“Can I try dodging the cones now?” asks Daniel, precocious and pushy as only a six year-old knows how. “Why not?” is Skiplex instructor Kyran’s surprising reply. Five minutes later he’s skiing backwards, with Daniel on the tilted Skiplex artificial slope above him, while his colleague Olly places cones on the moving white astroturf ‘conveyor belt’ for them to dodge. Amazingly it works, with the pair of them weaving gently around the cones in a kind of stationary slalom. Half an hour ago Daniel had never even worn a pair of skis.
It’s impressive stuff: skiing backwards, holding the tips of Daniel’s skis in one hand, and the remote control that regulates the speed of the slope in the other, Ryan is so close and in control that he’s able to stop the slope and catch Daniel the instant he falls.
The beauty of Skiplex learning is its intensity: not only does the skier have to quickly learn to stay in one place, matching their speed to that of the upwards rolling slope but they have to do it on a potentially endless piste. And unlike on a more forgiving, ‘real’ ski slope, technique has to be spot on.
As the skier improves, the slope can be made faster, and steeper –you only have to watch some of the videos on their site to see what is possible. It’s no surprise that GB skiers are regulars at the three centres in Reading, Basingstoke and Chiswick.
Good for beginners?
Definitely. The metal bar and the control that the instructors have over the speed and gradient of the slope – combined with how close they can get to instruct you as you ski means that the basics can be taught quickly and well. There’s even a huge mirror at the bottom of the slope which gives you live feedback on your technique.
What to wear?
You can wear anything – with the proviso that astro turf can burn bear skin if you fall, so wear long sleeves and trousers. As you’re indoors, there’s no need for a coat.
Do you need kit?
Skis: As the resistance of the astroturf is higher than real snow, you need to use the Skiplex skis as they have purposely blunted edges.
Boots: You can take your own but Skipkex has plenty to choose from.
30 minutes slope time, split into 15 minute blocks (or 3x 10min) costs £35 per session for adults and £28 per session for children, including skis or boards, boots and helmets (mandatory for children under 12).
Find Skiplex centres at Basingstoke Reading, and Chiswick skiplex.co.uk