Skiing indoors is still one of those things that, even after you've done it several times, can still feel a little strange. Skiing?! Indoors?! Surely not. And then, sure enough, you go and give it another go and your brain comes round to the idea of it all over again. Skiing? Indoors? Why of course! It's a brilliant idea. Yes, of course, going up and down the exact same slope over and over again can get a little tiresome but I think we can all agree that it's still a lot better than not being able to ski at all.
One of the biggest reasons why so many people are drawn to the UK's indoor snow centres, and their guarantee of real snow all-year round, is the plain and simple truth that they offer skiers and snowboarders the chance to touch base with proper snow.
Whether you want to practice form and technique, learn entirely from scratch, or just need to build up your confidence again; indoor snow centres are absolutely ideal for a multitude of purposes because the slopes feel like ski slopes are meant to.
That's not to bad mouth dry slopes. There's a lot to be said for dry slopes in the UK, but here in this article we're going to focus primarily on indoor snow centres. There's five of them spread across the length of England, and one in Scotland. See now which one is closest to you (if you don't already know) and, once that's done, why not head on down for a session on the slopes. Skiing?! Indoors?! You better believe it.
1) The Snow Centre - Hemel Hempstead
Despite years of rumours and talks, the dream of an indoor ski centre in London has never really come into fruition. Who knows? Maybe one day that vision will be made real, and the cockneys of the capital will do a cheeky little dance in celebration. But, until that day comes (if it ever does), the people of the UK's biggest and most populous metropolitan area can rest safe in the knowledge that The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead is just a little way up the road.
If you were in any doubt about what a big deal it is for the London-based skiers to have a snow-covered slope so close to their extortinately priced homes, the words "London's Closest Indoor Real Snow Slope" plastered across The Snow Centre website in unmissably big font should clear up any lingering sense of confusion.
The main slope at Hemel Hempstead is 160 metres long. Speed demons will be at the bottom in no time at all, but with two button-lifts running either side of the slope you'll be back at the top before you know it.
In terms of prices, a one hour weekday lift pass for adults costs £38 if you buy it on the day. When you consider that for an extra £11 you can ski as much as you want between 10am and 6pm, it might be worth booking off a day from work and forking out a bit more money for essentially unlimited slopetime (it will be less busy on a weekday). Another top tip: the price you pay will actually be discounted by 10% if you book online beforehand, so that's definitely something to consider.
Any lift pass you purchase includes as standard the skis, ski boots, and poles or snowboard, snowboard boots and helmet. For more information on the pricing for lift passes, including great deals for families, as well as the cost of lessons check out this page on The Snow Centre Website.
2) Tamworth Snowdome
The Tamworth Snowdome is like the Magna Carta of indoor ski slopes in the UK. Opening in 1994, it was the first full-sized recreational indoor ski slope in the country. Before 1994, it was either dry slopes, chancing your arm with the Scottish conditions, or selling your kidneys to afford the costs of a full-blown skiing holiday in Europe. After 1994, there was Tamworth.
It might seem silly to say it now, what with the tecnology of indoor ski slopes being nothing particularly new, but the arrival of the Tamworth Snowdome really was a bit of a revelation; the start of a revolution, you might say. Suddenly, British skiers had somewhere to ski. Whether it be spring, summer, autumn or winter, you could hit a snowy slope if you just hopped in a car and went to Tammy.
The slope is 170 metres long so compared with Hemel, you're actually getting an extra 10 metres for every top-to-bottom run you do. Over one or two runs you, of course, won't really notice this. But consider it over the course of a day, or even a three hour period, and you could rack up loads of additional slopetime without realising (although this theory depends largely on queue times, and such).
Off-peak times at the Tamworth Snowdome, which consist of anytime before 6pm Monday to Friday, are as follows. One hour skiing for non-members will cost £24, and £16.80 for members. An all-dayer will cost non-members £44, and members £34.80. For more information re: prices, check out this page on the Tamworth Snowdome website.
If you're that way inclined, Tamworth also offers ice skating facilities.
3) Snozone Castleford
When you think of Castleford, your mind probably immediately turns to the sport of rugby league. But, did you know that Castleford is also home to a 170-metre-long main slope, with more than 1,500 tonnes of fresh white snow that's served by, not one but, two lifts.
This corner of West Yorkshire has quickly built up a great reputation for its indoor skiing and snowboarding facilities. They host a wide and varied range of events here, including numerous freestyle jams and the British Championships.
If you go between Monday and Friday, anytime until 6pm, you can get hourly slope passes for £16. A one-hour lesson is £27 for adults, £23 for juniors; while a two-hour freestyle session pass is £25.
The Alpine-themed bar serves a wide variety of beverages, including alcohol if you want to round off the skiing with a bit of après-ski. Hot and cold bar meals are available between 9am and 9pm. The bar also offers an entertainment schedule throughout the year, which includes acoustic sessions, comedy, and club nights.
For more information on Castleford, visit the Snozone website.
4) Manchester - Chill Factore
The Chill Factore is a £31 million pound real snow centre in the Trafford Park area of Manchester. The centre opened in November 2007, at which time it was the widest one in the world (100 metres). The main slope at the Chill Factore is 180 metres long, making it the longest slope indoor ski slope in the UK.
In terms of pricing, a one hour adult lift pass can be purchased for £27. For an extra £3, you can get a one and a half hour lift pass so that might be something to think about if you want to increase your ski time by 33% but don't want to pay through the nose for the privelege. A four hour lift pass will cost you £37, and an all-day until 6pm pass will set you back £50.
If you live locally to the indoor ski centre and are serious about skiing, or snowboarding, it might be worth getting yourself a membership as this will give you 30% discount on any booking you make. Check out the Chill Factore pricing on their official website, for more information on deals and discounts.
5) Snozone Milton Keynes
Xscape Milton Keynes is home to Snozone Milton Keynes (Xscape Yorkshire is home to Snozone Castleford - see number three on this list). The centre was opened in 2000 on a wave of new millenium hype, and as well the 16-screen cinema, a load of shops and restaurant, and a climbing wall, there's also a brilliant 170-metre long indoor ski slope to enjoy.
As a place, Milton Keynes get a lot of stick but the indoor snow centre there has managed to establish itself as one of the best ones around. Ask people about indoor skiiing in this country and many of those people you ask will have flashbacks of driving round Milton Keyne's roundabouts, and the joy they felt when they finally rocked up at Xscape MK.
For pricing information, visit the Snozone website.
6) Snow Factor - Braehead (Scotland)
Now, of course, skiings outdoors in Scotland can be genuinely awesome. Nobody is saying otherwise. Driving up into the depths of the Highlands though, even if you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh, can be an absolute mission (especially in winter).
Good thing then that Renfrew, on the outskirts of Glasgow, is home to Scotland's only indoor real snow slope. Snow Factor's main slope is 168 metres in length, it also has a beginner's slope, and offers great value in terms of pricing structures.
An off-peak adult member, for example, can go for four hours of skiing at the centre for just £21. Even if you're not a member, and you go skiing at peak times, you can still get four hours of skiing for £36. The centre also has some great deals for families, seniors, and students. Check out the Snow Factor cost section on the website, for more details.