in our party who as I said was apprehensive and a bit scared of falling and hurting herself was enjoying it so much that she swapped her rubber ring for the smaller plastic sledge and was going down the hill with her hands raised in the air and an enormous smile on her face.
Next up was the private skiing lesson. So off we went and were given different boots and our skis. The new boots were heavy, very snug and you work up a sweat just trying to put them on. Once we were all booted and dressed our new instructor, Richard, took us out onto the training slope.
Now, while watching the other skiers including children who could only be 4 or 5 whizzing down the main slope making it look easy you soon realise that is not as easy as it looks. Our instructor was great and although I was not sure what to expect he started the lesson getting us to throw one ski away and then explaining how the skis worked and how to put them on. We were then given exercises:
How to stand properly while wearing skis
Jumping up and down on the spot with the skis on
How to turn around on the spot in a circle
How to grip while wearing skis
How to walk up the slope sideways while wearing skis
Once we had completed these tasks we were allowed to start skiing practice which included:
Skiing with only one ski on with your other leg slightly raised
Skiing while incorporating jumping up and down
Skiing while touching your head, shoulders, knees and toes
Skiing down the slope backwards
After you have finished on the slopes there is also a café, The Edge, where you have a bite to eat and drink while watching the skiers. The meals are great value
Overall, this is a great fun activity whether it is just for you or for the whole family to learn a new skill together or just for practice before your skiing holiday. The sledging, while being tiring, is great fun. The skiing lessons were great and if like me you have never tried skiing before you will need a few lessons before you can get onto the bigger slopes. It is definitely not easy and even when you know what you are supposed to be doing you have to try and remember to do it when sliding down the slope. I did notice that the children seemed to pick it up a lot quicker and the smallest and most apprehensive child in our party was the one who seemed to pick it up easiest and was the best in our party.
I cannot fault the Snow Centre. The staff were all very friendly, helpful and efficient. The instructors were very patient, helpful and their explanations of how to do things were great and easy to understand and they were very encouraging too. Everybody was in agreement that while the sledging was fun the skiing lessons were the best!
Whether it's sledging, skiing or snowboarding it's lots of great fun and also good exercise. Highly recommended.
You will need to take your own waterproofs and gloves or you can hire them from the centre for a very reasonable charge. For prices and latest offers including, from 1 October 2012, 10% off group lessons and lift passes visit www.thesnowcentre.com
We had a 1 hour private lesson but if you want to reduce the cost you can also get group lessons. You will need a few lessons before being competent enough to be allowed off the training slope for Health and Safety reasons.
For more information and prices visit www.thesnowcentre.com