I recently visited Skiplex in their flagship centre in Reading, Berkshire. Skiplex in some ways in an enigma; a ski slope that’s indoors where you don’t travel at any speed, yet can ski all day long without stopping, if your legs could take it.
Many years ago I worked at a similar centre in Johannesburg, South Africa (even more of an enigma!), so this was in some ways like travelling down memory lane.
There are two ‘ski slopes’ side by side that can hold up to three skiers at a time. Rather than travelling anywhere, you ski in a stationary position while the surface underneath you moves. The speed can be varied from very slow to pretty fast (25 miles an hour) and the slope angle can be increased for better skiers.
The first thing that impressed me with Skiplex was the set up itself. It’s situated on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Reading – you hardly feel any tingle of excitement on arrival in an environment that feels more Silicon Valley than Squaw Valley. But the moment you walk through the door you’re transported to a world that somehow feels Alpine. Maybe it’s just me, but I wanted to get some skis on and make turns as soon as I saw the slope.
Childrens lessons on one of the slopes at the Reading Skiplex.
Skiing on a surface that looks and feels a little like a plastic deep pile carpet and moves under your feet, at first, is hard to get used to. For beginners, it’s a perfect place to learn though. With an instructor standing below you at all times and a safety bar to hold on to, beginners feel very safe and can learn all the basic techniques without fear of injury. During a one hour lesson, you ski more than you probably would in half a day on snow if starting out for the first time. Their six lesson program would get you up to the standard where you’d feel confident enough to ski on snow without any prior experience. There is an adjustment, but it’s quickly managed and although it’s advisable to seek professional instruction in resort, you’d expect to be placed in a group with skiers who have some prior experience, vastly reducing the need to spend days on the nursery slopes.
More advanced skiers should take Skiplex seriously. Anyone who’s skied on snow before will be able to handle the Skiplex surface, but it might take a little time. Be patient and treat it with respect, it will show up all of your poor technique in the beginning. The great thing is that if you can get it right on here, then it will help your overall skiing when you get back on snow. Skiing parallel on this surface can take a bit of time, even for a seasoned skier. But that’s because the movements required to ski at the highest level take enormous precision and this surface absolutely demands that you make them.
I actually believe that it’s one of the best platforms to help improve bumps and powder skiing technique. I know that sounds far-fetched, but because of the way you need to have total control of your speed and upper body position, you develop some of the most important skills required to ski variable terrain. This surface helps to develop your rotational skills to such an extent, that I honestly believe if you master short turns here, you’ll never worry about a mogul run again.
Skiplex have centres in Chiswick, Reading and now recently opened Basingstoke. Lessons are available for all standards of skiers and snowboarders and all instructors are qualified.
Skiplex are also part of the Go Ski Go Board initiative to help people get into or back into snowsports throughout the UK.
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