With the Winter season fast approaching, I felt that insistent urge to clip into a pair of ski bindings and gracefully descend a ski slope. I recently found out about Skiplex, a revolving indoor ski slope, and decided to find out whether there was any point in skiing fixed in one place over the course of an hour rather than the fun of an indoor snow centre.
What is Skiplex?
Skiplex is a revolving indoor ski slope, that works like a moving walkway. If you stand on it, when the motors move the soft carpet-like surface, you move with it until you get to the end and it disappears into the floor. Like a travelator at an airport, if you walk in the opposite direction, you can get to stay in the same place. Put on a pair of skis and tilt the entire surface, and you have one eternal ski slope.
Skiplex provides a continual ski slope that can be tilted to a range of angles to represent all of the different gradients you would find on any ski run in the mountains. The speed the surface moves at can also be fully controlled. This provides a skier or snowboarder with continual time on the slope without having to queue for lifts, get up to the top or wait for a space on the slope.
Over the course of an hour’s tuition, you get 30 minutes of ski time on a Skiplex slope, whereas at a dry slope or indoor snow centre you would only get 5 minutes. This is because you are constantly on the move, with a dedicated instructor right by your side the entire time providing you with expert advice and guidance. There is a huge mirror at the bottom of the slope so you can see yourself perform every move. The constant immediate feedback accelerates the learning process by up to 8 times faster than any other snowsports environment.
What is it like to ski at Skiplex?
I went to Skiplex in Basingstoke to find out for myself if Skiplex was any good. Would staying in one place on a moving ski slope be any fun? Was there any benefit to doing it? Would I just end up in a heap at the top in a similar way to wiping out on a flow rider surf simulator?
I learned to ski and snowboard on dry slopes. The surface is brush matting that is unforgiving if you fall over, but does a good job of enabling you to ski down a slope. Indoor snow centres have real snow, and are absolute bliss to ski on. When things are busy, you do spend a lot of time on the ski lifts or waiting your turn. Some days there are jumps set up, so if you are not into that sort of thing, the ski areas becomes more limited so you can’t perform wide carving turns. Best of all is the real thing on a mountain.
Dedicated Instructor Right by Your Side
Skiplex is indoors, so you can use it all year round. At a cost of under £20 for an hour session, it is more expensive than going on a dry slope or snow centre. The cost does however include a dedicated instructor for your entire session. The qualified instructor operates the slope, adjusting the speed and angle. The cost is comparable to the cost of an hour tuition on other ski slopes. A big difference is that the instructor is right in front of you for the entire session. Normally, the instructor would tell you what to do, and then watch from the bottom of the slope while you go down. You would then get feedback at the bottom.
Skiplex Session Structure
Our instructor started by finding out what our ski experience was. After being fitted with very comfortable ski boots, we stood at the bottom of the slope. We didn’t need our skis to start with.
Getting used to skiing on a Skiplex Slope
There is a bar about waist height that runs across the bottom of the slope, which we held onto. Our instructor then started the Skiplex slope, which made us have to walk in place to stay where we were. Having got the idea of the slope, we put on our skis. The slope was started, and we maintained our position by running our skis parallel and holding onto the safety bar.
The next stage was to let go of the bar. We expected that if we did so, we would stick to the slope and go backwards. I cautiously let go and found that I went downhill. OK, so now we knew about that bit, onto the next stage – Snowplough.
Controlling your Position on the Skiplex Slope
The group I was with could all snowplough and parallel turn on skis, but before we showed off, we had to learn how to control our position on the Skiplex slope. We quickly worked out how to move around the slope. Should anyone fall over, the instructor stops the slope. Strangely this doesn’t cause others on the slope to fall over. This is because you are sliding on the surface, so when it stops, if you are up on your skis you slide to a controlled stop.
Although I could snowplough turn and move around the Skiplex slope with ease, I found that all of the instructions from my early ski lessons came back as you had to be quite precise to ski with ease. Skiing on snow is so forgiving at slow speeds, but on a Skiplex slope, if you don’t get things quite right you will gradually find yourself in the wrong position or getting very tired very quickly. My bad habit of controlling my skis with my ankles very quickly began to make them ache, forcing me to use my legs properly to control my position and speed. Instantly, the ache went away as I corrected my technique.
Our instructor tailored the session to comfortably increase the difficulty of what we were doing at our own pace. The instant review, feedback and friendly coaching was brilliant.
Having practised moving position backwards and forwards, left and right, we then moved onto some games.
Fun and Games Help to Relax into More Natural Skiing Technique
We played some games on the Skiplex slope, passing objects between us, and having to move to certain positions to get them. This was fun, but the biggest benefit was that it takes your mind away from concentrating on getting your skiing correct. You are so focussed on passing the baton to the next person that you begin to relax into a more natural ski style. The tension soon disappeared from my body as I focussed on getting to the bottom of the slope to pass the baton onto the next person.
Developing Ski Technique at Skiplex
We next moved onto parallel turns. We can all do this on snow, but being taken through the transition from snowplough was artfully done. You can watch the instructor demonstrate the moves right in front of you while you then copy, getting instant feedback and advice. Playing follow the leader with the girls on the slope was quite taxing, trying to move the same side of the slope as the leader at the same time.
Usually with ski lessons, you use most of the slope for wide turns, and then develop your control and precision of turns to be able to turn quicker and faster. Learning on the Skiplex slope enabled you to develop those tight turns far quicker than you would need to on a piste. This is a huge benefit because you will have the skill to be able to turn quickly to avoid unexpected actions of other skiers on the mountain.
The hour session at Skiplex is broken down into a short introduction followed by 15 minutes continuous skiing or snowboarding. This may not seem long, but it is the same as travelling 5km down a ski run! You are then in desperate need of a rest. After a 15 minute refreshment break, it’s back on the Skiplex slope for another 5km of intense tuition.
Tiring and Intense
Skiplex is a fantastic way to learn how to ski or snowboard, or to brush up on your ski technique. In that hour, my technique improved dramatically back to a level that I would expect to have if I had several days of coaching at a ski resort. My legs did ache when I came off the slope, but I quickly recovered.
Something for Everyone
Whether you are a total beginner or expert, Skiplex has something to offer for everyone. Learn how to descend slopes from gentle green run to fast black runs. During the school holidays, Skiplex run kids camps, where children can learn to ski, play games and go sledging.
You can hire Skiplex for groups, whether you are holding a corporate event, stag or hen party. Great for birthday parties as well.
You can use Skiplex as an alternative to the gym. The instructors will ensure they work all aspects of your fitness including muscular strength, cardio and toning. A great way to tone those thighs.
Skiplex is the perfect way to prepare for a ski holiday
Before going to Skiplex, I was undecided as to whether I would ever go again. I thought it might be a bit of a new experience to do, but would just stick to indoor snow centres.
After having been to Skiplex, I can definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to prepare for a skiing holiday. Whether you can ski or not, having a qualified dedicated instructor teaching and coaching you whilst standing right by your side is brilliant.
If you are considering going skiing for the first time, you can save money on expensive lessons in your resort by learning or practicing before you go. Skiplex provide all the gear you need to learn to ski, so you don’t have to invest in ski gear, ski passes, flights or hotels.
Tailored to your needs, this intense and instant ski technique booster will have you making the most of every moment on your next ski holiday because you will be feeling confident and focusing on having a good time instead of worrying about your skiing.
You can currently visit Skiplex at three venues in the UK at Chiswick, Reading and Basingstoke. Book your Skiplex session here.