Welcome back to Snow Week on Pocket-lint. While all our fantastic articles on winter sports - how to plan them and making sure you've got the best gear to enjoy them - are a fantastic read, it can be a little depressing if you've neither the money nor the time to take a break in Alps yourself. Cheer up though, do you really think that good old PL would leave you good people out?
Just because you can't get to the mountain, that does mean that the mountain can't come to you. There's a hatfull of ways you can still enjoy the skiing and snowboarding buzz in the UK and without all the nasty expense and travel time as well. So, to give you a few ideas, here's our list of how to bring the ski slopes to you.
It’s been around for quite some time now but if you want to bring the snowy slopes to you, one of the tried and tested methods is to go to their poorer, balder, man made cousins over here.
For many, the idea of those bristly undulating carpets just bring back memories of getting your skis stuck in the lattice work and ripping through your hand on the abrasive surface. Fortunately, those injuries are actually a relatively thing. The experience still can be a little cramped on busy days but, pick the right moment, and it’s well worth dry skiing and not too expensive either. Check out the Natives website for where to find your nearest dry ski centre.
One of the more bizarre looking, non-mountain fresh skiing experiences that you can have in the UK is something called Realli-Ski. It’s essentially the treadmill of the skiing world. The difference is that the material under-ski is made to feel utterly realistic to the piste. It’s a slope that you can change the incline of and it also happens to be impossible to fall off because you’re held in with a harness from above. According to the company website, 20 minutes on one of their machines is the equivalent of 5 hours on a dry ski slope. How accurate that claim is, we don’t know but what we do like about Realli-Ski is that you don’t have to freeze your bum off while you do it. There's only a couple in the country but, if you live anywhere near Watford or Canterbury, then you're in luck
Indoor Snow Slopes
If you don’t fancy the carpets of the dry ski slopes, then a more modern take on the UK experience is indoor skiing with manufactured but real snow. There’s a good few of them spread over the country including the Snow Dome at Tamworth; SNO!zone in Milton Keynes, Castleford and Glasgow; Chill Factor in Manchester and the Snow Centre of Hemel Hempstead. The quality and experience is going to vary quite a lot but all will hire you the kit and offer lessons. They’re never wildly cheap - usually around £25 per hour - but if you can get yourself down there at non-peak times, you might be able to grab a special offer. The technology to mass produce genuine snow inside rooms turned into giant refrigerators doesn’t come cheap.
Of course, the best way to bring the slopes to the UK is by actually skiiing here at our resorts. Yes, we have some. No one’s promising 15-inches of pure white powder but there’s certainly going to be enough to slide down on up in Scotland for the colder months of the year. Head over to the Ski-Scotland website of the best information of which pistes are open, the better destinations, how to get there and where to stay when you do. That’ll save you plenty on flights, airport hassle and having to speak a foreign language. Well, apart from Scottish, of course.
Indoor Ice Wall
If we’re talking slopes, the ultimate has to be a sheer wall of ice and there’s even one of those on the UK’s doorstep ready for you to climb. Vertical Chill sits in the back of the Ellis Brigham mountain sports shop on Southampton Street in Covent Garden. It’s an 8m high wall, complete with overhangs for the brave, that goes from the ground floor into the upper levels of the shop with windows where onlookers can do their onlooking. You can book hour long sessions teaching you how to ice axe and crampon your way up the face but don’t forget to wrap up. It’s around minus 7 degrees C in there.
If all else fails, if none of these places above are anywhere near you or if you just can’t be bothered to get up off your sofa, then you can always rely on the power of video games to bring the slopes to you. Best of all, in this day and age with all the motion sensing systems, it’s the next best thing to being out there anyway.
MotionSports: Play For Real (Kinect)
We’d like to tell you that the dedicated snowboarding game Adrenalin Misfits is the snow game of choice on the Microsoft Kinect but that’s just not the case. It’s rather dull. Instead you’ll get the best look-ma-no-hands winter gaming experience with the skiing level on MotionSports: Play For Real. It’s largely a case of moving your body left and right to stop your avatar overbalancing and hitting the deck but you do get to do some jumps as well.
Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip (Wii)
Not a big hit on the PlayStation or Xbox, Shaun White Snowboarding is actually one the best titles for the Nintendo Wii. The Road Trip version of the game was built from the ground up to work with the Wii Balance Board and it picked up several nominations in 2008 for the game that used the hit Nintendo accessory to its very best. In short, there’s a lot of cheap plastic and a lot of bad games you can get for the Wii. This is not one of them.
SSX Tricky (PS2)
There’s nothing in the way of winter sports available for the PS Move at the moment. All the same, Sony’s console did have what might well be the very best snowboarding game there’s ever been. SSX Tricky - the PlayStation 2 version - was a hot favourite when it came out in 2001 but still tears it up if you take the time to dust off your old collection. Naturally, it’s all done via the joypad but what you get is an extremely fun, challenging, well designed gaming experience with a superb soundtrack. It doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to actual snow boarding but that’s probably why it works so well.
Winter Olympiad 88 (Atari ST/Amiga)
Whle modern games struggle to get to grips with that authentic experience, they only have to look back to 1988 to one of the greatest winter sports titles in history. Winter Olympiad 88 on the Atari ST and Amiga brought downhill skiiing, slalom, biathlon, ski jump and bobsleigh into the home of people everywhere. Yes, not one but the whole gambit of snow activities. Bearing in mind the Alpine services are unlikely to let you ski around with a .22 rifle over your shoulder, this as close to the real thing as many biathlon enthusiasts are likely to get. Winter Olympiad 88 blends highly amusing, non-realistic, background scene repeating gameplay with an awesome post-MIDI soundtrack including a fantastic interpretation of the Ski Sunday theme. You can still play it on an emulator or just enjoy a video of someone else doing so.
Check out more from Snow Week on Pocket-lint on our Snow Week homepage.