Family ski school on the snowy slopes of Sandyford
Tired legs, laughter and mastering the slopes are all part of Dublin’s indoor ski school
The Ski Centre in Sandyford offers lessons on a 10-minutes-one, 10-minutes-off basis, and parents and children can learn at the same time.
I’m watching families queue up on a Sunday afternoon for classes in Dublin’s only indoor ski school. A four-year old boy has one slope to himself, laughing nervously as he finally finds his balance on this huge treadmill, the size of a squash court. His coach is laughing and cheering too as he talks the boy’s confidence up, appreciating the great sport the child has just conquered.
Coaching is everything at the Ski Centre in Sandyford. You book an hour of one-on-one sessions, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. The coaches are some of the most experienced in the country and are passionate about training on this artificial slope.
They use a handheld remote to control the speed and pitch of the ski slope and, because it’s a huge treadmill, the time spent actually skiing is much longer than if you were on an outdoor artificial slope and had to keep travelling to the top of the slope again to try once more. And with a giant mirror in front of you, every move and mistake can be analysed immediately.
Skiing isn’t easy and I found out the hard way. My family and I have had six classes and while I was bottom of the group for most of that time, we’re delighted with our progress now.
We dodge each other on the slope and, in our final lesson, our coach gets us to ski with our eyes closed, with our hands in the air, with poles and without. Every small trick encourages us further, pushing our skill level higher and we’re amazed at how much we’ve achieved.
And it’s a really safe learning environment. The surface is carpeted, the speed is controlled and staff guide every kind of student to success. There’s a strict curriculum to follow and at the end of each lesson our progress is graded. For me, a middle-aged man, the hardest part was the pain in muscles I’d rarely used before.
It took four classes before my hamstrings and calves stopped burning and I had to take breaks far more than the kids. But it paid off and I’m confident that this is a sport I’ll stick with.
The ski centre is ideal for experienced skiers too, with the non-stop slope allowing plenty of time to focus on advanced manoeuvres, off-piste techniques and even race training programmes.
You can book the runs for private lessons or take part in classes of up to six skiers. The coaches are often booked to lead trips abroad.
All equipment is provided – boots, skis, poles – and a tracksuit or loose clothing are ideal. You will work up a sweat as it’s incredibly physical. You’ll also laugh a lot, particularly if you come with friends or family.
There are few sports that an entire family can discover and learn together and one where height, weight or age makes no difference.
Staff at the centre pride themselves on working with children and report having had great results with children with conditions such as Asperger’s or dyspraxia.
They are eager to expand work in this area and to start training children with more debilitating conditions such as blindness or wheelchair users.
To do that they need more equipment and so are running a sponsored ski challenge for World Ski Day in January.
The goal is to ski 10km non-stop and I’m signed up. It should take 30 minutes to complete so I’ve plenty of training to do. The idea is to get the public involved to come in and try and meet the challenge too – even complete beginners.
James McCormack, who runs the centre, recommends a batch of six lessons for beginners (€199 for children/€245 for adults) ahead of taking a trip abroad and is confident that he can get anyone snow-ready in that time. skicentre.ie