Of course growing up in the mountains can typically ski as soon as they can walk (some claim sooner!), but equally if you arrive from suburban Blighty with a toddler who has seen little snow and isn’t overjoyed at having heavy boots and planks (mini to us, but giant to them) strapped to their feet so they fold over on cold, cold snow and you could unwittingly start a lifetime of snow hating psychosis – the very opposite to what you intended.
One recent study has suggested that under 12 is a good age to start however as children have not yet reached the age of fearing new things or looking foolish if they fall, which all changes around the time of secondary school starting, the theory goes.
And yet another recent study by the Ski Club of Great Britain found that most people don’t, on average, go skiing until their early 20s now thanks to the ever diminishing numbers of school trips and the current laws preventing parents taking their children skiing in term time.
What isn’t disputed is that it’s a good idea to start children at quite a young age (if not perhaps before they can walk), but that if that doesn’t happen it’s never too late, and that most importantly it’s an excellent idea to get your children used to skiing or boarding before they head to the mountains.
Doing so means your child is used to the equipment, used to the stance and knows what they’re going to do before they reach the snow and simply can’t wait to get out there – saving big costs, time and the uncertainty of knowing whether your child will actually enjoy it before you splash out on the trip.
If you wish it can also mean – if you already know how to ski – that your child can ski with you on holiday rather than having to go in to ski school. Although alternatively they can just start higher up than the beginners class.
The good news is that Britain is particularly well-endowed with try-before-you-fly-to-the-Alps options including indoor snow centres, dry slopes, and the state-of-the-art Skiplex centres, the UK’s only continuous indoor revolving slopes.
Skiplex works in a similar way to a runner’s treadmill, but is much bigger, on a slope and for skiers! Unlike short dry slopes and indoor ‘snowdomes’ the slope keeps moving towards you so children can just keep skiing without needing to stop, stand in a queue and wait for a lift back up every minute.
The speed at which the slope moves towards your child can also be adjusted, as can the gradient of the slope, so it starts out slow and very gentle, but can be made progressively steeper and faster as your child’s technique quickly progresses.
There’s a support bar to hold on to initially if needed and when required and there’s a giant mirror at the base of the slopes so your children can view the moves they’re being asked to make and see for themselves what looks right and what looks wring. The controlled conditions at Skiplex slopes means that children are able to focus on their technique without having to worry about poor snow conditions, feeling cold, language barriers, uneven pistes or unpredictable weather changes.
Add to this the fact there are small class sizes and qualified instructors at your child's side at all times and it’s no surprise children learn and progress up to eight times faster than in any other snow sport environment.
There are three Skiplex centres in Britain (and similar facilities have been opening in other countries around the world in recent years, and the concept itself not as new as you might think, some ski shops in the Netherlands and USA have had similar if less versatile and hi tec slopes since the 1950s).
Chiswick, opened in 2011, situated in Dukes Meadows Golf and Tennis centre whilst Skiplex Reading, is a larger venue located just 10 minutes off the M4 and has two revolving slopes. The nerwest facility Skiplex Basingstoke opened in 2014 as part of a larger entertainment venue offering not only non-stop skiing, but Airkix Indoor Sky Diving, Brush Boarding and Sim Car Racing.
There’s never more than three people on a Skiplex slope at any one time (two at Chiswick) which compares very favourably to ski schools in the alps where the ‘boast’ usually is of a maximum class size of 8 or even 10. So rather than two hours of trundling around the slopes in a group, only getting a few minutes of actual personal attention during that time, at Skiplex each group is on the slope for two 15 minute slots or three 10 minute slots with breaks in between, largely depending upon the ability and fitness of the group.
Skiplex also caters for kids in lots of other ways. There are normally school holiday clubs, schools themselves can organise lessons, whole families can learn together and learn-to-ski birthday parties organised. Children as young as age four can use the slope so long as they’re accompanied by an adult.
As Children Get Better
Skiplex can continue to cater for children as their abilities improve, with fully qualified instructors keeping close track of their progress.
Each slope at Skiplex can rotate up to speeds of 25mph with the gradient 2-20 of the slope being adjusted to suit the ability of the skier or snowboarder, and challenging even the most advanced.
Skiplex is a keen developer of competitive talent, sponsoring the U10 and U12 races at the British Championships in France and sponsoring young racers. A new Skiplex training programme for advanced child skiers has also recently been developed.
Skiplex sessions typically start from £28.00 for children and £35.00 for adults, multi-buy discounts, courses and special offers run through the season.
skiplex.co.uk or call 0845 6003599