Being the closest indoor ski slope to London with snow all year round, The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead is a great place to spend time with friends freestyling and socialising with like minded snowsports enthusiasts. Yes, real snow, indoors!
Visited by the likes of the Beckhams, Heston Blumenthal, Dame Kelly Holmes and Emma Bunton, The Snow Centre Freestyle Fridays are only 24 minutes by train from central London, providing a great night out having fun indoor skiing and snowboarding and meeting new people in The Lodge bar and restaurant. I wanted to know more, so I had to go there and try it out for myself.
What’s at The Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre?
The Hemel Hempstead Ski Centre is an indoor ski slope open 363 days of the year, with about 50cm of real snow providing great indoor skiing conditions all year round.
Located in Hemel Hempstead just off the junction of the M25 and M1 motorways north of London, it is the closest indoor snow ski slope to London. You can easily drive there, as long as the M25 behaves itself. Or you can get there by train from central London travelling from London Euston to Hemel Hempstead in just 24 minutes. It is then just a 5 minute taxi ride to get to the ski centre. Share the journey with friends and the taxi cost is negligible.
The Indoor Ski Slope at Hemel Hempstead Ski Centre
The Snow Centre was very easy to find. There are plenty of road signs once you get off the motorways. It has free parking as well.
It has the longest real snow slope in the UK, the 160m indoor ski slope is kept in excellent condition by a team of dedicated staff. The Snow Centre has a team of 300 staff who really care about the slope, facilities and customers. The indoor ski slope team are constantly wandering round with snow shovels keeping the lift runs smooth and filling any ruts as they start to appear, usually at the top of the slope where you get off the lift.
The Hemel Hempstead ski centre has two indoor ski slopes; the main slope and another indoor ski slope for lessons. The main ski slope has two Poma ski tow drag lifts. To go on the ski slope, you have to be able to know how to use the ski tow, control your speed when coming down the slope, link your turns and be able to stop.
Used by the Pros
The Snow Centre is used for training by pro snowboarders Jenny Jones and Jamie Nicholls. The Team GB Ski Cross team train there and will be at the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi in Russia. The Snow Centre also sponsor GB disabled athlete Anna Turney, who after breaking her back in a snowboarding accident, now represents GB in skiing.
Freestyle Nights at the Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre
The Snow Centre usually has a nice clear and even ski slope, so that there is plenty of space for everyone to practise their skills. Then, on Thursdays and Fridays, the ski slope staff craft a variety of freestyle features for you to try your skills on.
The Thursday Night Progression Session
On Thursday evenings, the crew create a smaller, easier freestyle park on the main indoor ski slope. This is great if you’re just starting out in freestyle skiing or snowboarding and you want to build your confidence on a simpler park plan.
On Fridays, the slope team craft bigger and better features to make even the most travelled snowsports enthusiast grin.
Youtube video of Freestyle Fridays at the Hemel Snow Centre
There are two freestyle sessions; 630pm – 830pm, and 9pm – 11pm. You can do one 2 hour session for £39, or you may as well go for the 4 hour freestyle pass for only £49. During the half hour break, you can visit The Lodge bar for a spot of light refreshment.
The Snow Centre indoor ski slope is built on the site of a dry ski slope. Since it is built directly onto the hill, the slope doesn’t need a stilt structure to make the hill. Therefore, unlike other indoor ski slopes, there are no issues with the weight of the snow. This means that they can pile up the snow deep to provide excellent snow conditions and can build the biggest snow kickers in the UK.
Each week the Snow Centre has a new park plan, so there will always be something different to try out. You can see the park plan for the week on The Snow Centre freestyle webpage. There are also freestyle coaches on hand to give you complimentary coaching.
Food and drink at The Lodge bar and restaurant
Should you get the need for a break during your freestyle session, The Lodge bar and restaurant at the Snow Centre has a good selection of food and drink. The Lodge overlooks the bottom of the ski slope, so you can be sure to see all of the indoor skiing and snowboarding action while you rest your weary legs. Freestyle nights are known to be a great social occasion. You will get to meet new people who all have a common interest in snowsports.
You don’t need your own gear – it’s all there for you
If you don’t own your own gear, or decide to go to The Snow Centre on a spur of the moment trip, your ski pass includes free ski or snowboard hire, poles, boots and helmets. You can also rent jackets and trousers for £6.75. You will need ski socks and gloves. If you don’t bring your own, you can buy some there. There are showers, changing rooms and lockers for when you get changed. Watch out for the wet patches on the floor from melted snow, as it is sure to make your socks wet when you are getting changed.
If you are looking to buy some gear for yourself, there is a Snow and Rock store at the Snow Centre. Snow and Rock do a try before you buy, where you can rent a demo board or skis, and if you like it buy it.
What if I can’t ski or board? – Learn to ski indoors on real snow
I watched the TV series on BBC3 about teens going on a first time skiing holiday and was horrified to see them putting skis on without having any lessons and thinking they could just do it. They all went careering of down the slopes totally out of control and at great risk of injuring themselves and others.
If you are a newcomer to snowsports, it is a really great idea to learn to ski on real snow. Rather than find out when you are on holiday, you can learn to ski near London on real snow. The Snow Centre has a great selection of ski lessons and snowboard lessons to suit all abilities. Whether you are a complete beginner, or a little bit rusty, there are lessons for all. Group social ski lessons, family ski lessons, improvers lessons and you can even learn in a day in a focussed ski lesson or snowboard lessons that includes lunch.
Over 50,000 people are taught in lessons each year, with over 250 schools visiting each year. The Snow Centre caters for all abilities and disabilities. They support Disability Snowsport UK and Snowmobility.
Find out more about the Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre
A visit to The Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre is a definite must for all snowsports enthusiasts. Having tried it out for myself, I can honestly say that it is my favourite indoor ski slope in the UK. Whether you want to learn to ski, want to practise before going on a ski trip, want to improve or want to blast down a freestyle park doing jumps, it is the place to go to. If you are ever thinking of going on a skiing or snowboarding holiday, your best bet is to try it out at The Snow Centre to see if you like snowsports before spending your hard earned cash on a skiing holiday and getting ski lessons on the mountain. You can learn to ski on indoor snow close to London, and then be sure to make the most of your time on the pistes when you book your first skiing or snowboarding holiday. You can even find out about winter holidays from Crystal Ski, who have a stall in the entrance of the Snow Centre. They think of everything to make your life easy. It’s all about the people!
The Snow Centre also provides corporate teambuilding in the snow, parties and a range of snowsport clubs. During the summer months, it is the best place to go snow tubing near London. Next to the Snow Centre is the Hemel Hempstead XC, with an indoor skatepark, climbing, bouldering, caving and high ropes course. Plenty to do for you and your friends.
If you want to find out more about the great things you can do at The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead or book a session, visit The Snow Centre website.