It was a school ski trip back in the late 80’s (I am giving away my age!) that ignited my passion for skiing, and then snowboarding.
Learning to ski prior to the school ski trip
Times have changed, back then we cut our teeth by learning to ski prior to the trip on a dry ski slope. Even though it was 30 years ago, I remember the brutal falls on the coarse, prickly surface of the slope. If you were lucky you would get away with something not dis-similar to a carpet burn. Worst case scenario was getting your fingers caught in the diamond shape gaps in-between what made up the surface.
Those were brutal times! Although, out of the fear of falling over I did learn to ski quickly! Although dry ski slopes still exist, many are in disrepair and seem mainly used for dough-nutting for kids parties nowadays.
Don’t get me wrong, dry ski slopes have their place and many a UK pro (e.g Jamie Nichols) learnt their trade on such slopes, but nothing can replace the real thing. Snow.
The school ski trip is sadly in decline. Luckily, my step-son Tyler’s school, Salesian in Chertsey, Surrey, have carried on with this tradition. Although expensive, I believe the school ski trip is an important option for students. It is not only an experience that many children would not normally get outside of the school, but it helps build confidence, helps with social skills, and shows kids there is more to life than Fortnite!
Lessons and practice sessions on ‘real’ snow
Prior to the school ski trip in February, Salesian school have arranged a few sessions for the students at The Snow Centre – Hemel Hempstead. For those who have never skied before this is a great opportunity to learn the basics before hitting the mountains. This makes so much sense as saves on slope time when on the trip, so they enjoy more time skiing and not suck on a nursery slope.
For those who have skied before, it is a chance to refresh their skills and have a few practice runs before heading out on the trip. Tyler has skied before but many years ago. We decided he needed to have a few runs to gain back his confidence before going to the Snow Centre with the school.
With this in mind, we took Tyler for a session at the Snow Centre a few days prior to the school excursion there. Not to miss a trick, we took the whole family.
There are other indoor snow slopes dotted around the country, but as we live in surrey, the one at Hemel Hempstead is easy to get to as it is just off the M25. It is the nearest real snow indoor slope to London.
An ideal way to gain confidence skiing before the school ski trip
We went on a Sunday evening and despite it being the weekend the slope was not crowded. This was great for Tyler as after a tentative start, he took to the slopes as if he had never been away from them. I guess it is true what they say that learning to ski is like learning to ride a bike – you never really forget how.
With each run, I could see the confidence seep back with every turn. By the end of our hour session, Tyler was buzzing, full of confidence, and eager to hit the slopes again. It does not take much re-ignite that love for skiing!
Snowboard lesson for my 9 year old son
While we were there, we decided to book in a snowboard lesson for my 9-year-old son, Alfie. He had never skied or snowboarded before and was very apprehensive about what to expect. But, he was soon put at ease by his instructor, Reece.
Reece was excellent with Alfie and my son took to snowboarding instantly. Within half an hour he was doing the toe side falling leaf un-aided! By the end of the lesson he had almost manged to crack the toe side falling leaf as well. One more lesson and he could be linking turns!
It really does make sense to have private lessons before hitting the mountains. I believe this saves money as well as time when on ski trips. It is amazing to be able to link turns and to go up onto the slopes from the first day on a trip. The learning curve for snowboarding is a lot quicker in the initial stages than skiing.
Mount Hemel – the next best thing to the Alps!
I have nothing against dry ski or revolving slopes such as that at Chelski, but in my opinion nothing is better than the real thing. As we do not have the luxury of mountains on our door step, Mount Hemel is definitely the next best thing!
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)