ANYTHING with snow and I’m there: Skiing, snowboarding, skidoos, snowshoeing, snowball fights, Slush Puppies, hunting yetis, phallic snow sculptures in stranger's gardens.
Turns out sledging isn’t the piece-of-piste you expect it to be. It requires a surprising amount of skill and composure; either that or my backside isn’t big enough.
You see, I was jammy enough to have a father that first started skiing in stonewash jeans and his mod parka jacket in the 70s. He had me suited up and strapped to planks at the top of a mountain by the tender age of six.
And I’ve never been happier. 10,000 foot up a mountain, minus twenty degree Celsius winds tearing at my cheeks. Just me and the mountain. Heaven.
I tell you this, not to toot my own trumpet (although I can be prone to that), I tell you this to give you some level of understanding of how much I assumed I’d take to this Extreme Mash-Up lark at Chill Factore like Two Jags to a drive-thru Greggs.
After all, I’d been skiing for two decades, bobbed and weaved through trees (and snapped one or two), dropped into a half pipe, even skiied off a cabin roof. So how hard could it be to slide down a 180m indoor slope on my backside.
Well, as it turns out, it’s difficult. Really, really, arse-dampeningly difficult.
They appear to exist under varying degrees of organised chaos at the Chill Factore, even on a Monday night.
Every time I’ve been in the computers on reception seem to be playing a perpetual prank on whoever may be unlucky enough to use them. Quite entertaining though, unless you’re a tad late. Then it’s annoying.
You may also require a crack squad from Navy Seal Team Six to track down a member of staff to gear you up. In fact, I imagine Osama was easier to pinpoint. There was certainly no one manning the counter, unless they were terribly short, for which I apologise profusely.
Try to bring as much of your own clobber as you can, waterproof jacket, trousers, gloves, (equipment, helmet, boots and goggles are included) because all the extra add-ons do add-up (jacket and trousers combo costs £6, gloves are £5 to buy) and unsurprisingly, it’s a bit nippy in there.
We started small with Airboarding on the nursery slope, thinking it better to build ourselves up to the fling down an 180m slope.
Grabbing an airboard, which look like something you may teach a child to swim with, we made our way up the 40m baby slope. Firstly the steward up top has to take you half way down the baby slope, to roughly the 20m mark, to give you a tutorial.
This is the tutorial: Lie flat on your face and go down. There you go. Oh and push down at the end to reduce your speed - which I’m fairly sure doesn’t work.
Our tutor then allowed us to the heady heights of the 40m slope and before setting off, ominously remarked “Don’t try to be a hero”.
How much of a hero you can be on a nursery slope i'm unsure. This wasn't Die Hard.
The Airboarding was enjoyable enough but over way too quickly. The problem with sliding down this 40m slope is that you’re continually aware of a whopping great 180m next to you. The bigger, badder, faster one.
It’s the equivalent of driving a Fiat Panda through traffic cones as a Tiger Tank ploughs its way through a row of Victorian terraced houses in the lane next door. you know that's more fun.
But that’s for two fully grown macho(ish) male adults. Otherwise, Airboarding is a fantastic way to introduce the kids to the snow and harmless enough to allow you to let them tire themselves out without having to watch and clap every bloody time. I recommend the bar-cum-spectators gallery for this one.
Unfortunately, the Luge was out of action during our visit, although we did try the replacement track carved out below which was similar in ways to being continually punched in the lower back for around fifteen seconds by a big eight knuckled ice fist. I’d wait for them to fix that one.
So on to the main event. Extreme Sledging.
It’s quite disconcerting jogging up a drag-lift when everyone else has skis or a board strapped to their boots, you feel a bit of a numpty. Like you haven’t yet been trusted to use real equipment, so they’ve handed you a sledge to humour you. My advice: Develop the fabled drag-lift uphill skid. Respect restored.
We took our briefing at around the quarter level mark. This was our test run. It didn’t go particularly well, for me at least. Turns out sledging isn’t the piece-of-piste you expect it to be. It requires a surprising amount of skill and composure; either that or my backside isn’t big enough. Which unsurprisingly, formed the majority of my excuse.
The best thing to do when you can’t even make it down a quarter of the slope is to head right up to the top of course. He who dares Rodney, he who dares.
Luckily, for the other slope users, Extreme Sledging sessions have a special portion of the slope sectioned off. Good job too, otherwise I imagine I’d have claimed one or two shin bones on the first few runs down. In fact, on every run down.
There’s something intimidating about being so low to the slope, it’s very similar to sitting in a low sports car, everything is exaggerated, much faster, more fun. You can build up some serious speed on these things – provided you don’t fall off. Which i did. A lot.
In fact, my companion - who was annoyingly much better than me - reckons he just about reached supersonic fracture by the bottom. He certainly beat a bunch of skiiers down. To their irk.
Of course, I wouldn’t know. Because as it played out, I was completely useless at Extreme Sledging. Once i began to pick up any speed at all i began to wobble like a walrus piloting a pneumatic drill. I still blame my scant buns.
I’m the crap one at the back flailing around:
Crap or not, it’s just about the most fun you can have wearing three layers of clothing. Perfect for those that aren’t quite ready, or just aren't interested in trying out the snow in an upright position.
Me personally, I’ll stick to the skis. For Extreme Sledging, to my shame, had defeated me. I’ve raced down World Cup downhill tracks that are easier to complete than that bloody run... and I tend not to end up with twelve litres of snow in my under crackers.
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Airboarding: Adults from £14 off-peak. Junior from £13. Family of 4 £52.
Extreme Sledging: Adults from £20 off-peak. Junior from £16. Family of 4 from £64.
Offers available. More info here.
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