Review: Fed up waiting for snow to cover Suffolk? Head to the The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead
- Credit: Archant
For weeks I have been praying for snow. Real snow.
We have had the odd light flurry in Suffolk and Essex, and have awoken to find the garden littered in tiny crystals of icy snow, glistening in the morning sun.
What I really want, though, is a thick layer. The type that moulds together to form the perfect snowball. The type that covers the peaks of the French Alps and ignites the adventurer within me.
Giving up on nature, we headed west to Hemel Hempstead to find out if the artificially-created powder at The Snow Centre could fullfil our desires, and help us warm up for our eagerly-anticipated trip to Meribel later this month.
The Snow Centre is set on the side of a hill in a residential area of town, and inside the wood panelling and lodge-themed bar and restaurant help make your adventure feel more authentic.
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But the real test would be the piste itself - would it feel like the real thing, would the skis respond in the same way they do in the mountains and would the one-size-fits-all slope provide enough stimulation for my dare-devil husband while being tame enough for his seven-year-old daughter?
We hopped on the button lift and the initial signs were promising. This was as good as the real thing, if not better, because the temperature-controlled climate prevents the snow from thawing and re-freezing meaning there are no icy patches to catch you out.
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Coming back down was an equally as realistic experience, minus the obvious dangers of the Alps.
It was just like riding a bike, and I instantly felt at ease with the snow beneath my board (yes I am a member of the evil snowboarding gang as opposed to a traditional skiier) and gently cruised down.
Looking up, I realised one of my fears had come true and our little skier was frozen at the top, anxious about taking her first run of the season.
There is a nursery-type slope but this is reserved for lessons during the winter before being handed over to the sledgers in the warmer months so it was all or nothing.
With some cohercing from her dad she slowly warmed up and started to find her ski legs.
We were warned to expect queues for the lifts because February is a particularly busy time for The Snow Centre but were surprised how quickly they moved.
Both were manned during this busy period and the staff offered tips to help more novice skiers and boarders master the boarding process and reduce delays, and they also shovelled snow to make it as smooth a ride as possible.
After just a few runs, we were back to form and making the most of the man-made relief designed to heighten the authenticity of the adventure - I even attempted a jump!
And despite her initial inhibitions, our mini skier was soon taking herself up and shouting that she would ‘see us at the bottom’ - she is clearly going to follow in her dad’s ski trails.
Getting changed beforehand, it was a battle to layer up without melting in the compact changing rooms but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because once you pass through those sliding doors it is cold. Very cold.
Base layers, salopettes and a warm coat are a must, and you may even need a mid layer.
At the base of the slope is a wooden hut offering complimentary tea and coffee to warm you up - although much to her disappointment our little one there was no hot chocolate (the fuel of mountaineers too young to have a Bombadino or Gluhwein).
We booked a nearby hotel and made a weekend of our adventure - enjoying a meal out that evening and a hearty chalet-style breakfast the following morning to complete our mini-break.
And the conclusion? “That was the best day of my life,” said our adrenalin junkie as we tucked her into bed - straight from the mouths of babes.
A two-hour weekend lift pass costs from £41 per person, or £35 for children, if booked in advance. Family packages are available at £89, with ski or snowboard hire included.
To use the slope you must be able to use the drag lift, control your speed and turn proficiently, those yet to reach this level can join a group lesson or book a private session with an instructor.