The Snow Centre in Hemel: All You Need to Know Before You Go
It was 10 years since I last skied and as soon as I booked our first family ski trip to Poland, the nerves set in. Being on the wrong side of 40 and far from my optimal fitness, I doubted whether I could bend down to put the skis on, let alone ski. As for getting on the ski lift. Forget it. I had images of arriving at our ski destination and having a complete wobble and spending my time drinking hot chocolate and watching everyone else. This is where the Snow Centre in Hemel came to the rescue!
Interestingly, I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous. A couple of my friends were in a similar position to me. One hadn’t skied in 8 years and the other learned to ski for the first time the winter before. We all had family ski trips coming up and were all feeling nervous so we all went together to the Snow Centre, unsure of what to expect. After our session at the Hemel Hempstead Ski Centre, we all came away actually looking forward to family ski holidays and thinking that the Snow Centre in Hemel is the best thing since sliced bread!
If you have never skied before or you’ve taken an extended break since having kids, heading to an indoor ski centre is a great way to build your confidence before you hit the real slopes. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Hemel snowcentre.
Where is the Hemel Snow Centre?
The Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre is located just to the east of the centre of Hemel Hempstead. It’s the closest indoor real snow slope to London. If you’re coming by car, it’s just 5 minutes from Junction 8 of the M1 or 10 minutes from Junction 21 of the M25 (depending on traffic obviously).
The building is huge and you won’t miss it. There’s a large (free) car park on-site, but it does get quite full.
Things to do before you go to the Snow Centre
The Snow Centre is not somewhere you can really just turn up to. There are a certain number of lift passes sold per session and they can sell out in advance. This is especially true in the run-up to ski season when people are brushing up on their skills or fitting in a few lessons before their ski holiday.
Buying your Snow Centre lift pass
You can buy your lift pass online and choose from a one hour pass up to a one month pass. You need to decide whether you want to book a lesson or not. If you want lessons, you don’t need to buy a separate lift pass as it’s included in the price of your lesson.
Buying your ski gear
If you just want to have one go at skiing to try it and don’t think that you’ll go again, it’s probably not worth you buying all the necessary ski gear. If you are having a few lessons and you have a ski holiday booked, then you should probably think about buying your own ski clothing.
We recommend Jack Wolfskin for the whole family. They make lovely, soft and flexible clothing from recycled materials. The kids loved their jackets so much, they use them on the school run too.
What to wear to the Snow Centre
The Hemel ski centre is like one enormous deep freezer. It is kept at around -2C to keep the artificial snow in perfect condition. You will need warm and preferably waterproof clothing.
They’re quite relaxed about what you wear on the slopes. At the end of the day, if you fall and get wet, that’s your own problem. The only thing they insist on is that you wear waterproof gloves and a helmet.
I suffer from Reynauds Disease and the tips of my fingers and toes easily get very cold. I used silver thread gloves under my ski gloves and Smartwool merino wool socks. If you get cold easily, I cannot recommend these enough. If I had not been wearing these, my ski session would have ended pretty quickly.
I also layered up with a Uniqlo Heattech thermal top, a t-shirt and a fleece under my ski jacket. Although the main slope is very impressive and a fun run down, it’s all over quite quickly and you spend more time queueing up and going on the button lift than you do skiing so you can get quite cold.
You won’t need ski goggles because there is no glare from the sun.
There are changing rooms where you can get into your ski gear if you’re not already wearing it and there are combination lock lockers to keep your belongings in while you’re skiing.
Hiring ski equipment at the Snow Centre
Your lift pass includes the hire of ski/snowboard hire and your poles and helmet. It does not include the hire of ski clothing or gloves. We would recommend bringing your own clothes because the cost of warm waterproof clothing is £8 per person and gloves is £10 per person.
You’ll need to know your shoe size. Remember that ski socks are usually quite a bit thicker than normal socks, so go for a size up if you’re in doubt.
The people working behind the equipment hire desk will be able to help you if you’re not sure what you need. Remember to tell them that you’re a beginner skier (if that’s the case) and they will select slightly shorter skis for you. When holding your ski poles, your elbow should form a right angle. That’s how you know you are using the correct height poles.
Ski boots will feel tight when you first put them on. There is a short walk to the slope from the changing area so it’s best to leave the clasps undone until you’re ready to put your skis on as it is easier to walk like this.
What is the skiing like at the Snow Centre?
I can’t speak for later on in the day, but being one of the first ones on the slope, the skiing was very enjoyable and the snow was just like real snow. In fact, it is real snow.
There are 2 ski slopes at the centre. The main slope is 160m long and the beginner slope is the largest beginner slope in the country. The main slope is accessed by button lifts either side of the slope. (Top Tip – the queue for the lift on the left-hand side seemed to move much quicker). Try to go at the start of the day. You’ll be one of the first on the slope and the slope will be groomed.
The main slope
To be able to use the main slope, you need to answer a questionnaire regarding your ability level. You’ll need to be able to confidently link turns and use the button lift.
The training slope
The training slope is where you’ll have your ski lessons. There’s a carpet lift which is basically a conveyor belt.
**Note, I had assumed that I would be able to get a little practice in on the training slope before tackling the main slope, but it was closed for lessons so I had to go straight onto the main slope. It turned out that it wasn’t an issue, but if you are unsure at all about your ability, speak to the centre to discuss your options. You wouldn’t want to book your session, get kitted out and then discover that you can’t make it up to the top (or back down) the main slope**
Ski lessons at the Snow Centre
There are lots of different ski and snowboard lessons ranging from Level 1 (never skied before) to level 6 (advanced ski techniques). If you book a lesson, you don’t need to book a separate lift pass as it’s included in the price of the lesson.
Adult ski or snowboard lessons
If you are a complete beginner and want to learn how to ski or snowboard, there are 3 main group lesson options available.
- 2-hour adult lesson
- 3-hour beginner lesson (weekends)
- 2-hour ladies only (on Monday and Wednesday mornings)
These are all group lessons. If you want to arrange private lessons, you need to call the Snow Centre.
Junior ski or snowboard lessons
Junior group lessons are available to children aged between 4 and 16 years old. Lessons are held during the week in school holidays and at the weekend throughout the year. The children are split into age groups.
- 4-6 years
- 7-10 years
- 11-16 years
Private lessons start at 3 years old.
Facilities at the Snow Centre
If you forget anything or want to buy any ski gear, there’s a Snow and Rock ski shop.
If you want to eat at the Snow Centre, there’s an Alpine themed restaurant with great views over the slopes.
Additional activities at the Snow Centre
Ringo Slides – snow fun with younger ones on inflatable inner tubes
Indoor ski slopes around the UK
Tips for visiting the Snow Centre
- Turn up at least 30 minutes before your session so that you have time to pick up your lift pass and get your ski equipment
- Make sure the kids use the toilet before the start of the session because it’s quite a performance once they have all their gear on!
- Bring a bottle of water with you as you can get quite dehydrated