I’d never skied before and with my first trip to the mountains looming the MadDogSki team thought it would be a good idea for me to have a practise beforehand. A phonecall later and I was booked in for a session at Chel-Ski, just off the Kings Rd in West London. This is one of a handful of London’s revolving astro turf mats, where all levels of snowboarders and skiers can go to learn from scratch or improve their existing technique. The speed and angle of the slope can be adjusted to suit your needs and the lessons are taken in small groups so you learn quite quickly.
I’ll admit I was pretty daunted by the idea of being plonked on a glorifed conveyor belt and expected to stay upright. But the Chel-Ski team were so friendly and helpful that any nerves were quickly quelled. My instructor was Centre Manager Daniel Crawford who kindly explained how to put on my boots and attach the skis before turning on the giant rolling mat. Luckily there’s a bar at the bottom of the slope to hold onto while you get used to the idea and the reflective screen means you get a unique insight into your posture. It turns out I’ve got a weak right leg that just wouldn’t behave itself – something to remember and adjust on the slope. Within 30 minutes I was snow ploughing to a stop and doing consecutive snowplough turns across the slope. This thing was surprisingly good fun and I left with a massive grin on my face.
Did it make a difference on snow?
Three days later I stepped out of the gondola into the snowy landscape of Avoriaz. Putting my boots and skis on was no problem thanks to the practise at Chel-Ski. The thing I hadn’t anticipated though was just how slippery snow can be! Although the Chel-Ski slope had imitated some of the “bite” that you get with real snow, it hadn’t prepared me for the icy conditions that greeted us and on a few occasions my feet slid out from under me and sent me tumbling. I also began to understand why the Inuit language has 50 words for different types of snow: in just 3 days we had beautiful powdery snow, then slush as the sun came out, followed by an icy crust in the chilly morning. All of these conditions created unique circumstances that meant re-learning how to stay upright.
On the second day our ski instructor took us away from the nursery slopes and out onto a beginner’s blue run. As we skied through a tunnel and turned a corner I suddenly understood what the fuss was all about: the stunning scenery. I’m afraid that Chel-Ski could not even begin to prepare you for the beautiful snowy peaks, the sheer cliffs and the magical forests that make up a ski resort.
My session at Chel-Ski was a huge help in calming my nerves about skiing for the first time. By the time I was on real snow I already knew how to get my skis on, stop and turn corners. The thing I really missed on the ski slope though was the mirror that had shown me how to improve my posture, but then again there were beautiful mountains to look at instead.
More about Chel-Ski
Sessions must be booked in advance and prices start at £34.95 for an hour and include boots, skis and helmet.
Visit the Chel-Ski website for more information and to book your slot.
Tel: 020 3829 6961