Yesterday saw the launch of a renewed effort to rebuild Sheffield Ski Village. The centre was destroyed by several fires in 2012, but not before churning out top-notch talent (including a few Olympians) from the least likely of places. The campaign is gaining traction, gaining support from Ed Leigh and the attention of national news.
All this talk of the project has got us thinking about dry slope. Why fight so hard for it? Because it's awesome, that's why. Here are just a few reasons why plastic is fantastic:
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There's no limit to how good you can get
Jenny Jones, Billy Morgan, Jamie Nicholls, Aimee Fuller, Dom Harington: that's five of the six British Olympic freestylers who owe their success in no small part to the humble dry slope (the only one missing is Ben Kilner, who grew up riding the real mountains in Scotland).
For Jenny, her first beginner lesson was instrumental in forging a life of shred. Meanwhile Jamie was as much of a fixture at Halifax as the ski lift, and even caught the attention of David Benedek who put him in his movie In Short:
If you can ride dryslope you can ride anywhere
Dry slope riding is - at least at first - pretty tricky. If you're on Dendix, you're on a hard, bristly surface that takes a lot of getting used to, and isn't fun to fall on. If you're on the softer Snowflex material, decking it isn't as big of an issue, but figuring out how to use your edges is.
It's not just us Brits who've benefited from the plastic - Holland's Cheryl Maas started out on it too.
Master both of them and there's not a slope in the world, from crud to slick ice, that you won't have the tools to deal with. Apart from powder, of course, but you should be able to figure that one out pretty quickly...
It stops you loosing your shred legs
Do you suffer from 'second-day ache', when the early exuberance of your trip abroad gives way to agony in all the muscles you forgot you had? If you keep your hand in at a dry slope, it'll help fight off the cramps. Even getting a handful of sessions in before your trip can make a world of difference.
It's always on, whatever the weather
Occasional freakily high winds aside, you never have to worry about the forecast. Rain is, in fact, good news - the extra moisture on the slope makes it even easier to ride. Watch the video below to see how little it bothered the riders at Go Big Or Go Home 2013:
Plus most slopes are usually open til late at night, so you can go for a burn after school or work; and while it may not be the X Games pipe, riding under floodlights is frickin' cool.
It's the closest any of us will get to being Peetu Piiroinen
Some Finnish resorts are not much more than a short lift with one booter, which the locals can hit so many times in a day that they soon become the kind of uber-pros you see dominating big-name shred events.
Dryslope is like this on a smaller scale: permanent Snowflex features don't vary with the conditions, so you can get things seriously dialled in.
You can meet a great crew
Perhaps more so than anywhere else, a dry slope is the place to meet like-minded shredders. If they're there too, they no doubt like to ride as much as you do. Cue fast friendships and stoker sessions. Most centres have a bar, too, allowing for a good post-shred pint.
Standing Sideways, one of the first dry slope movies - still awesome a decade later. And what a crew!
There's always something new to do
Some people might look at a dry slope's permanent features as stunting creativity, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most also have a healthy set of moveable rails, allowing for sessions like this one in Aberdeen:
And what is possible on the perma-jumps is constantly reaching new high water-marks. Once it was Steve Bailey landing a 900 - these days it's even possible to double cork, as this classic edit from Danny McCormick proves:
It's the cheapest way to snowboard
Domes are great, but the cost of their construction and upkeep is big. As a result, session prices can be north of £30. By comparison, a freestyle night at Calshot (featured in the current issue of Whitelines, and in the video below) will only set you back £11. No flights, transfers or accommodation required either, obviously.
This is even more significant when you consider the younger generation, who no longer have to have well-off parents in order to get a taste for the shred. In this way, snowboarding is comparable in price to any other sports, opening it up to way more people.
The time will come, of course, when any serious young ripper will need to head overseas to step up to the bigger stuff. However, thanks to drymats, a career in snowboarding is in more people's reach than ever. Just look at Katie Ormerod, who started out in Halifax and is now a dead cert for the next Olympics!:
It's a good use for your old gear
Board getting a bit past its prime? Boots a bit on the soft side? Sure, you could keep it all going for another season or two, or you could designate it as your dry slope gear and buy yourself a new stick!
So begins a happy cycle where you've got a cracking board ready for the snow, and some backup kit for the mat. Then that snow setup will one day become your mat setup, and so the circle of life continues...