Lifestyle & Travel

Published on December 4th, 2013 | by Kelly Rose Bradford


Days Out: The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead

Before my son was born, I loved going on skiing holidays. But don’t take from that that I was one of those elegant, confident, whizzing down hill in a sleek ski suit types. There is a picture somewhere of me in pink-rimmed ski goggles, where I look exactly like a pig being rolled down a hill. That was my ski style. I would do my down-hill pig routine probably twice before spending the rest of the day sitting in the sunshine, enjoying the mountain air and necking hot chocolate laced with brandy. Bliss.

Once my son came along, ski holidays got replaced with beach holidays and camping. Toddler compatible breaks. And now, I really regret not taking him to the slopes just as soon as he was old enough to be strapped to a sledge. Then we could have both sat in the sun watching everyone else elegantly traverse downhill. But as life/separation/work got in the way, 11 years have now passed since I was last up a mountain.

Well, a real one, anyway.

Because I am thinking about taking him proper skiing in the not too distant future, I decided to whet his appetite (or indeed put him off for life) with a visit to an indoor ski slope.  Actually, that is not strictly true – my main reason was because I wanted to see if he liked skiing and not just the idea of skiing because I do not want to spend out on a week’s holiday only to have him hating it the second he alights from the ski lifts. Which as a single parent is something I always have to bear in mind, because if HE doesn’t want to do something, then I’m pretty stuffed, too, in the absence of another adult to entertain him.

So we headed off to the Snow Centre in Hemel Hemsptead to give him a bit of a taster of what skiing is all about.

The centre offers a pretty authentic skiing (or snowboarding, if you are that way inclined) experience on a 160m slope with REAL snow.  I don’t know why this surprised me so much or what I was expecting. Cotton wool? Polystyrene chips?

We had been warned that the temperature on the slopes ranged from -2°c to -6°c, and so to dress accordingly. Meaning ski wear. Now my ski wear was quite the thang in 2002, but I very much doubted it would fit either me or current trends in 2013.  We had booked to hire clothing at the venue, but for reasons best known to ourselves we chose to stay in our own togs – son in tracksuit bottoms, a hoodie and waterproof padded coat, and me in leggings and a padded jacket. Don’t copy us. Either hire ski wear there or take your own, else, like us, you will end up driving home with soggy bottoms and damp knees.

We’d booked a private lesson and once in our hired boots and skis (cautionary note: leave plenty of time for this if you have kids who have never skied before… my son was TWENTY MINUTES putting his boots on. Yes, I could have helped, but I was hopping around trying to fit my own)  we joined our trainer, Vanessa, on the ‘nursery’ slope.

Vanessa had skied everywhere – I didn’t even know you could ski in Kashmir, but she had. She was lovely and put us at our ease and didn’t think I was an complete wuss for being scared of everything. My son took to his skis immediately, even though he is not the most sports’ inclined child. He had no fear, and happily took on every challenge Vanessa put to him: jumping up and down? No problem. Going down the slope doing heads, shoulders, knees and toes? He was on to it.

The trainer slope we were on was separate from the main run, so we could fall over, get our skis in a knot and demonstrate general incompetency without getting in anyone else’s way or being crashed into. Which is a welcome change from real ski slopes (did I mention I am actually terrified of skiing?).

Over the hour-long session we obviously only covered the basics: stopping and starting essentially, but we both loved it. Skiing, I decided is a bit like riding a bicycle (what a stupid analogy) and some things DID come back to me.  It was a fabulous afternoon, and we hope to get in a couple more hours of tuition before finding ourselves a real ski holiday in real mountains. And when we do, I have promised my boy I will actually ski and not just drink hot choc and brandy in the sun…

The Snow Centre offers adult one hour private lessons for £120 at the weekend, and £89 mid-week. Children £95 and £75. All ticket prices include the hire of boots, skis or snowboard, poles and helmet.

General slope prices for competent skiers from £23.40.




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About the Author

Kelly Rose Bradford

is a London-based journalist and broadcaster, writing for the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sunday Telegraph, and a host of women's magazines. Her robust opinions and feisty debating skills make her in demand as a social commentator, regularly guesting on ITV's This Morning programme, and across many radio stations, including 5 Live and BBC Radio London.

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