The slopes are where my heart is

Friday, May 11, 2018

I'll admit I am pretty lucky to have spent many weekends at a local ski resort in Western New York with one chair lift.  My dad was on ski patrol which meant we were able to afford as much time on the slopes as homework and extracurricular activities would allow.  When I moved to Boston for university, it was so hard not being able to easily access good skiing.  I always had my skis with me just in case there was a bus trip to Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire.  The mountains of New England were nothing like the glacial hills of New York and much farther away.  Eventually, I made it out west to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia.  As I travelled more, I soon came to realise that my skis and ability were better suited to icy slopes rather than knee deep powder.  I just haven't learned how to ski in fresh pow yet!  When we lived in Michigan, we got season tickets to Caberfae Peaks, which was nearly a two hour drive on snowy roads in my Subaru. But once we got there, I was overcome with general ennui.  Sure there were several chair lifts, but the runs were short compared to the Rocky Mountains.  I didn't care which slope we skied down as they were all nearly the same and over in a swift second.


Since moving to England, I have once again been jonesing for some snow. When we get a centimetre of snowfall in London, the city shuts down.  I have heard there is skiing up in Scotland but I haven't made it up there yet.  Our good friends have a chalet near Verbier, Switzerland which we have been lucky enough to visit three times over the years.  Many of the gang are school teachers or university lecturers which makes coordinating holiday dates tough.  In addition, many children have now joined our tribe which meant we had to rent an additional chalet this year.

Because we rarely go skiing and have a small flat, my skis ended up in the shed for a few years.  A week before we were due to go to Verbier this February, we pulled them out to find the skis were rusty and the bag covered in mould (God, how I loathe British weather!). My skis were a graduation gift for uni, so they are pretty old anyways but I was simply devastated to see them in that state.  Luckily, I knew Decathlon had a ski shop so I quickly booked them in for a wax, sharpen and tune up.  We also took my husband's snowboard in for a wax (although his board is stored under the bed and was in much better shape).


The process was pretty simple.  We called the Decathlon workshop, which also cares for bikes, and booked in our kit.  I think they have limited ski/snowboard staff or did that week because it was a few days before we needed to drop off our kit.  Due to our schedules, we asked if we could drop the kit off early and they said it wasn't a problem.  I picked the skis and board up a day before we were due to travel and they were transformed.  I felt such relief.  I also picked up a new ski bag while I was at the shop.  My old one was plain black canvas (also wet and gross) but the Decathlon one is a bright blue, has a light waterproof lining and wheels on one end.  It was so much easier to travel with.  I always stuff my ski gear around for skis for protection and will with this bag too as there isn't much padding.

Ready to board
I thought this trip to Verbier would be the end of my skiing days for 2018, but I was wrong.  Snozone is an indoor snowsport facility with three locations in the UK- Milton Keynes and Castleford both have artificial snow, while Skizone in Basingstoke and Castleford have a revolving astroturf carpet.  A few weekends ago, they had a big event for their SOS (Summer of Snow).  The day I went to Milton Keynes, it was over 20 degrees C outside.  After walking 30 minutes from the train station to the facility, being indoors was a nice treat.  Snozone Milton Keynes has equipment hire, a soft play zone for the kids, café and bar, large lounge with televisions, and of course, lots of real snow!


Cafe at Snozone Milton Keynes

My visit started off with 45 minutes of sledging (or sledding as we call it in America).  The group meets at the appointed time and are escorted to the bottom of the sledging slope by a member of the Snozone team.  All kids under 12 must wear helmets and are available to anyone else who wants to wear one.  I was the lone adult as it was families who had booked in.  The sledge is a one-seater with a stick you put between your legs, like a horn on a horseback riding saddle.  You have to walk up the hillw(hich is half of the indoor slope) and then use your hands to steer the sledge right or left.  To brake, you have to dig your heels into the snow.  I wasn't keen on this because snow kept going up my snow pants and I wanted to keep my socks dry for skiing later in the day.  I know for next time though to bring a change of leggings and socks.  I can't remember the last time I went sledging, so it was a lot of fun to let loose for a bit and enjoy the snow.

At the top of the slope
My next activity was skiing.  I was given a one hour timeslot with my slope pass, which included equipment hire, for just £30.  The slope pass prices vary depending on day of the week, school holidays, and how long a session you want.  Currently, an eight hour weekend adult pass is £37.49.   For £10 more, you can hire ski clothes such as a ski jacket or snow pants.  I was amazed at how affordable this is compared to ski resorts in Switzerland or USA.  There are memberships available too if you live nearby and think you'd like to get practice in over the summer.  My husband has been threatening to learn to ski for years and I am tempted to learn to snowboard.  Taking lessons at Snozone seems much more economical that hiring kit, paying for lessons, and also purchasing a lift ticket in Switzerland.  Plus, if we didn't like it as much as we thought we would, we could just go home.  Or sledging.


Always wear a helmet
The memberships offer additional discounts too slope off of slope sessions, café and shop purchases, children's parties, private lessons, and tune ups in their ski shop.  Crystal Ski has a desk in the Milton Keynes location where you can book a ski holiday and receive additional benefits as a member too.  I could see Snozone as an alternative stag, or hen-do for people who want something fun but doesn't break the bank.  The other thing that I think is pretty cool about Snozone is that they offer Disability Snowsports training.  Anyone with a sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment can come learn to ski or snowboard.  Their aim is to make snowsports inclusive and accessible for all.  That is something I can 100% get behind.

If you are used to the Rocky Mountains or Alps, Snozone will probably seem a bit small to you.  There is really only one run, but there are jumps and slide rails on which you can gain confidence for your tricks.  Or, as I suggested above, you can learn a new snowsport for your next holiday.  Everything you need, including lockers and showers, are available to you at the Milton Keynes location.  If you have a free day, I recommend checking it out.  I think I am going to organize a fitness blogger meet up there this summer because that group is always up to try something new.  Snowsports are a great fitness activity, burning lots of calories and working your core and cardiovascular system too.

Do you know how to ski or snowboard? Did you take lessons when you were little or are you a natural in the snow?

Thanks to Decathlon for coming to my rescue by offering complimentary ski shop service and providing my new ski bag with such short notice.  All views and opinions are own.  Even though I am a member of the Decathlon Blogger's Community, I can honestly say I love their affordable kit and ethos of #sportforall.

Thanks for Snozone for the complimentary visit to their Milton Keynes slope.  All opinions and wipe outs are honest and my own.

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