Wednesday 6th May will see the opening of the UK's 6th indoor snow facility. With a name that Ronseal would be proud of, 'The Snow Centre' is located in Hemel Hemptsead, on the site of the former dryslope. Located just off junction 8 of the M1 and close to the M25, it also boasts the accolade of being the closest indoor slope to London - meaning it's likely to become a major destination for southern-based shredders.
The management very kindly invited us to take a closer look at the place as the finishing touches were being made, so here's a birds eye tour from the outside in...
The new building is striking, with some standout features including floor to ceiling glass around the main stairwell and plantlife on the roof to improve insulation and add to its green credentials. Unlike other domes, the slope itself is built on a natural hill, which makes sense really!
Snow and Rock, located near the entrance, is the only snowboard shop in the building. In fact the retail element at Hemel is minimal, bucking the trend for glorified shopping centres.
The impressive main stairwell. A little of the natural light from here can be seen from the slope itself, which is a first for a snowdome. The carpark outside is free to use - good news!
The reception takes pride of place in the open plan first floor, with a sweet view over the slope designed to inspire you into parting with your cash!
Ticket machines allow those who've pre-booked online to skip the queues and pick up their lift pass using their credit/debit card.
The changing/rental area looks pretty familiar. This lot were all instructors on a staff training day.
Lockers a go-go. They take a pound but you get it back at the end - no more spending all your change cos you've forgotten your gloves.
Down to business: The slope is roughly the same length and width as other UK facilities, with a nursery area on one side. The nursery slope will also house beginner obstacles on freestyle nights so that people can get to grips with jibbing out of the main spotlight. The snow is in tip-top condition as you'd expect from a new slope.
At the bottom you can a little of the fresh air and trees outside through the bar windows. If only they could figure out how to have full-on glass walls without melting the snow it would be amazing!
Craig (our ad sales guy) gets to grips with the SCUK Box. So far they've built this, a flat-down and a couple of smaller rails. More obstacles including a wide butter box and wallride are in the pipeline.
More box antics.
Mikey from For Boarders By Boarders (FBBB) struts his stuff...
The kicker was knocked up quickly by the new snow staff but held up really well. If they're given free reign to build some bigger jumps, things are looking really promising. Note to Hemel - why not cordon off an area and dedicate it to maintaining the best on snow kicker in the land?? Build it and they will come...
This local kid is one for the future - his dad even builds the rails.
Go on Ceri!
Riding over, time for some apres. Hemel boasts 'The Edge' - a "café bar with altitude", geddit?
The bar has good views of the slope and a mixture of 'soft' chill-out areas and 'hard' seating areas for food. All in all, a nice spot for a post riding pint.
So that's it. We were really impressed with the place, and in our book more snowdomes can only be a good thing. At time of writing, Hemel's freestyle night is planned for Fridays, and discussions are ongoing about offering a second freestyle night on another day each week. Let the campaign begin!
Check out www.thesnowcentre.com for more details.